December 10, 2015
This Thanksgiving was unique for several reasons. I celebrated a big birthday. We didn't host Thanksgiving dinner. And I made my first visit to Mount Vernon. I have a family connection to George Washington's estate through my spouse's family. His grandmother was a regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association. We were a large group to Mount Vernon and multigenerational group: five children and nine adults ranging in age from 20 months to 70 years old. Despite this diversity in age and thus interest, the outing was a success!
After purchasing our tickets we wandered through the orientation center and admired the decorated Christmas trees and Mount Vernon in Miniature, a large-scale replica of the mansion gifted by the State of Washington. From there we walked to the 12-acre field. The layout and view from the mansion across the Bowling Green and the field is of the 18th-century English landscape garden style. George Washington was a skilled gardener and landscape designer in addition to his farming know-how.
There is a camel at the estate! Aladdin wowed the children, and the adults, too.
We took a tour of the mansion. It's a beautiful home with higher ceilings than I expected. One of the upstairs bedrooms was particularly small. It was a former closet. Extra bedrooms were needed to accommodate the large number of guests visiting the Washington family. The tour is interesting for children. Some of the rooms are brightly colored and there are lots of unusual objects to observe. One of our children was very interested in the way in which George Washington died. The interpreter was very graphic in his description of Washington's death! Photography is not allowed inside the house but you can take virtual tours and see photographs of the mansion on the organization's website.
We split up into smaller groups to tour the mansion and see the grounds. The view east from the mansion is uninterrupted by development; it's all Potomac River and its banks. I guess I was too stunned to take photographs. Read more about view preservation.
Not all former plantations have preserved or reconstructed or made accessible former slave quarters. Mount Vernon is actually five farms and slave quarters varied across the properties. I saw the Mansion House Farm quarters. The closet turned bedroom in the mansion seemed big by contrast. Read more about slave quarters.
Leaving the immediate surroundings of the mansion, my small group walked south, stopping at the fruit garden and nursery and at the Tomb. Unfortunately, I missed seeing the Slave Memorial. I am disappointed and hope I can remedy the situation with another visit in the spring of 2016. The family met up at the Tomb and walked towards the wharf. Again, a really great view of the Potomac.
After sitting and admiring the view (or running along the path), we trekked uphill passing a couple of Milking Devon bulls lazing in a field. Our group of 14 was hungry, and thankfully my mother-in-law had made a reservation at the restaurant. The service was quick and the food was good. In addition to the Slave Memorial, on my next visit I'd like to walk the forest trail, see the slave cabin and the 16-sided barn, go an exhibit in the museum, and possibly visit one of the other farms that comprise the Mount Vernon estate.