Eighth Regent (1948-1958)

Hope Knight Hodgman was born in Buffalo, New York, in November 1889, the only child of William L. and Adelaide Knight Hodgman. The family owned textile mills that produced the durable Fruit of the Loom brand of clothing. In 1923 she wed Thomas Ives Hare Powel, a Rhode Island banker, who died suddenly in 1939.

Mrs. Powel became Vice Regent for Rhode Island in 1936. During her 35 years of service, she made significant gifts to Mount Vernon, including her share of a large group of Powel- family-owned letters written by and to George and Martha Washington. Also, she permanently loaned the estate her large collection of blue-and-white Canton china, which continues to be displayed throughout the Mansion.

Regent

The greenhouse and slave-quarters complex that was reconstructed between 1950 and 1951. MVLA.

The greenhouse and slave-quarters complex that was reconstructed between 1950 and 1951. MVLA.

Elected Regent in 1948, Mrs. Powel oversaw the reconstruction of the historically accurate greenhouse and slave-quarters complex that today graces the upper garden. Based on meticulous research, this structure incorporates bricks from the White House (which was fully renovated between 1948 and 1952), donated by President Harry Truman. 

In her first Council report as Regent in 1949, Mrs. Powel proudly noted that nearly 900,000 people had toured the estate the previous year—at that time, the second-highest annual number yet recorded. During this postwar-boom period, numbers increased steadily, and in 1952 she announced that—for the first time—more than a million people had visited that year. She was keenly aware that the growing number of school groups contributed to that impressive figure. The Association responded to the trend by beginning to shift its focus toward the education of American youth.

Centennial Celebration

A council meeting of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association in 1950. MVLA.

A council meeting of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association in 1950. MVLA.

Mrs. Powel led the Association during its 1953 centennial celebration, which included the organization’s first museum exhibition—held on the estate—and the publishing of both an accompanying catalog and Gerald W. Johnson’s Mount Vernon: The Story of a Shrine, the first definitive history of the Association.

In 1954 Mrs. Powel married Albert Harkness, a Providence architect. Following her tenure as Regent, she resumed her role as Vice Regent for Rhode Island and retired in 1971. Four years after Mrs. Harkness’s death, her daughter and namesake, Mrs. Hope Powel Alexander, succeeded her as Vice Regent for Rhode Island; she served from 1978 to 1996.

Greenhouse Slave Quarters

As many as 60 people might have lived in these quarters in 1799

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