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Architectural Legacy

"George Washington, ‘father of his country’ is also the father of one of the most widely imitated, if not the most copied house in this country, Mount Vernon. Easily the most famous private house in the United States, Washington’s home in its additive character, its quest of grandeur at the domestic scale, and in its inventiveness is quintessentially American." 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?

For more examples of buildings inspired by Mount Vernon, visit our Democratic Architecture gallery.