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George Washington loved to experiment with crops and plant production. In his Greenhouse, he and his gardeners tested their horticultural skills by growing plants exotic to Virginia. The Greenhouse provided a winter refuge for such tropical and semi-tropical plants as coffee, orange, lemon, lime, sago palm, and aloe. During the warm growing season, these plants were moved outside to the garden.
Flanking the central Greenhouse were two long, low buildings containing several living quarters. A slave who tended the fire to keep the Greenhouse warm lived in the Stove Room. An enslaved cobbler, who made shoes and repaired leather goods, stayed in the Shoemaker's shop. Other slaves who worked in or near the Mansion lived communally in the Slave Quarters.
Before building his greenhouse, George Washington studied several designs, finally adapting a plan from a similar structure in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1835, the original Greenhouse burned down but was rebuilt on the same site in 1951.