Henry Ford is among the millions of people who have visited George Washington's home, Mount Vernon.

Henry Ford (Library of Congress)

One day in 1923, the superintendent of Mount Vernon Colonel Harrison Dodge was making his regular rounds of the Mansion. Suddenly, he recognized a face peering over the railing of a second-floor room. It was Henry Ford and his wife Clara. They were touring Washington's home side­-by-side with dozens of other Americans.

Dodge immediately introduced himself and proceeded to conduct one of his famous "behind-the-barriers" tours. In his memoirs, Dodge remembers that he "was rewarded by finding them the most appreciative and enthusiastic guests we had had for a long while."

A 1931 photograph of Mount Vernon employee James Garfield Duvall with the 1923 American-LaFrance Combination Chemical and Hose Car.

Several hours later, Ford was surprised and disappointed to discover that Mount Vernon was ill-prepared to fight its greatest enemy: fire. When he returned home, he directed his staff to send Mount Vernon its first fire engine. The built-to-order American-LaFrance Combination Chemical and Hose Car arrived at the estate on August 16, 1923. Thirteen years later, he replaced the engine with a more advanced model and encouraged the Association to form its own fire department, install fire hydrants, and upgrade alarms.

The arrival of the fire engine was only the beginning of the Ford Motor Company's commitment to protecting and preserving Mount Vernon. Ford’s tradition of upgrading the Mount Vernon Ladies Association’s vehicles still continues today, including the donation of numerous cars and trucks that provide the modern horsepower to manage Washington's estate, as well as to transport visitors and historic artifacts.  Other donations have expanded our educational reach through programs benefitting classrooms both in the Washington, D.C. region as well as across the nation.

Read about the firetruck's 1923 arrival in the superintendent's report


The Ford Orientation Center opened in 2006, and ushers visitors into the 18th century (MVLA)

Since its opening in 2006, the Ford Orientation Center serves as the gateway from the 21st century to the 18th century for our more than one million annual visitors. The mission of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association since their inception has been to preserve and interpret the character of George Washington through innovative and engaging methods. From the moment visitors step in, this is evident with the detailed miniature of the mansion at Mount Vernon, and Moments of Truth, a stained-glass mural which highlights five key moments in Washington's life. 

Inspired by the efforts of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, Henry Ford helped establish The Henry Ford, now the nation's largest indoor/outdoor history museum, encompassing the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. The Henry Ford Museum strives to meet Mr. Ford's goal of documenting America's traditions of resourcefulness and innovation through its collection of American material culture.

Critically acclaimed non-fiction author Nathaniel Philbrick spoke at a Ford Evening Book Talk in May 2016 about his book Valiant Ambition

Watch Previous Ford Evening Book Talks


One hundred years later, Ford Motor Company’s dedication to the preservation of Mount Vernon continues. In addition to the Ford Orientation Center, Ford has continued through the years to support a wide range of educational initiatives and exhibitions, including our July 4th festivities as well as sponsoring monthly book talks, sustaining Title 1 school visits to Mount Vernon, and assisting with the acquisition of numerous other vehicles used across the estate.  In 1999, Ford sponsored Treasures From Mount Vernon, a major museum exhibition that traveled from coast-to-coast in recognition of the 200th anniversary of Washington’s death.  In 2014, Ford Motor made the first commitment toward fundraising for the installation of a new fire detection and prevention system for George Washington’s Mansion.  Due to Mr. Ford’s passion for preserving American history, Mount Vernon continues to educate visitors 365 days a year through donations from Ford Motor Company, keeping the legacy of George Washington and Mount Vernon alive.

Join Henry Ford in Preserving Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon fulfills its mission to educate the public about George Washington's life lessons and timeless legacy, relying on private donations and daily operations without any government support. Often called the cradle of American historic preservation, Mount Vernon uses modern technology, scholarship, and research to tell stories that come to life through the authentic restoration and interpretation of Washington’s beloved estate. The result is a compelling and unique educational experience.

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