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8 Facts About Preservation at Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon's preservation team is constantly working to restore and preserve George Washington's estate.

1. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association owns George Washington’s home

15 members of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association in 1884, Luke Dillion, MVLA, Historical Photograph Collection.
15 members of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association in 1884, Luke Dillion, MVLA, Historical Photograph Collection.
In the 1860s, George Washington’s estate was purchased from the Washington family by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. Since then, the organization has worked to preserve Washington’s home to how it was in 1799, the year he died.

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2. Extensive research is done before every restoration project

Prior to the start of a restoration project, Mount Vernon’s experts examine a wide variety of evidence. This can include letters, diaries, receipts, invoices, financial accounts, drawings, paintings, prints, photographs, and material culture including woodwork, plaster, masonry, flooring, framing, and wallpaper fragments.

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3. Mount Vernon's red roof was not always red

Shingles found in the roof were painted slate blue, indicating that the roof was likely this color from as early as 1775. The roof was red by 1793 when Edward Savage did two paintings of the Mansion, with the now iconic red roof.

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An artist rendering of the Mansion with a slate blue roof compared to the red roof.

4. The exterior siding of the Mansion is wood

The wood has been rusticated or made to look like stone. This process must be repeated, every few years, to keep the Mansion looking like it did during Washington's life.

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5. There are 15 original structures from George Washington’s life still standing

They are the Mansion, Spinning House, Salt House, Gardener’s House, Servant’s Hall, North Colonnade, Kitchen, Store House, Smokehouse, Washhouse, Stable, Ice House, Old Tomb, South Seedhouse, and North Seedhouse. There are also a number of reconstructed and replica structures on the estate.

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Mansion exterior, MVLA.

6. The restoration of the Front Parlor was inspired by a previously unknown document

In 2013, Mount Vernon acquired an unknown ledger kept by George William Fairfax, the Washingtons’ friend and owner of the nearby Belvoir plantation. This ledger provided detailed information on a suite of furniture that Fairfax acquired in London for Belvoir’s “blue dressing chamber.” We knew that when Fairfax moved to England in 1774, he gave Washington the dressing room furniture, but prior to the appearance of the ledger, we had no idea what this furniture looked like.

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7. During the Nelly Custis’ Bedchamber restoration the name was changed to the Chintz Room

This only occurred, after a diligent search of George and Martha Washington’s papers revealed that they rarely referred to any of the second-floor bedchambers by name. However, the inventory taken after Martha Washington’s death in 1802 provided a descriptive sobriquet, calling it the “Chintz Room.” Although this inventory was taken two years after George Washington’s death, knowing that the contents of each room in the house remained almost identical to the 1800 inventory, and that the appraisers of the 1802 inventory were family members and close friends, both suggested that “Chintz Room” would have been a name used by the Washingtons during their lifetimes.

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Investigating the framing behind the east wall of the Front Parlor. MVLA.

8. Mount Vernon has used paint analysis since the 1930s

Modern paint analysis combines a microscopic examination of paint samples and document-based research to help identify the color of paint used during Washington’s life. Recent analysis has identified far more paint layers than the 1980s study, and, when combined with documentary research, it has led to some dramatic changes in paint colors.

Susan Buck removing paint in the Front Parlor to examine, MVLA.

Restoring Mount Vernon

The restoration of each room in the Mansion and each outbuilding is accomplished through the collaboration of experts in multiple fields.

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