Security Officer Positions
First aid stations
If you need immediate assistance, you can also call our emergency response team703-799-8678
If you have an emergency at the Distillery & Gristmill, please call 911. The address for the Distillery & Gristmill is 5514 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, VA, 22309.
Please note, there are some areas which include a steep incline which may not be accessible to everyone. Please proceed with caution at the:
Shuttle service is available seasonaly.Shuttle Bus Schedule
For safety and security reasons, certain areas are not publicly accessible to guests.
The building began as a one and one-half story house built in 1734 by George Washington's father, Augustine Washington, and received its well-known name from his half-brother Lawrence Washington.
George Washington began running Mount Vernon in 1754, and over the next 45 years slowly enlarged the dwelling to create the 21-room residence we see today. Washington oversaw each renovation, advising on design, construction, and decoration, despite being away much of the time. Conscious that the world was watching, Washington selected architectural features that expressed his growing status as a Virginia gentleman and ultimately as the leader of a new nation.
Augustine Washington, George Washington’s father, likely had an operating mill on his plantation (the future Mount Vernon) as early as the 1730s, but by the 1760s this dilapidated mill was in great need of a replacement. By 1769, George Washington had decided to create a new mill that would be located along Dogue Run, about a half-mile away from the old mill.
Washington's resolve to improve and expand his Gristmill enterprise marked a significant turning point in the management of his plantation. During the 1760s Washington moved away from tobacco cultivation and began to plant more grains, primarily wheat and corn. This transition gave Washington a dependable cash crop that was not dependent upon markets in England. With an expanded and more efficient Gristmill, Washington could turn his crops into flour and cornmeal. The Gristmill could also bring in revenue by charging neighboring farmers a fee to grind their grain.
In 1783, Washington described the mill in one of his letters, “two pair of Stones, one pair of which are French-burr, employed in the merchant business. The Mill house is of Stone, large and commodious, the dwelling house, which is convenient, is within 30 yards of it; and has a garden enclosed adjoining. A Cooper’s Shop is also near, and the whole convenient to tide water.”
George Washington began the commercial distillery at Mount Vernon in 1797. James Anderson, Washington’s farm manager and an experienced distiller from Scotland, convinced Washington that it was possible to make a considerable profit from a distillery located next to the abundant water and grain supply at the Gristmill.
After the initial success of a makeshift distillery that utilized two stills, Washington built a stone distillery large enough to house five copper pot stills with a total capacity of 616 gallons. The foundation was large river rocks brought from the Falls of the Potomac River and the walls of the Distillery were made of sandstone quarried from Mount Vernon. The Distillery also offered an important subsidiary benefit: livestock, particularly hogs, were fattened with the leftover cooked mash. In 1799, George Washington's Distillery produced nearly 11,000 gallons, making it one of the largest whiskey distilleries in America at the time.
The Distillery was reconstructed on the original site, based upon archaeological and historical evidence and opened to visitors in 2007.
Enslaved and itinerant weavers worked in the Spinning House to produce basic textiles for use at Mount Vernon. As disputes with England grew, Washington tried to improve the quality of the cloth they made. For the production of more utilitarian textiles, he practiced selective breeding of sheep, grew flax and hemp for making linen cloth and rope, and experimented with cotton and silk. Finer materials for table linens and clothing still had to be ordered from England.
The Smokehouse was used to smoke meat over a fire pit. Vast quantities of pork—mainly bacon and ham—were smoked to feed the family and Mount Vernon’s guests. Fish, fowl, and the meat of larger animals were eaten fresh as well as cured to last longer.
After enslaved workers salted or pickled the meat, they hung it on the rails inside the smokehouse above a smoldering fire that burned in the pit at the center of the building. For long-term storage after smoking, the meats remained hanging or were packed in barrels filled with ashes. During the curing process, meat was locked in the smokehouse to prevent theft. This precaution was not always successful, however. In May 1795, while George Washington was living in Philadelphia, his farm manager William Pearce wrote to inform him that “some person ripped a plank off the Back part of the smoke House and Took out several pieces of Bacon. . . . I have not been able to find out yet who It is.”
According to Washington, Virginia ladies took special pride in the quality of the ham and bacon produced on their plantations. He and his wife even sent these meats as gifts to friends in far-off Europe. In 1786 Washington wrote the Marquis de Lafayette that Mrs. Washington “had packed & sent . . . a barrel of Virginia Hams. I do not know that they are better, or so good as you make in France but as they are of our own manufacture . . . and we recollect that it is a dish of which you are fond.”
Restoration of Mount Vernon’s historic Smokehouse is sponsored by Edwards Virginia Smokehouse.
The George Washington Presidential Library is a resource for scholars, students, and all those interested in George Washington, colonial America, and the Revolutionary and founding eras. The Washington Library opened on September 27, 2013. It safeguards Washington’s books and manuscripts, approximately 1,500 additional 18th-century books, as well as thousands of important 19th-century newspapers, manuscripts, and documents.
It also serves as a scholarly retreat, creates educational outreach programs, and provides seminars and training programs with a special focus on Washington’s leadership.
The George Washington Presidential Library is open to all researchers and scholars, by appointment only.
The kitchen was used to prepare all meals served to George and Martha Washington and their many guests. Cooking in Mount Vernon’s kitchen was hot, smoky, demanding, and skilled work. Enslaved cooks like Doll, Hercules, Nathan, and Lucy, arose at four each morning to light the fire in the oven and prepare for the meals to be served in the Mansion. Their duties could continue well into the evening. The Washingtons placed great trust in their cooks, whose talent was evident in visitors’ descriptions of sumptuous meals.
Under Martha Washington’s supervision, cooks planned menus and selected ingredients for each day’s meals. Enslaved laborers on the estate grew and harvested most of the Washingtons’ food: wheat and corn from the fields, fresh vegetables from the garden, fruit from the orchards, fish caught in the Potomac, and smoked ham from hogs raised on site. Imported luxuries like tea, coffee, chocolate, olives, oranges, and wine supplemented homegrown ingredients.
Their role in the kitchen allowed enslaved cooks to shape the tastes of the household—and the region. Many iconic southern dishes bear the influence of West African cuisine, from stews like gumbo to ingredients like okra, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and collard greens.
The placement of the kitchen at Mount Vernon was dictated by a series of functional, social, and environmental factors. The concern for safety from potential fires, the desire to avoid kitchen heat, and the need to avoid the smell of food cooking in the household were of significant importance. In addition, there was a desire to separate domestic functions from the main house in order to reinforce the segregation of enslaved workers' activities from those of the planter family.
A kitchen based on these guidelines was constructed at Mount Vernon before 1753 and was replaced in 1775. The expansion and redesign at Mount Vernon began just before Washington left to command American forces outside of Boston in May 1775. The new kitchen was larger and more architecturally detailed than the original, matching the Mansion in many aspects. Most notably, the siding boards on the facade facing the circle were beveled and sanded to create the appearance of stone blocks. Covered walkways called colonnades were built to connect each of the new structures to the Mansion. Workers carrying food back and forth between the kitchen and the Mansion did so along this protected passageway.
The updated kitchen included three workrooms on the first floor and a loft above. From the documentary record, we know the loft served as a residence at different times for Eleanor Forbes (a hired housekeeper) and John Fairfax (a hired overseer). The largest of the three workrooms included a fireplace and an attached oven. The other workrooms were a scullery where food was prepared and dishes were washed and a larder with a subterranean cooling floor to store food. According to the inventory of the kitchen completed after George Washington's death, the kitchen contained a wide variety of cooking equipment, including pots and pans, skillets, a griddle, a toaster, a boiler, spits, chafing dishes, tin and pewter "Ice Cream Pots," coffeepots, and strainers.
The lower garden is an excellent example of a Colonial Revival garden representing a formal English kitchen garden. It continues to produce vegetables as it did more than 200 years ago.
This area was used as the kitchen garden throughout the Washingtons’ years at Mount Vernon. It had brick walls for protection and warmth, terracing for level gardening, and espaliered pears and apples along the walks that provided a wind break for vegetables. The garden supplied much of the essential produce for the family kitchen, including head vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower and herbs such as dill and chives. As plantation mistress, Martha Washington was responsible for this garden, and called the abundance of vegetables “the best part of our living in the country.”
The Ford Orientation Center gives visitors an overview of the Mount Vernon experience.
