Admission is free on Feb. 22 for George Washington’s birthday. Admission tickets will be distributed on-site upon arrival.

Restoration work along the South Lane provides Mount Vernon’s Preservation team a preview of upcoming work in the Mansion cellar.

During the summer of 2023, the Preservation team uncovered rot in the door surround of the 18th-century wash house on the south lane. The issue was uncovered during a routine inspection undertaken after removing paint from the east (or lane) side of the building. Once the door surround and several siding boards were removed for repair, additional rot was found in the sill—the lowest horizontal member of the frame that sits directly on the foundation—and the door posts, and it was discovered that the vertical wall frame members were not securely attached to the sill.

Preservation carpenters remove a deteriorated portion of the sill from the wash house.

The assessment determined that a portion of the sill needed to be replaced. This part of the sill was, in fact, an earlier repair from the 1940s. In addition, the vertical framing members needed to be attached to the sill. The replacement of this sill and its connections mirrored the work that will be carried out on the Mansion (where the original sills were removed and replaced by brick early in the 20th century) during the upcoming Mansion Revitalization Project. The wash house repairs gave the Preservation team a chance to practice, on a smaller scale, the work they will complete on the Mansion.

The replacement of this sill and its connections mirrored the work that will be carried out on the Mansion during the upcoming Mansion Revitalization Project.

1
Shoring

A support system was constructed to hold up the weight of the east wall while the deteriorated section of the sill was removed and replaced. (MVLA)

A support system was constructed to hold up the weight of the east wall while the deteriorated section of the sill was removed and replaced. (MVLA)

First, carpenters shored the building in place. This meant attaching a support system to hold up the weight of the east wall while the rotten area of the sill was cut out. Then, the deteriorated part of the sill could be pulled out.

At this time, the studs of the east wall were hanging free, held up by the shoring.

2
Sill Replacement

A new section of the sill is installed. (MVLA)

A new section of the sill is installed. (MVLA)

The carpenters cut a replacement section of sill out of a white oak tree that had been felled on the estate several years ago, so it had been drying for some time. Dry wood is critical in such a repair to prevent the wood from shrinking after installation, which might cause the wall to deform or shift.

Preservation carpenters install a new section of the sill. (MVLA)

3
New Connections

The new sill section is successfully installed. (MVLA)

The new sill section is successfully installed. (MVLA)

This image demonstrates a stud connection to the sill, by means of a metal L-bracket. (MVLA)

This image demonstrates a stud connection to the sill, by means of a metal L-bracket. (MVLA)

Once the new sill section was installed, the carpenters repaired the bottoms of the studs and posts and made new connections to the sill.

The connection type varied. Weight-bearing members like the door posts that play a role in keeping the frame stable were connected with wooden pieces lapped and screwed into both the vertical wall frame member and the horizontal sill. In the Mansion, we will do the same with the corner posts and diagonal braces as well. Studs, which play less of a role in structural stability but serve to give a surface to attach the siding and interior plaster, were connected by means of metal L-brackets.

This work reestablished a strong building frame, but it is ultimately easily reversible if additional repairs are needed in the future.

The end result is not only a strong building frame for the wash house, but also a valuable, hands-on test-run of procedures that will be repeated to carry out the much larger-scale sill repairs of the Mansion Revitalization Project.

Preservation in Action

Preservation work is always underway at George Washington's estate to ensure that generations to come will be able to enjoy the founding father's home.

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