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It is the collection policy of the Mount Vernon Restoration Department to maintain original fabric in its historic context whenever possible. However, there have been many instances where removal was the only practical solution. Most often this is because the elements in question are too deteriorated to remain in place. These fragments might include original members dating to the 18th century, or they may relate to earlier repairs carried out by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. When they must be removed, the fragments are added to and curated as part of the Mount Vernon architectural fragments collection within the Mount Vernon Restoration Department.
With respect to the management of the architectural fragments collection, Mount Vernon strictly adheres to procedures and practices based on the guidelines outlined in the APTI Williamsburg Resolutions on Architectural Fragments. Mount Vernon also abides by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) Code of Ethics and the American Association of Museums (AAM) Code of Ethics.
Richard Guy Wilson, Professor of Architectural History, University of Virginia
Across America, from small towns to great cities, Mount Vernon is a constant presence. The distinctive two-story portico is the most copied feature in American architecture, lending distinction to tract houses and mansions alike. Spurred by the national preoccupation with the founding of the United States that was occasioned by the centennial celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, George Washington and Mount Vernon, more than any other person and structure, have come to symbolize the colonial era and the new republic. So completely have Mount Vernon’s distinctive architectural elements been ingrained into the nation’s subconscious, that the designs of untold numbers of houses and an astonishing array of commercials buildings -- including banks, restaurants, funeral homes, and motels -- continue to incorporate those features, often without their owners’ awareness of the original source. Are these design elements copied simply as memorials honoring our beloved first president? Or did George Washington, a man who strove to blend style and practicality, develop an architectural vocabulary that is distinctly American?
A man of practicality and vision, George Washington had a keen appreciation for the power of building and architecture. He understood that both could be potent forms of communication. The appearance of virtue and prosperity in a man’s farm, a family’s home, or a nation’s capital spoke volumes about the people who lived there. Throughout his life, Washington used the symbolic power of architecture to create not only a personal image among his peers and countrymen but, more significantly, an inspiring and enduring national identity. A skilled surveyor and successful farmer, Washington first used his architectural talents to build an estate that reflected his aspirations to join the elite of Virginia’s colonial society. Later, when Washington chose to expand Mount Vernon once again, he used architecture as a tangible expression of personal independence. Finally, near the end of a long life of public service, Washington guided the creation of the federal city as a world-class capital, with appropriately monumental public buildings, comfortable private homes, and inspiring vistas.
For more examples of buildings inspired by Mount Vernon, visit our Democratic Architecture gallery.