The Ford Orientation Center opened its doors in 2006 thanks to the generosity of the Ford Motor Company Fund. Mount Vernon’s partnership with the Ford Motor Company started long before the construction of this building. In 1923, Henry Ford purchased and donated Mount Vernon’s first fire truck. To this day, the Ford Motor Company and Ford Motor Company Fund continue to provide funding for new programs and educational outreach initiatives throughout the Estate.
The New Tomb, first opened in 1831, is the final resting place of George and Martha Washington. George Washington left specific instructions for his burial. Because the family vault at Mount Vernon was deteriorating and not “properly situated,” he wanted a new one built—of brick and on a larger scale—adjacent to his fruit garden and nursery. In the new vault, he wrote in his will, “my remains, with those of my deceased relatives (now in the old Vault) and such others of my family as may chuse to be entombed there, may be deposited.”
Washington’s wishes were not immediately heeded. Just after his death, Congress resolved that a marble monument to him should be erected in the new US Capitol building and that the first president’s remains should be interred there. Martha Washington’s consent was sought and obtained, and a crypt was provided under the Capitol dome. But the project was never completed. In 1831 Washington’s surviving executors moved his and Martha’s bodies and those of other members of the family from the old vault to the present enclosure.
The marble sarcophagus in which Washington’s remains now rest was carved in 1837 by John Struthers of Philadelphia. At that time, the leaden inner casket was removed from the closed vault and entombed within the marble. A similar sarcophagus, more plainly sculpted, was provided for Martha’s remains.
The marble obelisks in front of the tomb were erected in memory of the president’s nephew Bushrod Washington and great-nephew John Augustine Washington II, and his great-great nephew John Augustine Washington III, who, in turn, were proprietors of Mount Vernon. Their remains rest in the inner vault along with those of 23 other family members. The memorials on the side of the enclosure mark the graves of Washington’s step-granddaughter Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis Lewis, her youngest daughter, Mary Eliza Angela Lewis Conrad, and Mary Eliza’s infant daughter, Angela.
Located on the banks of the Potomac near the wharf, the four-acre Farm explores George Washington’s role as a visionary farmer and represents the more than 3,000 acres he cultivated during the second half of the 18th-century. It also offers visitors a chance to learn more about the lives of Mount Vernon enslaved fieldworkers who put Washington’s agrarian ideas into practice.
Washington used Mount Vernon as a laboratory for testing and implementing progressive farming practices. For example, in the mid-1760s, he became one of the first large-scale Virginia planters to switch his main cash crop from tobacco— traditionally a staple of the colony’s economy—to wheat. At the same time, he began experimenting with composting and crop rotation as well as with more efficient designs for basic farming tools such as the barrel plow and various harrows.
Washington’s life as a farmer sheds light on his struggle with one of the most difficult facts of his day: slavery. Although he eventually opposed the institution, his Five Farms relied on the labor of more than 300 enslaved people. Over time, Washington resisted the harshest punishments, resolved not to buy or sell any more slaves, and refused to break up families. Yet the 132 enslaved field workers he had at his death—most of them women—performed the backbreaking work of clearing, plowing, planting, and harvesting.
At the Farm, which is most active from April to October, visitors can see the 16-sided treading barn Washington designed and the re-created cabin similar to those inhabited by an enslaved family of field hands. Various demonstrations are conducted throughout the season, following Washington’s agricultural calendar. Visitors can observe tasks the enslaved works performed, such as hoeing the fields, cracking corn, and winnowing wheat. Sheep, mules, horses, and oxen work on the site, and costumed interpreters explain some of Washington’s agricultural techniques, such as his seven-year crop rotation plan.
The site is a 15-minute walk from the Mansion. It is also accessible via a shuttle bus that runs continuously between the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center and the farm from April to October.
Visitors arriving by boat to Mount Vernon first land at the Mount Vernon wharf. Visitors can also enjoy a 45-minute round-trip sightseeing cruise, offered from April to October. In the 18th-century, waterways like the Potomac River were major travel and commerce routes and provided critical natural resources. George Washington shipped and received countless goods via the river and transported crops around his large estate on both the Potomac and nearby Dogue Creek. In addition to its value as a trade route, the river supplied Washington with one of his most important commodities: fish. In 1772 alone, his fisheries reaped 1.3 million herring and more than 11,000 shad. Those harvests helped feed the Mount Vernon plantation and provided an important source of income.
The wharf was rebuilt in 1880, replacing an earlier structure, during a time when most visitors arrived at Mount Vernon by boat. The wharf was restored in 1991 and dedicated that year by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.
George Washington created a formal courtyard on the west side of the Mansion. At its center is a large ellipse, its precise layout reflective of his surveying skill. By circling the ellipse, carriages could bring visitors directly to the door, and then easily continue around towards the stable. At one point this broad circle was paved in cobblestones.
Sitting to the north of the circle is the Servants’ Hall and to the south the Kitchen. The buildings form an open forecourt that frames the house. In the middle of the Mansion Circle sits a sundial. This was the most accurate timepiece available to 18th-century Americans. Mounted atop a white painted wood post, the sundial was a visual reminder of the hour to all who passed it.
Within the interactive Education Center, the story of George Washington’s life is told, with an emphasis on the events of his wartime service and presidency. Make sure you don’t miss Washington’s dentures, an interpretation of Martha Washington’s wedding gown, and a ledger book used to keep track of estate finances. There are also three theaters that highlight different moments in Washington's life and a hands-on activity space for children.
Families with children aged 3-10 can discover more about George Washington and Mount Vernon through age-appropriate activities such as costumes, books, and themed activities.
Please see the Today at Mount Vernon Calendar for daily program descriptions and offerings. Access Hands-on-History through the Education Center.
George Washington's greenhouse, one of the largest buildings on the Mount Vernon estate, was designed to not only protect plants from the winter cold, but also to house enslaved workers assigned to the Mount Vernon farm.
Completed in 1787, the greenhouse—at the time an unusual feature on the American landscape—allowed Washington to nurture tropical and semitropical plants. Lemon and orange trees and sago palms grew here, much to the delight of strolling guests. An ambitious structure for its day, the greenhouse had many windows to capture the southern sun, a vaulted ceiling that promoted air circulation, and an ingenious heating system that generated radiant heat from a series of flues under the floor. Washington’s greenhouse burned in 1835, and the present structure was built in 1951 on the original foundation and based on drawings of the original structure. The reconstruction incorporates bricks from the White House, which was fully renovated between 1948 and 1952.
The Upper Garden is the most decorative of all Mount Vernon gardens. Here, in season, you will find many beautiful plants and vegetables growing along shaded paths. George Washington's greenhouse is also located here. Washington finished enclosing the walls of the Upper Garden—his showplace—in 1776. Created as a fruit-and-nuts garden, it was transformed from a garden of necessity to a more decorative one in 1785. Its dominant features are a Greenhouse, two formal boxwood parterres, and large beds of vegetables bordered with flowers and boxwood.
The Bowling Green was an integral part of George Washington’s new landscape plan which he designed and implemented between 1784 and 1787. It was planned as a pleasure ground for guests’ entertainment.
While we may be accustomed to such wide expanses of evenly trimmed grass today, in the 18th-century, the broad swath of green would have conveyed a sense of the Washingtons’ wealth, as lawns were expensive to plant and required extensive labor to maintain. How do you think grass was trimmed in the 18th-century? Enslaved workers leveled the ground with a heavy roller and then cut the grass with a scythe. Maintaining an even surface and uniform height required skill, and only the most experienced enslaved gardeners performed this task.
The Bowling Green was edged with serpentine paths to guide visitors as they meandered through the trees and flowering shrubs on both sides of the open space. The installation of this Bowling Green required the demolition of existing brick-walled gardens, which blocked the view from the Mansion to the west. The rectangular plots were replaced with bullet-shaped gardens on either side of the Bowling Green.
The area around the stable and coach house was always a hub of activity at Mount Vernon. George Washington was an excellent horseman who paid careful attention to the care of his animals. Martha Washington, who encouraged women to ride for exercise, was an avid equestrian in her younger years. The stable dates back to Washington’s lifetime, but the coach house was reconstructed on the original site in 1894.
Under the direction of Peter Hardiman, an enslaved worker whose talent with horses and mules greatly impressed Washington, other enslaved individuals fed and groomed the animals, cleaned harnesses and saddles, and collected manure for use as fertilizer. Their work increased rapidly with the delivery of mares sent to the plantation for breeding and when the horses of visitors needed tending.
