The New Room
Learn more about the New Room, its design, and its many interesting artifacts.
A two-story room that was the last addition to the Mount Vernon mansion, the new room was part of a wing that was raised and enclosed by Lund Washington, who managed Mount Vernon during the Revolutionary War. The room interior remained unfinished until several years after the end of the war, while George Washington sought a craftsman who could execute the decoration of ceiling and woodwork in a manner equal to his expectations.
Washington's inquiries expressed a preference for plain wallpaper, green-blue, with a harmonizing border. From Philadelphia in 1787, Washington directed that the woodwork of the room be painted a buff inclining to white. The doors and those elsewhere on the first floor are believed to have received their mahogany finish in 1797 when the pine woodwork in the principal passages was grained or painted to simulate a more costly wood.
In January 1799, a young English guest noted that "white chintz window curtains with deep festoons of green satin" were used to decorate the New Room.1 Martha Washington identified the white material as dimity in her will. The young guest also reported that there was "an East Indian mat" on the floor. This testimony is corroborated by an inventory that was prepared for Washington's executors early the following year. The mantel that displayed prominently in the room was the gift of Samuel Vaughan, an English admirer and friend of General Washington. It arrived in 1785 while the decoration of the room was in progress.
An inventory compiled after George Washington's death lists twenty-one paintings and engravings in this room, including a representation of Louis XVI, the Trumbull engravings of the death of General Montgomery and the battle of Bunker's Hill, and a moonlight scene placed over the mantel. Although identified by Washington as a dining room, this space was used for a variety of functions. The absence from the inventory of a formal dining table is notable and suggests a desire on Washington's part to leave the center of the room unencumbered.
At least one event of historical significance occurred in this room. By his own instruction, Washington's body lay here for three days before entombment after his death on December 14, 1799.
1. Brookes, Joshua. "A Dinner at Mount Vernon: From the Unpublished Journal of Joshua Brookes," New York Historical Society Quarterly 31, no. 2 (April 1947): 72-85
Brookes, Joshua. "A Dinner at Mount Vernon: From the Unpublished Journal of Joshua Brookes." New York Historical Society Quarterly. April 1947: 72-85.
Experiencing Mount Vernon: Eyewitness Accounts, 1784-1865 ed. Jean B. Lee. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2006.