Fifth Regent (1927-1936)

Alice Haliburton King was born in New York City on May 28, 1860. Among her earliest memories was of a covered-wagon journey she took to an Army post on the Great Plains, where her father, Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Cornelius Low King, was stationed shortly after the Civil War. She continued traveling extensively throughout her life.

Many of Alice’s forebears had held military, political, or diplomatic posts. For example, her paternal great-grandfather, Rufus King, was a delegate to the 1787 Constitutional Convention, a U.S. Senator, and twice served as America’s minister to Great Britain. Her stepmother, Janet de Kay King, was Vice Regent for Vermont for 13 years, and may well have fostered Alice’s abiding interest in Mount Vernon.

Regent

Mrs. Richards shows the estate to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1933. MVLA.

Mrs. Richards shows the estate to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in 1933. MVLA.

In 1927, after serving 16 years as Vice Regent for Maine, Ms. Richards was unanimously elected Regent. During her tenure, the nation celebrated the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth, sparking renewed public interest in Mount Vernon. Anticipating an increase in visitors arriving by car via the new George Washington Memorial Parkway, she directed the Association in several initiatives: C. W. Killam, a Harvard professor of architectural construction, was hired to examine the Mansion for structural stress and to install necessary reinforcements; as a result, steel beams were placed in the basement that remain strong and reliable today. In addition, the house was redecorated based on a detailed study of Washington’s own records.

Also, significant groups of prints and furnishings owned by George and Martha Washington were returned to Mount Vernon, and the kitchen garden (today called the lower garden) was opened to the public. Finally, in December 1933 the Association began honoring “innumerable requests [that the estate be open on Sundays,] thereby enabling many people to have the inspiration of a visit to Mount Vernon for their one free day.”

Looking Forward

Due to the increase in car ownership in America during the 1920s, the National Park Service built George Washington Memorial Parkway. The first section was opened in 1932. MVLA.

Due to the increase in car ownership in America during the 1920s, the National Park Service built George Washington Memorial Parkway. The first section was opened in 1932. MVLA.

Mrs. Richards was also mindful of Mount Vernon’s future. Under her leadership, both the Research and Restoration Department and the reference library—for use by staff and outside scholars—were established. At her final Council, in May 1936, she observed, “Progressive research and restoration have always been the principal objects before the Association, and . . . we shall endeavour to continue to make this of paramount importance.”

Mrs. Richards died suddenly at her Washington, D.C., home on October 20, 1936, while still in office.

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