Travel by small coach was difficult during the 18th-century. Poorly maintained roads meant that even short journeys could be hazardous and that vehicles wore out quickly. Enslaved workers such as Joe, a driver, and Jack, a wagoner, took care of Mount Vernon’s vehicles. These included a small coach similar to the one displayed here, which, like Washington’s coach, was crafted by well-known Philadelphia carriage makers David and Francis Clark.
On December 18, 1799, four days after his death, George Washington’s body was placed in the Old Tomb where other family members were entombed, including his older half-brother Lawrence and Martha Washington’s daughter Martha (Patsy) Parke Custis. They remained here until 1831 when they were moved to the New Tomb nearby. The New Tomb was constructed based on Washington's specifications.
Opened in 1983, the Mount Vernon Slave Memorial commemorates the lives of the many enslaved men, women, and children that lived and toiled at Mount Vernon. The memorial is placed near the location of Mount Vernon's slave cemetery. The slave burial ground near the Tomb was one of several on the plantation. The bodies of enslaved individuals who worked on the Mansion House Farm were laid to rest here, on a quiet wooded hillside above the Potomac River.
Enslaved persons were buried in coffins made on the plantation. Although there are no markers, ground-penetrating radar indicates that there are from 50 to 75 graves, oriented on an east-west axis. While this is the customary Western model for placing bodies, a tradition in the local African American community has it that the bodies were laid this way so they could face toward Africa—symbolizing a desire to return home.
In 1929 the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association erected a modest memorial to slaves buried on the estate—the first of its kind in the nation. It remained the cemetery’s only marker until 1983 when a more formal and substantial memorial was dedicated. Designed by architecture students from Howard University in Washington, D.C., it features a granite shaft in the center of a small circular plaza. The words Love, Hope, and Faith—drawn from biblical scriptures that helped sustain African Americans in slavery—are inscribed on the memorial’s steps.
The Blacksmith Shop was essential to the running of the plantation and vital to Washington’s business endeavors. Records indicate that as early as 1755 a blacksmith shop was located along the north lane, about 200 feet from the Mansion. Most of the smiths who worked for Washington were enslaved, except for a Dutch (or German) immigrant named Dominicus Gubner.
Many of the tasks performed here were relatively mundane: making nails and hooks, mending well-worn pots and pans, and crafting various farm tools. Washington also challenged blacksmiths to create a plow he had designed and to make intricate parts for pistols and rifles. In his rare spare time, the blacksmith did small jobs for Washington’s neighbors in order to increase the estate’s income.
This reconstruction of the Blacksmith Shop, completed in 2009, is on the site of the original building. An excavation by Mount Vernon’s archaeologists, along with period paintings and other primary sources, provided valuable clues about the structure’s design. Letters, account ledgers, and other written sources detail the tools Washington purchased to outfit the shop and the types of repair work done there.
The Shops at Mount Vernon offer a series of shopping experiences, with unique gifts, reproductions of Mount Vernon treasures, and toys and games from a bygone era. Every purchase from the Shops at Mount Vernon helps to support our mission of preserving George Washington's legacy.
Savor the flavors of early America at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant, located just footsteps from George Washington's historic estate. Open for lunch and dinner daily and brunch on Sundays.
The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association opened Mount Vernon to the public in 1858. A staff of two, secretary Sarah Tracy and superintendent Upton Herbert, shared the responsibility for opening the doors and conducting tours, even while the Civil War raged just a few miles away. Because Mount Vernon's location was miles from the nearest tavern or restaurant, Tracy and Herbert provided light refreshments at Washington's home, often setting up a simple table just outside Washington's kitchen.
In 1892 a trolley system was completed, linking both Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Virginia, to the first president's home. Around this time, the Gibbs Family owned and operated a simple restaurant specializing in "Virginia chicken.'" In addition, the trolley supplied enough visitor traffic to support a "beer hut" adjacent to the restaurant.
The next transformation took place in 1931-32, when the nation celebrated Washington's 200th birthday by opening the George Washington Memorial Parkway to his home. At the exact same site where the Mount Vernon Inn rests today, a small restaurant opened its doors, owned by the National Park Service.
In the early 1980s, the Association decided that dining was an important part of the overall Mount Vernon experience and that the only way to ensure quality was to enter the full-service restaurant business themselves. Mount Vernon bought the concessionaire contract of the national restaurant firm that managed the Inn, and hired a seasoned chef. Today, the Inn boasts a large full-service restaurant and a six-station food court.
Visitor parking is always free at Mount Vernon. There are parking lots on the east and west sides of the George Washington Memorial Parkway as you approach the entrance. If these parking lots are full, you will be directed to an overflow parking lot.
This lot is located on the east side of the George Washington Memorial Parkway and is accessed through the roundabout. The lot entrance will be on your right after you pass the entrance to George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
There are spaces for RVs, motor coaches, and trailers in this parking lot.
Visitor parking is always free at Mount Vernon. There are parking lots on the east and west sides of the George Washington Memorial Parkway as you approach the entrance. If these parking lots are full, you will be directed to an overflow parking lot.
This lot is located on the west side of the George Washington Memorial Parkway and is accessed from Mount Vernon Memorial Highway. If approaching via George Washington Memorial Parkway stay in the far right lane as you approach the roundabout. Turn right on to Mount Vernon Memorial Highway and then immediately turn right into the parking lot. If approaching via Mount Vernon Memorial Highway follow the highway as it turns left and then immediately turn right into the parking lot.
There are spaces for RVs, motor coaches, and trailers in the other visitor parking lot located on the east side of George Washington Memorial Parkway.
In the 18th-century, the "dinner hour" at Mount Vernon could last several hours. If you are looking for a quick bite to eat, Mount Vernon's Food Court offers many options for breakfast, lunch, and snacks on the go, including salads, deli sandwiches, hamburgers, and fresh-baked cookies. Dine with us, in our peaceful outdoor terrace or in our air-conditioned pavilion.
For those looking to step back into the more tranquil atmosphere of the 18th-century, the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant is right next door.
The Texas Gate was built in 1899 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of George Washington's death. Funds for the construction of the gate were raised by a number of groups and citizens from Texas.
When thousands of visitors began to arrive at Mount Vernon via electric trolley during the last decade of the 19th century, it quickly became apparent that the estate needed an official entrance gate to handle the ever-increasing crowds. The citizens of Texas adopted the project under the leadership of Frances C. Maxey, Vice Regent for Texas. School children donated nickels and dimes, while members of the Masonic lodges organized a grassroots effort that swept across the state. The Texas Gate was dedicated on December 14, 1899.
From 1986 to 1988, Helen Sharp Anderson, Vice Regent for Texas, spearheaded a second statewide effort to refurbish the gate and modernize the interior with air-conditioning, enhanced security, and state-of-the-art computers for ticketing. Millions of visitors have passed under this impressive archway on their way to see the Mansion and other areas of Washington's historic estate.
Throughout much of the year, visitors can view heritage breed hogs and chickens in the pens at this location.
Hogs were very popular in the 18th-century as a valuable source of food. Ham, salted pork, bacon, lard, scrapple, and chitterlings were all very common foods in colonial times. George Washington’s hogs ran loose in the woods, foraging on nuts and insects, until they were gathered in the fall for fattening.
Today, Mount Vernon raises Ossabaw Island hogs. They are descendants of pigs brought to the Americas over 400 years ago by Spanish explorers. Ossabaw Island hogs come in a variety of colors – gray, black, red, tan, and even spotted. Listed as “critical” with The Livestock Conservancy, Mount Vernon has been breeding the Ossabaws for over 20 years. We have sold piglets to other historic sites and hobby farmers all over the country who are committed to preserving this rare breed. Often in the spring through fall months, we have a litter of piglets for our visitors to see. A typical litter size for the Ossabaw is 4-8 piglets, with our largest litter of 11.
The Washingtons also raised a variety of domesticated fowl, including chickens and turkeys, to supply their table with both meat and eggs. Care of these birds typically fell under the control of the plantation mistress, and there are hints that Washington did not maintain a flock of chickens or other birds before his marriage. In a letter written three months after his marriage to Martha Washington, Washington alerted his hired servant, John Alton, to his imminent arrival at Mount Vernon with a wife and children. In order to make the best impression on his new family, Washington wanted the beds made up, all the furniture polished, and to "get some Egg's [sic] and Chickens", suggesting that there were no such creatures at Mount Vernon until sometime after Martha Washington's arrival.
