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Mount Vernon's preservation team is constantly working to restore and preserve George Washington's estate.
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.
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.
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.
An artist rendering of the Mansion with a slate blue roof compared to the red roof.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.