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.