Animals of all kinds played an important role in George Washington's life and the economy of Mount Vernon. Depending on the time of year visitors can see a variety of animals within the paddock. The most common are sheep. Mount Vernon was home to many sheep in Washington’s time and his flock ranged from 600-1,000. Sheep were very important, providing wool for clothing and blankets, manure for crop fertilization, meat for mutton and spring lamb, and lanolin for ointments.
Today, Mount Vernon raises Hog Island sheep, a rare breed that is native to Virginia and dates back to the 1600s. Hog Island is a barrier island off the Delmarva Peninsula where the sheep survived for hundreds of years until the Nature Conservancy purchased the island in 1974. The sheep were dispersed to historic sites mostly in Virginia. While we are not sure this is the breed Washington raised, they resemble sheep found in the colonies in the 1700s. Hog Island sheep are listed as “critical” with The Livestock Conservancy.
Due to the critically low numbers of the sheep, Mount Vernon is involved in a careful breeding program. We follow Washington’s timeline for both breeding and shearing. Every October, our sheep are divided into breeding flocks and we welcome new lambs in March. Our sheep are sheared every May using hand shears for the public to see.
This replica building on the Farm shows the conditions under which much of Mount Vernon's enslaved laborers lived. The wooden cabin depicts the home of an enslaved family who lived at George Washington's Dogue Run Farm. Joe, a ditcher, lived in the greenhouse slave quarter on Mansion House Farm. His wife Priscilla, a field worker, lived in a cabin at Dogue Run Farm with their six children. Joe could only visit his family on Sundays and holidays. Sometimes he may have walked the three miles to Dogue Run after sunset, returning in time to begin work the next morning. Washington occasionally complained that his enslaved workers were fatigued from this “night walking” to visit their families.
Firsthand accounts indicate that the cabins were sparsely furnished and that the adults slept on a bed described as a “mean-pallet.” A small table and some cooking utensils, as well as some clothing and blankets, would be present. The floor was clay, and the hearth provided the family with a cooking area, heat, and light.
One of George Washington’s masterful farming innovations was a 16-sided barn designed for treading wheat—his most important cash crop. Traditionally, wheat was threshed by hand, a slow and arduous process of beating the wheat to break the grain out of the straw. Sometimes horses treaded wheat by trampling it on the ground, but that practice was unsanitary and exposed the grain to weather. Washington decided to move the threshing process indoors and in 1793 built a barn for this purpose. It was completed two years later. Horses trotted in a circle on the second floor, treading on grain that then fell to the first floor through narrow gaps in the flooring. Although Washington was in Philadelphia serving as president while the barn was under construction, he supervised the work from afar. He even calculated (correctly) that the number of bricks needed to complete the first floor would be 30,820.
The barn at the Farm site is an exact replica of the original, based on careful examination of Washington’s drawings and plans from the 1790s as well as on a mid-19th-century photograph showing the barn in a semi-ruined state.
This area began as an experimental vineyard, but, as in most early American vineyards, a soil disease killed the European grape-root stock. After George Washington’s landscape alterations in 1785, some of the Upper Garden’s fruit trees were transplanted here and laid out in squares. Some of the trees moved included pears, cherries, peaches, and apples. In this enclosure, Washington also situated a nursery where he grew trees, shrubs, berries, vegetables, and grasses.
Free showings of several Mount Vernon films take place daily in Robert H. & Clarice Smith Auditorium (located near the Food Court Pavilion and The Shops at Mount Vernon). The selection includes The Winter Patriots, Yorktown: Now or Never Revolutionary War, A More Perfect Union, Saving Mount Vernon, and Mount Vernon in Virginia.
The Vaughan Lobby is located just outside the Food Court and The Shops at Mount Vernon. Here you will find benches and restrooms.
Laid into the floor is The Samuel Vaughan Plan of Mount Vernon. Vaughan was an English merchant, philanthropist, liberal, and Unitarian leader. He came to America in 1783. In 1787 he set off on a journal across the east coast of more than 1,400 miles, his principal destination was Mount Vernon.
While visiting he sketched and made notes of the Estate. From these Vaughan derived this finished plan, which was later sent as a gift to Washington. In Washington’s acknowledgment of November 1787, he wrote that the plan "describes with accuracy the house, walk and shrubs." This was a polite oversimplification as there were minor errors both in the ground plan, the elevation, and first floor plan of the Mansion. Washington took exception only to the omission of mounds at the west end of the Bowling Green, and the indication of planting in this area that would have interrupted a vista. The scale of the ground plan was distorted, indicating that these dimensions were paced, rather than measured by chain or tape.
When people approached Mount Vernon on horseback or by carriage they first saw the Mansion from the west, across a half-mile-long “visto,” or view. This view was created by pruning and cutting trees in the outlying woods. Visitors passed through the West Gate and continued along the road towards the Bowling Green. From the gate, at the bottom of the Bowling Green, they could look up to see the elegant Mansion framed by two serpentine walks, beds full of plants, and thick groves of trees.
Visit the Museum and Education Center to view the fascinating array of Mount Vernon artifacts and learn more about George Washington. There are 23 galleries and theaters where visitors learn about Washington through interactive displays, an action adventure movie, short films produced by The History Channel, immersive experiences, and a rich and comprehensive collection of more than 700 objects which give an unprecedented look at the personal effects of the Washington family.
Make sure you don’t miss Washington’s dentures, an interpretation of Martha Washington’s wedding gown, and a ledger book used to keep track of estate finances.
The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association opened the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center in 2006. These exhibit spaces would not have been possible without two major grants, totaling 24 million dollars, from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and support from the foundation’s chairman, Fred W. Smith.
From April 1 through October 31 Mount Vernon offers shuttle service to the 4-acre Farm and Wharf where you can explore George Washington’s innovations in agriculture. The site includes replica structures including a slave cabin and 16-sided barn. Shuttles run continuously from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. to the Farm & Wharf.
Shuttle usage is included with general admission.
The small octagonal building at the west corner of the garden was built as a Garden House and tool room many years before the garden was developed into its present form. The structure was moved by General Washington to its present location in the spring of 1786, as part of the redesign for the grounds and gardens. The structure provided a sheltered workspace for gardeners to cultivate new plants, gather their seeds, and carefully store them.
Saving seeds from one growing season for the next was crucial for successful 18th-century gardening and farming. Seeds and tools were very valuable commodities at Mount Vernon and were stored under lock and key.
Vegetables, grains, and pasture grasses were also grown in the fruit garden and nursery beds and allowed to “go to seed.” This practice provided additional seeds essential to the following season’s planting. The loss of a single season’s seeds could mean the elimination of a valuable plant. Washington thought it was shameful to purchase seeds beyond one’s first year of cultivating a particular plant or crop.
In 1799, approximately 89 enslaved people lived and worked at the Mansion House Farm. As many as 15 to 20 people lived in each of four sleeping rooms similar to this one. Many of the enslaved persons at the Mansion House Farm lived on the second floor of the buildings where they worked, such as the kitchen or carpenters shop, or possibly in small cabins near the north lane. Originally, there were four sleeping rooms like this one for enslaved men, women, and probably some children who lived on the Mansion grounds. These living quarters, flanking the Greenhouse, were built in 1792, replacing a structure called the House for Families, which was subsequently torn down.
Do you see anything that indicates children lived here? Young children probably had jobs such as hauling water, weeding the family garden, and caring for younger siblings. At some point between the ages of 11 and 14, children began to assist other enslaved workers, and by their mid-teens, they were fully part of the enslaved workforce.
Many of the enslaved at the Mansion House Farm lived on the second floor of the buildings where they worked, such as the kitchen or carpenters shop, or possibly in small cabins near the North Lane. Originally, there were four sleeping rooms like this one for enslaved men, women, and probably some children who lived on the Mansion grounds. These living quarters, flanking the greenhouse, were built in 1792, replacing a structure called the House for Families, which was subsequently torn down.
Do you see anything that indicates children lived here? Young children probably had jobs such as hauling water, weeding the family garden, and caring for younger siblings. At some point between the ages of 11 and 14, children began to assist other enslaved workers, and by their mid-teens, they were fully part of the enslaved workforce.
