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Step back in time and join a person from Washington's world, like his personal secretary or enslaved chamber maid, as they go about their daily activities.

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$10 in addition to general admission

Located At

Mansion Circle

Explore the Estate with an 18th Century Character

This 60-minute tour showcases George Washington’s Mount Vernon as it may have been seen through the eyes of one of the men or women employed or enslaved at Mount Vernon.

Please note:

  • Any of the four character interpreters may lead the tour and may change without notice.
  • The tour begins at Mansion Circle; please allow at least 10-15 minutes to walk from the main entrance to the tour’s starting point. 
  • Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Character interpreters reserve the right to end the program if the Guest Code of Conduct policy is violated.


Tour Highlights 

This tour is led by a character interpreter portraying a real 18th-century resident of Mount Vernon. Your tour may be led by one of the following:

James Anderson, Whiskey Distiller and Farm Manager

James Anderson was born in 1745, near Edinburgh, Scotland. His family, including his wife and seven children, emigrated to America about 1791. Anderson began working for Washington as a farm manager and whiskey distiller in 1797. In a 1798 letter, Washington wrote that he believed Anderson to be “a man of strict integrity; sobriety; industry & zeal."

  • Learn about George Washington’s innovative farming practices.
  • See heritage breed animals, and hear about their uses in the 18th-century.
  • Discuss Washington’s whiskey enterprise and the construction of his distillery.
Learn more about James Anderson

Christopher Sheels, Enslaved Valet to Washington

Christopher Sheels worked as George Washignton’s personal attendant, or valet, from around the age 20. Sheels was born into slavery, circa 1776, and his grandmother ‘Old Doll’ had been among the original ‘dower’ slaves who were brought to Mount Vernon in 1759. Despite a foiled escape attempt, Sheels was present at Washington's death in 1799.

  • Get insight into the duties of an 18th-century valet and Washington’s high expectations.
  • Hear about Sheels' attempted flight for freedom in 1799 and how he was caught.
  • Explore Washington’s gardens and estate, and learn about the lives of Sheels’ family and community.
Learn more about Christopher Sheels

Ona Judge, Enslaved Maid to Mrs. Washington

Ona Judge worked as Martha Washington’s personal maid from about the age of 10, circa 1783, until her escape from the presidential residence in 1796. Judge was born into slavery; her mother, Betty, was enslaved by the estate of Martha Washington’s first husband.

  • Tour the Washingtons’ gardens and estate, and learn about the lives of Judge’s family and community.
  • Understand what life was like as a member of the president’s household in Philadelphia.
  • Hear the story of Ona’s successful escape to freedom.
Learn more about Ona Judge

Tobias Lear, Washington's Secretary

Tobias Lear, born in 1762, was employed by George Washington in 1786 to manage his expense reports and correspondence. Later, Lear was hired to tutor Martha Washington's grandchildren and developed close connections with the Washington family. Lear recorded Washington’s final hours before his death in 1799.

As you explore the estate, your tour guide will discuss:

  • The Revolutionary War’s impact on the expansion of Mount Vernon.
  • The ideas and concepts encapsulated in Washington’s design.
  • The duties of a private secretary and the work he carried out for Washington during the Presidency.
Learn more about Tobias Lear
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