Thoughts From Places Spotlight: Mount Vernon, VA (2010)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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My Trip to Mount Vernon!

Mount Vernon

I don’t remember when or why we decided to go to Mount Vernon, home to our first President George Washington, but I’m glad we did (and not just because it was in National Treasure 2).

The Statues of the Washingtons and grandkids.
When you first go into the grounds of Mount Vernon there is this beautiful archway with what I’m assuming was probably a guard house or something of that nature. Above this arch is a painting of the mansion. I stood there looking at the painting and wondering how much the actual mansion today would look like the bright portrait. To my delight when the mansion came into view I realized that the painting could have been completed the day before for that was how close the actual physical house looked still to this day.

A staircase on the grounds.
Before we went into the mansion we went into the information center. Here they had life size statues of George (age 53), Martha (54), and their grandkids “Washy” (4), and Nelly (6). I don’t know why, but I adored those statues, they were very domesticated. And then there was this practically to scale doll house version of Mount Vernon. That thing was amazing and it MOVED. When we first went over there we circled the (huge) doll house and saw the house’s outside walls and then the back wall just came DOWN. It showed the perfect to scale miniature of the house we were about to see. My mom loves doll houses, and my grandma used to make them so this was an unexpected delight for my mom and we stayed there for a while looking at it. I actually remember the doll house more than the actual mansion. It was worth going there just for that doll house.
One of the paths on the grounds

We then went on the tour of the actual mansion then. We couldn’t take any photos inside though and I think that’s why I don’t remember much of the tour or anything. I am very visual when it comes to trips. When I go on a tour I tend to remember the story of the thing if I take a picture of it while it’s being explained but because I was prohibited from doing so almost everything has left my head. I do remember that the rooms were very brightly painted, that they were quite small for a mansion so big and that the beds were tiny because people were smaller then.

A breezeway connecting the new
 and old parts of the mansion.
I do remember a lot of the grounds though because not only was I allowed to take pictures, they were also extraordinary. Everything was very symmetrical, planned out, and just absolutely astounding. The landscaping was very ordered. According to one of the signs Washington took the symmetrical organization of English gardens and applied it to the America’s natural wilderness. He really liked designs to be balanced and I particularly appreciated this because so do it. But it’s not all straight either there are winding, curving paths that guide visitors to these ordered places (and of course they are balanced as well). We didn’t see all the grounds though because there are like 8,000 acres or something like that. To do Mount Vernon properly one must take a full day or maybe even two. I mean, this place even has its own forest!

The Lower Garden

The top of the tomb.
We did what we thought was most interesting and close. We saw the out buildings like the stables, paint cellar, his carriage house and the necessary. There were a lot of animals there as well because it is still a farm. We also saw his tomb which I liked. It was a large brick enclosure with a iron, gated door. It was in a very peaceful place and there was an air of elegance to it. I wish I would have thought to take a picture in front of it but alas I did not. I guess that just gives me a reason to go back again. 

The view from the porch of the river.
One of the best bits of the grounds was the view from the mansion’s back porch. It overlooked the Potomac River. There were chairs lined up on the porch for the visitors and as my parents, G., and Daisy were sitting up there I ran down the lawn a bit to take a picture of them sitting there. It sums up my trip. My mom was on her phone (probably sending a picture of the view with a “haha I’m here, you’re not” to facebook), dad and Daisy were looking very confused at what I was doing, and poor G. looked exhausted and amused.

One of Martha's exhibits in the museum.
There was a fabulous museum about Washington as well on the grounds. Washington was such an amazing man, not just as the first President, which in itself took a heck of a lot of guts (he set the precedent for every single person who takes the job after him). He also had a good sense of humor and humility. I am pleased that his home has remained for future generations to see it. The museum was quite complete too, with wax figures of him doing the most memorable things such as being the General of the Continental Army and being sworn in as President. They had a lot of paintings and artifacts. They also had a good collection of Martha Washington’s things as well because, of course, Mount Vernon was her home, too, including one of her dresses.

One of the most memorable bits of this visit had nothing to do with Washington. At lunch (which was kind of cafeteria style) we had picked our food and then we went to pay for it. Dad went to pay for the bill for all of us (me, dad, mom, G., and Daisy’s) but G. was 3 steps ahead and had already bought ours. I think that’s when dad decided that a) G. was not an ax murderer and b) he started a war of paying for things. For the rest of my trip, dad and G. were trying to race each other to cash registers. It was pretty hilarious for us girls to watch.

Needless to say I could probably talk about just the grounds of Mount Vernon for a long time. There was so much to see in just the tiny bit we did. I would love to spend a week there and just explore. Maybe one day I will.