The Stove Room was part of the Greenhouse’s heating system. Note that there are two fireplaces in this rather small room. The corner fireplace was part of a system that supplied the heat for the Greenhouse on the opposite side of the building. Hot air from the fire was conducted through flues and channeled under the Greenhouse floor. During the colder months of the year, it was necessary to keep the fire going all night in order to maintain a proper temperature for the tropical plants in the Greenhouse. An enslaved boy or man slept in this room in order to tend the fire and make sure it continuously burned. This individual probably slept on a pallet in front of the room’s central fireplace.
Through correspondence with his former Revolutionary War-aide Tench Tilghman, George Washington consulted Margaret Tilghman Carroll (1743–1817), who was renowned for her orange and lemon trees, on the construction of his Greenhouse. Carroll's greenhouse included an intricate hot air heating system for growing tropical plants indoors year round.
Each of George Washington’s five farms had its own overseer, who supervised livestock and crops and submitted weekly reports. Overseers also managed enslaved and free laborers. Besides his typical duties, Mansion House Farm overseer Roger Farrell agreed in 1799 to supervise the annual harvest of fish; keep Washington supplied with mutton, lamb, veal, and firewood; and repair fences around the estate, among other tasks. That year, Farrell earned an annual wage of $133.33, plus “board, bed lodging, and washing."
Between the Upper Garden and North Lane and behind the Spinning House lies the small enclosed area where George Washington probably spent more time gardening on his own than anywhere else on the estate. In 1785, for instance, he sowed flowering shrubs and ornamentals, experimental hedging plants, nuts, fruits, herbs, new grains, and grasses. He marked the planting locations with notched sticks, watered and mulched, and kept careful notes of the results.
Although Washington was a renowned farmer, often offering advice to and trading seeds with his neighbors, some of his experiments went awry. For instance, in that 1785 planting, he carefully sowed a precious gift: the seeds of 200 Chinese species. The next year, he reported, “None . . . were [to] be seen.”
This structure provided secure storage for the large quantities of salt that George Washington seasonally imported from England, Portugal, and the Caribbean. Fresh meat and fish were packed in dry salt or brine for preservation. Salting fish was particularly important; herring and shad were plentiful in the Potomac River. They provided Washington with income and sustenance for everyone on the plantation.
This building first served briefly as a hospital for enslaved workers, then as a space for wool-spinning, and finally as a dwelling. William Spence, a young Scotsman who was head gardener at the Mansion House Farm in 1799, probably lived here. Washington hired European-trained gardeners who could cultivate the varieties of plants and seeds he received from around the world. With the aid of two or three enslaved workers, Spence oversaw the Upper and Lower Gardens, orchards, and Greenhouse.
At twenty by forty feet in dimension and with two usable floors, the Servants' Hall was larger than the great majority of the houses lived in by Washington's fellow Virginia planters. That such a large and prominent structure was reserved only for the occasional use of the servants of visitors is remarkable.
The servants' hall is remarkable for its unusual function as well. Once the final design was agreed upon, it was always referred to in George Washington's writings and in other plantation records as the "Servants Hall." With the exception of a three-year period when plantation manager William Pearce took up residence, the Servants' Hall was reserved exclusively for the use of the visitors' servants.
The prominent placement of the Servants' Hall as a flanker to the Mansion, its mimicking of the Mansion by exhibiting rusticated siding on the facades facing the entrance circle, and its connection to the mansion by the open-sided colonnades, marks the building's importance within the scheme of the overall plantation layout at Mount Vernon.
This building provided storage under lock and key for hundreds of items, such as tools and nails used by carpenters, leather and thread for the cobbler, powder and shot for the huntsmen, and blankets and clothes used by enslaved persons. George Washington and his farm managers kept a watchful eye on the storehouse, which was within sight of the Mansion. Items were inventoried as they were purchased and then carefully issued as needed.
The Clerk's Quarters provided a residence and office for George Washington’s secretary. After the presidential years, Albin Rawlins filled this position, helping Washington with his correspondence and serving as a business agent for enterprises such as the gristmill. Rawlins’s quarters were near the Mansion study, so his employer could quickly summon him.
Modern-day visitors to Mount Vernon often ask about the location of the bathrooms in the Mansion; there were none. Outdoor toilets like this were often called privies or outhouses; at Mount Vernon they were called necessaries. In the 18th-century, there were probably four necessaries spread out around the Mansion House grounds. During cold nights, the Washington family, their guests, the plantation’s enslaved workers, and servants, used chamber pots in their rooms.
Today, there are two restored necessaries at Mount Vernon. They are located just outside the Upper and Lower Gardens. Each has three seats fitted with large, removable wooden drawers for easy cleaning.
In the Wash House, enslaved laundresses performed weekly washings for the Washington family, long-term guests, hired white servants, and overseers.
Laundry in the 18th century was a three-day, labor-intensive process reserved for household linens, like sheets and tablecloths, and clothing worn closest to the skin: shirts, shifts, and stockings. Many people contributed garments to each laundry load, so clothes and linens were marked with the owner’s initials or name in ink or cross-stitch. At Mount Vernon, as at many other elite 18th-century houses, the employment contracts of unmarried, white male servants included the provision of laundry services.1 A married man’s laundry fell to his wife.2
George and Martha Washington’s famous hospitality included providing laundry services for Mount Vernon guests staying longer than one week (the typical turn-around time of the Wash House.) The constant stream of guests created a heavy workload for the enslaved laundresses.
Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz, a visiting Polish Nobleman who stayed at the plantation for two weeks, noted that the enslaved workers “took care of me, of my linen, of my clothes,” treating him “not as a stranger but as a member of the family.”3
The probate inventory taken after George Washington’s death recorded the contents of the Wash House. The building contained nine tubs, four pails, two small buckets with handles (called piggins), four tables, and two copper tubs (called boilers) valued at thirty-four dollars and seventy-five cents.4 In addition, eight jars of soap, valued at twenty-five dollars, were stored in the Mansion cellar. When Washington inherited the property in 1761, the Wash House inventory records nine hand irons.
Above Pair of silk stockings, 18th century. Object number W-2471/A-B.
Although there were no automated laundry appliances, Mount Vernon’s Wash House was equipped with a built-in brick stove that held a copper kettle over a fire. This was a feature of many elite homes in the 18th century and was a relative luxury, as laundresses did not have to move the heavy pots of hot water.
Laundry in the 18th century was conducted exclusively by women.5 Records from 1759 to 1799 indicate the names of nine enslaved women and when they were assigned to the Wash House.
Mima, 1787 –1788
Sall, 1786 –1791
Caroline, 1793 –1798
Dolshy, 1786 –1799
Vina, 1798 –1799
Home-care manuals of the day instructed that laundry should begin Monday and conclude on Wednesday, leaving Thursday to Saturday free for other work.6 Many of the enslaved women assigned to Mount Vernon’s Wash House were not only doing laundry, but also acted as seamstresses, spinners, and knitters.
Laundresses also needed a wide knowledge of treatments for all sorts of stains on many different fine fabrics. Finer garments made out of wool, silk, and cotton were rarely, if ever, fully washed, but instead spot-treated for stains.
Laundry was an intense job requiring an incredible amount of physical strength. During the hot Virginia summers, the washhouse would be an almost unbearable temperature due to the constant fires and clouds of billowing steam. Laundresses had to move pounds of clothing, made even heavier with water, from pot to pot and agitate the laundry—all by hand.
The enslaved laundresses began each load by hauling the necessary water and firewood: thirty to fifty gallons of water from the kitchen well to fill copper kettles, and roughly 180 pounds of firewood to feed the boiler that heated water for the first phase of washing. Depending on the volume of laundry, a total of over one hundred gallons of water could be necessary. This meant more than two dozen trips back and forth to the well for each day of washing.
Copper kettles, not iron, were used for washing. The water, soap, bleaching agents, and heat would cause iron to leach into the water, potentially ruining delicate linen fabric.
Soap was rubbed over stains and soil, but not added to the water. Items of the highest quality were washed first; when the water was cleanest.
Washerwomen agitated the clothes by hand, stirring them in the water or scrubbing them with laundry bats, flat wooden paddles with ridges.
Once cleaned, the clothes would be rinsed in separate water. To keep the fine white fabrics of shirts, shifts, and tablecloths white, sometimes a bluing powder would be added to the water. The bluing powder, made of indigo, would counteract the yellowing of the fabric and make it look whiter.7
To dry, items could be hung over drying racks indoors or spread out on the grass outdoors on warm, dry days.
