Thursday, November 01, 1951

Visited Mount Vernon first as a princess; then 40 years later as queen. On both occasions, she was accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Wharf Dedication Ceremony

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth is greeted by guests during a reception celebrating the dedication of Mount Vernon's wharf in 1991. (Mount Vernon Ladies' Association)

Mrs. Clarence M. Bishop, Regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, escorts Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II down the south lane to the tomb during the monarch's first visit to Mount Vernon in 40 years (Geissinger)

Thursday, May 16, 1991

For the board members, staff, and supporters of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, May 16, 1991 is a day that few are ever likely to forget. Not only did Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, visit the historic estate, but the Queen also dedicated the new, renovated wharf at Mount Vernon, the result of a fund-raising project organized by Mrs. Clarence M. Bishop, Regent of the Association, in her home state of Oregon.

The two occasions combined to create an exciting day at the home of George Washington. As part of their state visit to America, the Queen and Prince Philip arrived at Mount Vernon shortly after 3 p.m. on a sunny Thursday afternoon to the cheers of hundreds of visitors who gathered in front of the Mansion to greet them.

Mrs. Bishop and Resident Director Neil W. Horstman escorted the Queen and Prince Philip into the large dining room of the Mansion, where the royal couple signed Mount Vernon's guest book. Before signing, the Queen took a nostalgic look back at the signatures of her parents, King George VI and his consort Queen Elizabeth, now the Queen Mother, who visited Mount Vernon with President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939.

1939 royal visit

 

The reigning Queen is no stranger to Mount Vernon, either. As Princess Elizabeth, she and her husband first visited the estate in 1951, just a few months before her father's death elevated the young princess to the throne.

The royal party paused during their brief tour of the Mansion to wave to visitors from the piazza. After leaving the Mansion, the group headed down the south lane, where a stop at the stables intrigued the Queen. Known for her love of horses, the monarch stepped inside the stables to personally examine the saddles and furnishings in the stalls before continuing down the south lane to the tomb.

Just as five generations of British royalty had done before her, the Queen placed a wreath at the tomb of George Washington. Several members of the Association awaited the monarch at the tomb, and the Queen and Prince Philip personally greeted each Vice Regent.

Famous visits at the tomb

But the highlight of the 45-minute visit occurred when the Queen and Mrs. Bishop unveiled a plaque at the Mount Vernon wharf. This historic structure, which stretches some 100 feet into the Potomac River, received a year-long restoration funded by Oregon supporters.

Just before the Queen and Prince Philip departed from the wharf for their return trip to Washington on the Chief of Naval Operations' barge, six-year-old Sarah Quinn, daughter of Mount Vernon's Director of Education Michael Quinn, gave the Queen a bouquet of flowers from George Washington's garden, and eight-year-old Fred White of Dayton, Washington, grandson of Mrs. Bishop, presented a silver George Washington medallion to the Queen on behalf of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.

The wharf dedication ceremony was attended by many of the donors from Oregon, as well as members of the Mount Vernon One Hundred and The Life Guard of Mount Vernon. The special guests were also honored that evening with a dinner on the piazza of the Mansion.

Steamer landing at Mount Vernon in 1915 (Detroit Publishing Co.)

In raising funds for the much needed wharf restoration, Mrs. Bishop, a lifelong resident of Portland, followed in the footsteps of her predecessor, Miss Mary Failing, who served as the Association's Vice Regent for Oregon from 1907 to 1947. When the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association purchased the Washington estate in 1858, one of their first projects was to construct a safe wharf, near the site of one of George Washington's original boat landings, which no longer existed.

Constant boat traffic during the late 19th century took its toll, and numerous repairs became necessary around the turn of the century. Residents of the western states came to the rescue, and Miss Failing provided financing for new entrance and exit gates at the wharf, while the Vice Regents for Washington and California supplied the funds for a new shelter house and causeway.

Learn more about 19th cruises

 

Nearly a century later, citizens from Oregon once again came to the rescue of the Mount Vernon wharf. Under the leadership of Mrs. Bishop, the wharf structure has undergone a full-fledged restoration. The existing asbestos shingles were replaced with cedar shingles, a new cupola based on the 19th century original adorns the structure, many of the rafters and sheeting boards in the roof were replaced or strengthened, repairs were made to the concrete floor, and new water-resistant paint will add years to the wharf's life expectancy.

In recognition of the generous support of Oregonians, the restored wharf includes two bronze plaques expressing deep appreciation to the citizens and friends of Oregon, including Mr. and Mrs. Broughton H. Bishop, Mrs. Charles K. Bishop, Mrs. Clarence M. Bishop, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence M. Bishop, Jr., Miss Kay E. Bishop, Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Bishop III, Miss Ruth C. Bishop, Miss Susan Tucker Bishop, Mr. and Mrs. C. M. Bishop III, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Flowerree, Mrs. David Gaiser, Mrs. Edmund Hayes, Mrs. Lyle B. Kingery, Mr. and Mrs. Philip H. Knight, Mr. and Mrs. E. Kimbark Maccoll, Jr., Oregon Charter Members, Pacificorp Foundation, Pendleton Woolen Mills, Dr. and Mrs. Robert Channing Seamans, Jr., Standard Insurance Company, Mr. and Mrs. James G. Stevens, Mr. Ernest C. Swigert, Mr. and Mrs. Donald H. Vetterlein, and Mr. and Mrs. Jeptha L. White.

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