Once dry, the process of ironing would begin. Ironing required experience and skill: the laundress managed the temperature of at least three irons. When one grew too cool, another would be ready for use, hot but not hot enough to burn the fabric.
Finally, the laundry would be folded with the assistance of the housemaids and distributed to the closets of the house and outbuildings.
Compiled by Sydney Marenburg
1 —“Agreement with Burgis Mitchell, 1 May 1762,” Founders Online, National Archives,https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-07-02-0074.
2 —"George Washington to James Anderson (of Scotland), 7 April 1797,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/06-01-02-0059.
3 —Ursyn Niemcewicz, Julian, Early Description by Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz. June 5, 1978.
4 —P.C Nash, Fairfax County Will Book J, 1801-1806, (Fairfax, Virginia): Fairfax County Court Archives, 1810), George Washington.
5 —Mohun, Arwen Palmer. “Laundrymen Construct Their World: Gender and the Transformation of a Domestic Task to an Industrial Process”The Johns Hopkins University Press and the Society for the History of Technology, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Jan., 1997): 97-120
6 —Leslie, Eliza. Miss Leslie's Lady's House-book: A Manual of Domestic Economy, Containing Approved Directions for Washing, Dress-making, Millinery, Dyeing, Cleaning, etc 1850. Note: although this source is from a later period, the laundry process remained very similar between eras until the widespread use of laundry machines.
7 —Dunbar, James. Smegmatalogia, or the art of making potashes and soap, and bleaching of linen. By which the industrious farmer is taught to bleach and wash his cloath with the produce of our own country. United Kingdom: the author, 1736.
Inside General Washington's Coach House or "garage" is a riding chair. It consists of a wooden chair on a cart with two wheels and was pulled by a single horse. This type of vehicle was perfect for traveling along the narrow country lanes around Mount Vernon.
As a young man, Washington acquired a riding chair similar to the 18th-century example displayed in the Coach House alongside a modern reproduction. Popular in America and England, riding chairs could travel country lanes and back roads more easily than bulkier four-wheeled chariots and coaches. They were also relatively inexpensive compared to other wheeled vehicles. Carriages were taxed by the number of wheels, so a two-wheeled riding chair could save the owner money. Members of all social classes used these chairs to traverse the rough Virginia terrain.
This building illustrates George Washington’s dedication to finding ways to improve soil fertility and to making Mount Vernon a model of progressive farming. The “Repository for Dung,” as it was known, was designed to compost animal droppings and other organic waste for use as fertilizer in the nearby gardens and orchards.
The original 31-by-12-foot open-walled structure was erected in 1787. It was reconstructed in 2001, based on Washington’s notes, historical documents discussing fertilizer production, and two years of archaeological excavation. Archaeologists revealed remnants of the brick foundation walls along the virtually intact cobblestone floor; these were incorporated into the reconstructed building. Washington’s dung repository is thought to be the first structure in the nation specifically designed for composting.
George Washington’s diaries and letters contain many references to ice and the special structure he built to safeguard the valuable substance. Washington’s design called for a dry well dug into the hillside and encased within an outer wall constructed of wood planks. Between the well and the wall a three-to-four-inch layer of straw was installed as insulation. Dirt and sod provided further insulation. Inside, a ten-foot-long ladder enabled workers to retrieve ice from the well.
Filling the icehouse was a challenging enterprise. In the dead of winter, many of Washington’s enslaved workers had less to do in the fields, so he sent them out in boats to cut blocks from the floating ice in the Potomac. The blocks were then dragged up the hillside and then deposited into the well.
Records imply that Washington was very strongly encouraged to safeguard ice by his wife Martha, who wrote in 1793, “in the warm season Ice is the most agreable [sic] thing we can have.” It is known that the Washingtons enjoyed and served the new, fashionable dessert known as ice cream. Washington’s favorite ice cream flavor remains unknown today.
The Forest Trail meanders through one of the small woodlands left on the estate, giving visitors a feel for the natural setting of Mount Vernon when George Washington lived here. In Washington's time, only about 3,200 acres of the estate were cultivated. He purposely left most of his land wooded because the forest helped sustain the estate. Trees provided wood for fuel and building. Some plants provided medicine, such as witch hazel to reduce inflammation, sassafras bark for treating fevers, and bloodroot for skin cancers. The wild game inhabiting the forest appeared often on Mount Vernon’s dining tables. Washington and his guests also took advantage of the forest for exercise and entertainment. Some of them were avid foxhunters, with Washington perhaps the most enthusiastic of all.
Today, the forest trail winds through a woodland very different from the semi-wilderness Washington knew. Some wildlife has disappeared entirely, while other species of animals that the Washingtons would not have known thrive here. Black bears no longer roam the hills. Tamer creatures, however, such as house finches, European starlings, and a turtle called the red-eared slider, have been introduced to the area over the past two centuries. The canopy of trees has changed, too. Visitors still see the oak and hickory trees that dominated the forest in Washington’s day, but the American chestnuts common in 1799 were felled by blight in the 20th-century.
The forest trail begins near the 16-sided treading barn at the Farm. Cross the road, keeping the Slave Cabin on your right, and you’ll see the “Entry to Forest Trail” sign. The trail ends on the main road that leads to the Mansion and the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center.
The forest trail includes several steep inclines and is not recommended for all visitors, though it can provide a cool respite on a hot day. It takes about 15 minutes to walk the trail.
Cobble quarry: This area was likely a source of stone for the Mount Vernon estate. Cobbles of all sizes were collected and used to construct roadways. Nearby, Washington discovered an outcropping of sandstone, which provided larger blocks for major building projects and may have been used to form the foundation for the first phase of Mansion construction in 1734.
Likely site of a Native American hunting camp: On one of the hilltops along the trail, archaeologists have excavated various Native American artifacts, including stone tools, stone flakes produced from tool making, and fire-cracked rocks from campfire cooking. For thousands of years before the Washington family acquired this land, in 1674, Native Americans lived here. One of the highest points of land in the area, this could well have been the site of a seasonal hunting camp.
From April 1 through October 31 shop at our historic Distillery & Gristmill Shop for cornmeal, grits, pancake mix, and whiskey as well as other small batch distilled spirits. These items can also be found year-round at The Shops at Mount Vernon in the Mount Vernon Inn Complex.
The shoemaker played a critical role by maintaining the plantation workers’ shoes so that no labor or time was lost. One pair of shoes was issued annually to each enslaved worker and repaired over the course of the year. The shoemaker, who might have been a hired white artisan or an enslaved person, also worked on saddles and other leather goods.
In his later years, George Washington’s enslaved former valet, William Lee worked as one of the estate’s shoemakers.
The cellar of the Storehouse and Clerk’s Quarter was used to store the expensive pigments that were painstakingly ground by hand and mixed with linseed oil to make house paint. Maintaining the painted surfaces of the Mansion and outbuildings was a continual, labor-intensive process.
Hogs were very popular in the 18th-century as a valuable source of food. Ham, salted pork, bacon, lard, scrapple, and chitterlings were all very common foods in colonial times. George Washington’s hogs ran loose in the woods, foraging on nuts and insects until they were gathered in the fall for fattening.
Today, Mount Vernon raises Ossabaw Island hogs. They are descendants of pigs brought to the Americas over 400 years ago by Spanish explorers. Ossabaw Island hogs come in a variety of colors – gray, black, red, tan and even spotted. Often in the spring through fall months, we have a litter of piglets for our visitors to see. A typical litter size for the Ossabaw is 4-8 piglets, our largest litter had 11 piglets.
Renovations of the historic area hog pen are sponsored by Pork Checkoff.
George Washington often referred to his cattle as "black cattle," the standard terminology used to differentiate bovines from "white cattle" or sheep. During the peak of Washington’s farming operation, over 300 cattle lived on the Estate. Cattle provided meat, milk, and associated products like butter, cream, and cheese. They were also a reliable source of labor on the farm.
For much of his life, Washington tried to upgrade the quality of the cattle on his lands, through the use of well-bred bulls descended from English stock. Mount Vernon raises Milking Devon cattle, a breed developed in England and brought to Massachusetts in 1623. The Devons are known for their deep red color and versatility. They are a hardy breed and can thrive in rugged conditions. Mount Vernon’s heritage breed program raises Devons as part of a conservation effort to help preserve the breed. The cattle are listed as “critical” with The Livestock Conservancy, meaning less than 200 animals are registered in the United States annually.
Washington branded all of his cattle with “GW” for identification purposes. The location of the mark indicated where the cattle were regularly pastured: on the left buttock for Dogue Run Farm, on the right buttock for the Neck Plantation, on the left shoulder for Muddy Hole Farm, and on the right shoulder for the mill.
Need to bring your own lunches or other large bags? We can secure it at the Gatehouse, located just outside the entrance of the Mount Vernon Inn Complex, for you. Ask a Guest Services staff member at the Ford Orientation Center for assistance. Please note we do not allow outside food or drink, except for water bottles, on the grounds of the Estate.
Housed within this Boat Shed is a replica 21-foot batteau, a multipurpose flat-bottomed 18th-century boat. It was constructed in 2016 with 18th-century based tools. There were many other types of watercrafts built or used by George Washington including flatboats, barges, scows, hogshead flats, whaleboats, ferryboats, schooners, yawls, brigantines, and fishing boats.
The three fisheries along the Potomac River reflect Washington’s entrepreneurial spirit. For almost 40 years, these fishing operations brought in food for Washington's enslaved and paid workers, and by selling the surplus, provided additional profits for his estate. Of all of Washington’s economic pursuits perhaps none were as consistently lucrative as his fisheries. It is estimated that in a spring fishing season Washington’s operations caught 1.3 million shad and herring, often accounting for more income than any other single crop.
While not accessible to the public, the Spring House can be seen from the path. Built on the site of a natural spring it is one of the estate’s most distinctive and least understood outbuildings. The building was likely constructed by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association in the mid-19th century, which means it does not date to George Washington’s time. Nevertheless, a spring house, in one form or another, has existed in the vicinity since before George Washington’s ownership of Mount Vernon.
Mount Vernon visitors in the 18th century first glimpsed the Mansion as they passed through the West Gate. It is approximately one mile from the West Gate to the Bowling Green Gate. Upon entrance, guests were provided with their first glimpse of the Mansion. The drive then meandered through the trees, eventually passed the Bowling Green Gate, circled around the stable to the South Lane, and joined the Mansion Circle.
The location of the West Gate is marked by two small white structures known as Porter's Lodges. These buildings were originally constructed in 1812 by Bushrod Washington, the General’s nephew who owned Mount Vernon from 1802 until 1829. The Porter's Lodges were reconstructed by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association in the late 19th century.
These two small white structures were known as Porter's Lodges and sit on either side of the West Gate, which was the original entrance to the Estate. They were originally constructed in 1812 by George Washington’s nephew, Bushrod Washington, who owned Mount Vernon from 1802 to 1829. Visitors wrote about how the lodge inhabitants opened the gate and received coins for their work. The porter is usually identified as an elder black man, though in 1834, an enslaved woman is mentioned, suggesting a family lived at the West Gate. The Porter's Lodges were reconstructed by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association in 1876.
George Washington called this room—the last addition to the Mansion and the grandest space in the house—his "New Room." With its two-story-high ceiling, detailed architectural ornament, and stylish furnishings, the New Room was intended to emphasize unpretentious beauty and fine craftsmanship, qualities Washington believed communicated the new nation’s values. Washington summed up his ambitious goals for the room in a letter written while he was off fighting the Revolutionary War: “I would have the whole executed in a masterly manner.”
Opting for vivid paint and wallpaper through much of the house, Washington made choices that expressed the tastes of his era, whit the use of bold colors was a sign of wealth. The stunning green of the wallpaper in this room was one of his favorites. The furnishings include various original Washington pieces as well as period pieces similar to those the Washingtons would have owned. Washington ordered the Federal-style sideboard (on the river side of the room) and several of the side chairs from Philadelphia cabinetmaker John Aitken near the end of his presidency.
Like the grand “salons” of fashionable 18th-century English manor homes, this room was meant to serve several functions. As a receiving area for visitors, its high ceiling, large volume, and symmetrical decoration made the space truly impressive as the room alone was larger than most houses in colonial Virginia. The New Room’s large north-facing window made it an ideal picture-gallery. Washington hung 21 works of art in the room; the six large landscape paintings currently on display are the original canvases that Washington acquired. The room was used occasionally for dining, likely for guests of high rank or large parties that could not be accommodated in the smaller dining room.
Objects in this Location
The octagonal structures at the west end of the Upper and Lower Gardens were used to store tools and seeds. They also provided sheltered workspaces for gardeners, who cultivated new plants, gathered seeds, and carefully stored them. The loss of a single season’s seeds could mean the elimination of a prized plant.
Through fine architectural features, artwork, and furnishings, the room was a means by which the Washingtons reinforced their elevated social status as a couple, as well as George Washington’s prominence in the social and political landscape.
Nearly every important politician and dignitary who visited the Washingtons was entertained in this space, from the Marquis de Lafayette to Thomas Jefferson. The space was primarily identified with the lady of the house, and here Martha Washington presided over the tea table and showed off her family through the many portraits that she had commissioned and had hung on the walls.
Music played an important role in the Mount Vernon household, as it did in other genteel Virginia homes of the period. Music masters traveled from plantation to plantation, instructing the young, and their presence often inspired lively social gatherings filled with music and dancing. George Washington loved to dance, and he is reported on one occasion during the Revolutionary War to have done so for three hours.
When Washington returned home from the presidency, he decided to convert what had been a first-floor bedchamber into a music and family room, thus allowing more space for informal entertaining.
Though by Washington's own account he could neither sing nor “raise a single note on any instrument," he helped ensure that his stepchildren and step-grandchildren were instructed in music. Early in his marriage, he ordered a spinet for Martha's daughter, Martha (Patsy) Parke Custis, and a violin and German flute for Martha's son, John (Jacky) Parke Custis.
In this room, you will find a harpsichord which was purchased by Washington in 1793 for his step-granddaughter Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis.
The central passage is the entryway into the Washingtons' home. Entertaining also occurred in the central passage, particularly during hot Virginia summers when the family gathered here to enjoy breezes from the open doorways. The elegant space, which runs the width of the house, provides magnificent views of the Potomac River and the Maryland shoreline to the east and of the Bowling Green, fields, and woods beyond to the west.
When George Washington enlarged the house, in 1758 and 1759, he added the native black walnut staircase to the central passage. Being prudent and practical, he moved the earlier staircase to provide access to the newly constructed third floor. The pine paneling on the first floor was also installed during the initial enlargement; later, in 1797, the paneling was grained, or painted, to imitate more expensive mahogany.
In this central hall, you will find the Key to the Bastille, given to Washington by the Marquis de Lafayette in 1790, after the destruction of this infamous prison in Paris.
George Washington once described the house as a “well resorted tavern" because “scarcely any strangers who are going from north to south, or from south to north do not spend a day or two at it." This bedchamber accommodated some of the many visitors who stopped at Mount Vernon. According to Washington's diaries, overnight visitors were present in his home about two-thirds of the time, arriving at a household that was already sizable. In December 1799, it included six people: the Washingtons; Mrs. Washington's youngest grandchildren, Washy and Nelly Custis; Washington's nephew Lawrence Lewis, who had married Nelly in February of that year; and the Lewises' newborn daughter, Frances.
This is one of the most striking spaces in the Mansion. The Dining Room is part of the original house, built in 1734. Over the years, the room underwent a series of renovations. While George Washington was away commanding the Continental Army in 1775, the room was updated under the supervision of his cousin Lund Washington. In 1785, the striking verdigris-green paint was added. Washington believed the color to be “grateful to the eye" and less likely than other colors to fade; an overcoat of glaze further intensified the color.
In 1775 Washington decided to install an elaborately decorated plaster ceiling and add plaster ornaments above the fireplace. He hired an expert plasterer, identified simply as the “Stucco Man," who spent five months completing the hand-tooled ceiling. A renovation in 2001 uncovered some of his original pencil drawings on the ceiling laying out the design.
After George Washington's return to Mount Vernon at the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, the Study became his retreat from ever-present family and visitors; a place where he could quietly and privately tend to business. Reportedly, no one was allowed in this room without Washington's invitation. From here, he directed the management of his Estate, receiving reports from overseers, making daily diary entries, and posting his accounts.
The Study was also where Washington bathed, dressed, and kept his clothes. Each morning, he rose between 4 and 5 am and went to the study, using the private staircase that led down from the bedchamber. According to the recollections of his step-grandson George Washington (Washy) Parke Custis, he lit his own fire and dressed himself. Washington used this quiet time to write letters or review reports until breakfast at 7 am, after which he usually rode out to his farms. In the evening, unless he had a social obligation or lingered talking to visitors after dinner, he returned here to read or confer with his secretary until around 9 pm, when he went to bed.
In this room you will find a fan chair similar to Washington's, which helped him to stay cool on hot summer's days; Washington's chair that he used as President, a portrait of Lawrence Washington, bookcases, a secretary, and other artifacts from Washington's life.
Everyday Chinese porcelain dishes were stored in this small space. Whereas, finer china was stored in a closet on the third floor. Evidence of the wiring for the house bell system can still be seen across the ceilings of the panty and back hall. The bells summoned servants or enslaved workers to the dining rooms, the piazza, and one of the bedrooms.
The two-story piazza is the Mansion's most distinctive architectural feature. Extending the full length of the back of the house, it also has a practical function—catching the river breezes on a hot and humid Virginia day. The Washingtons treated the piazza as an outdoor room, serving afternoon tea here to visitors and family members seated in simple Windsor chairs.
From the piazza, visitors observe a thickly wooded area which was an 18-acre deer park, a common feature on large estates of that time. Washington stocked his with tame deer from nearby and from England for the delight of family and visitors. The trees between the Mansion and the river were carefully pruned to emphasize the view of the Potomac, creating a so-called "hanging wood."
By the late 1790s, the Blue Room served as a bedchamber for visiting family and guests.
Architectural moldings and a mantel, painted cream in the 1790s, framed the space, while blue textiles and wallpaper distinguished it. A unique mix of furnishings acquired over the course of the Washingtons’ lifetimes offered comfortable accommodations and an innovative Rumford firebox provided a warmer, smoke-free stay during the cooler seasons of the year.
This room is often referred to as the Lafayette room because it is believed that the Marquis de Lafayette stayed here while visiting the Washingtons. Lafayette was a young French nobleman who volunteered his services in America's fight for freedom.
There is always a period likeness of Lafayette on display within this room. In a 1784 letter to the Marquis, George Washington wrote, “It is unnecessary, I persuade myself to repeat to you my Dear Marqs. the sincerity of my regards and friendship, nor have I words which could express my affection for you, were I to attempt it." Like his beloved Washington, Lafayette served without pay as a general in the Continental Army, and the two maintained a strong bond.
Originally two rooms, the hall bedchamber created in the 1750s was described as "a Closet with the Window". Prior to Washington's expansion of the Mansion to a full two stories in the late 1750s, these two rooms formed a single space. In Lawrence Washington's 1753 probate inventory this single room was called the room at the "Head of Stairs." Despite being split into the two rooms, the size of the room at the head of the stairs was originally substantially smaller because the lower roof of Lawrence's house made this room an attic room with a knee wall and sloping ceiling.
Despite the smaller size, in 1753, the room housed two bedsteads, although it is not known if they were assembled or merely stored here.
This room was used by Martha Washington's granddaughter Nelly Custis, who lived at Mount Vernon from early childhood. The room dates to the 1758–59 enlargement of the house. Mount Vernon’s curatorial staff discovered that the bedhangings were most likely those purchased by Washington in Philadelphia in 1774, made by none other than Betsy Ross.
Nelly married General Washington's nephew Lawrence Lewis at Mount Vernon on February 22, 1799 — the president's last birthday. The couple lived at Mount Vernon until construction of their home, Woodlawn Plantation, three miles away, was completed. Their first child, Frances, was born in this room only days before Washington's death in December 1799. Nelly remained confined to her bed and was unable to attend her step-grandfather's funeral.
The Yellow Room occupies the southeast corner of George Washington's 1759 house and is slightly larger than the first-floor bedchamber that is below it. Before the remodeling of the 1750s, this space formed two rooms, one unheated and tucked under the east slope of the roof, and one heated called the "Yellow Room." With the creation of the full second story, the new Yellow Room received a corner fireplace and a window in the east wall; there may also have been a window in the south wall, or a door leading to the roof of the one-story south closet. The current mantel was installed in 1775 when the south addition to the house was added.
Located directly above the Study in the private south wing is George and Martha Washington's spacious bedroom. Designed according to Martha Washington's suggestion that it be simple and functional, the room was also her sanctuary, where she planned her schedule and wrote letters to friends and family members. According to her grandson, she also spent an hour there each day reading the Bible and praying.
Washington died of a severe throat infection in this room on December 14, 1799. Upon his death, Martha closed the room and, for the remaining several years of her life, spent much of her time in a bedchamber on the third floor.
Purchased in the early 1790s, the bed was described by Martha as “the new bedstead which I caused to be made in Philadelphia." Its design is in keeping with the Washingtons' preference for elegant simplicity. At just over six feet, six inches long, it was large enough to accommodate the General, who stood about six feet, two inches tall.
In this room, you will also find a mantel clock from Washington's presidency and a fine French writing desk crafted of mahogany with a marble top and brass fittings.
The sudden death of her beloved husband in 1799 devastated Martha Washington. Unwilling to remain in the bedchamber where her husband died, she retreated to a third-floor bedchamber that one visitor described as a "cramped attic space." Martha Washington resided here until her own death in May of 1802.
The four garret chambers were created by the remodeling work of the late 1750s. The rooms all changed slightly after the north and south extensions were completed in the 1770s. In their initial configuration, none of these rooms had a fireplace and were heated solely by radiant heat from the chimneys of fires burned in the rooms below.
A small fireplace was added to the northeast chamber in 1776. In 1797, Washington drew a plan indicating that he intended to install a stove in the southeast chamber, but this stove was instead added to its neighbor to the west, which Martha Washington occupied.
These two storerooms are located in the north and south additions made to the Mansion in the mid-1770s. Tradition held that Martha Washington occupied the south Lumber Room after George's death. However, the 1799 inventory indicates that Mrs. Washington's room was heated by a stove and architectural investigations clearly show that this room never had a stove. The only of these two Lumber Rooms to have had one is the room now identified as her bedchamber.
The current size and shape of the Bull's Eye Room were created by the addition of the 35'-10.5" wide pediment in 1778. Paint analysis of the inside face of the door trim, however, indicates there was a room in this location dating to the raising of the roof at the end of the 1750s. The most prominent feature of this room is the large oval or "bull's eye" window, which is the focal point of the west pediment. Some of the shelves in this room are part of the original shelving in this space. The shelving confirms this room was a storage space, almost certainly the "China Closet upstairs" mentioned in the 1799 inventory.
George Washington added this architectural feature, generally found on public buildings, to the Mansion in part to help cool the house, as it draws hot air out through open windows. By providing a strong vertical axis, the cupola also helps disguise the asymmetry of the west facade, facing the Bowling Green. The weathervane atop the house decoratively incorporates a dove with an olive branch in its beak, symbolizing Washington's hopes for peace in the new nation. He commissioned the work from Philadelphia artisan Joseph Rakestraw while presiding at the Constitutional Convention during the spring and summer of 1787. The weathervane here is an exact replica of the original, which is preserved and on view in the Museum.
From an archaeological standpoint, the best way to commemorate the lives of those free and enslaved individuals who lived and died at Mount Vernon is to thoroughly document the locations of individual burials on the landscape. Therefore, the primary goal of this project is to create a map that shows exactly where individuals are interred on the ridge just southwest of George Washington’s tomb.
Some of the questions we hope to answer are: How many individuals call this cemetery their final resting place? What are the boundaries of the site? How are burials arranged within those boundaries? To ensure utmost respect is paid to the people interred in the African American cemetery, the remains will not be excavated.
This is the Ticket Counter and Main Entrance to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. You can purchase your tickets here. Already have tickets? Then skip the line at the gate and head straight passed to the Ford Orientation Center.
Late arrival? If you buy your admission here within one hour of closing, we will validate your ticket so you can come back the next day for free.
In 1799, more than 50 enslaved men and women were trained in specific trades. These individuals used their skills to make tools and textiles, care for livestock, process food, and construct and repair many of Mount Vernon’s buildings, including the Mansion itself. Today visitors can explore the outbuildings where much of this work was done including the blacksmith shop, smokehouse, stable, spinning house, and more.