In preparation for the Yellow Room’s restoration, the Architecture team performed thorough research and preliminary physical investigation of the room’s architecture, including the ceiling, floors, windows, framing, and woodwork.

Conjectural sketch of the original 1734 house, MVLA.The Yellow Room’s origins date to the initial 1734 construction of the house by Augustine Washington, George Washington’s father. Before George Washington’s remodeling of the 1750s, this space formed part of the garret level, but its original size and configuration are not known. 

Conjectural sketch of the house after the first expansion, MVLA.The room took its current form with the creation of the full-height second story; George Washington’s first major building campaign, which began in 1758 and likely continued into the 1760s. The floors, mopboards (baseboards), chair rail, cornice, window architrave, and north (central passage side) door and door architrave that are still in place date to this period.

Conjectural sketch of the house after the second expansion, MVLA.When the south wing of the house was added in 1775, the room underwent further changes that are still visible in the room, namely the addition of the closet in the south wall, the closing of any pre-existing window or door openings in that wall, and the updating of the mantel.

Etched glass in the Yellow Room window by Elizabeth Parke Custis c1792. (MVLA)
Eliza Custis Slept Here

Eliza Custis Slept Here

Martha Washington’s fifteen-year-old granddaughter, Elizabeth Parke Custis, etched her name and the date—August 2, 1792—on the glass of the window, overlooking the Potomac River.

The etched glass pane is in the second row from the bottom, on the far right, with the V-shaped crack in it. The inscription is within the V.

Biography of the Yellow Room

The Yellow Room’s origins date to the initial 1734 construction of the house by Augustine Washington, George Washington’s father. Before George Washington’s remodeling of the 1750s, this space formed part of the garret level, but its original size and configuration are not known. 

The room took its current form with the creation of the full-height second story; George Washington’s first major building campaign, which began in 1758 and likely continued into the 1760s. The floors, mopboards (baseboards), chair rail, cornice, window architrave, and north (central passage side) door and door architrave that are still in place date to this period.

When the south wing of the house was added in 1775, the room underwent further changes that are still visible in the room, namely the addition of the closet in the south wall (nearest the Washington bedchamber), the closing of any pre-existing window or door openings in that wall, and the updating of the mantel.

Bell Wire Feature

Bell-wire fed from the exterior into the Yellow Room, prior to the 2021 partial restoration. (MVLA)

Bell-wire fed from the exterior into the Yellow Room, prior to the 2021 partial restoration. (MVLA)

A reproduction bell wire and crank runs across the south wall and connects with the bell pull in the Chintz Room. The wire follows the projected path of the bell wire based on studies of the system undertaken in the 1980s.

The Mansion was fitted with a house bell system in the mid-1780s. Guests and family members could use a "pull," or wires connected to bells on the exterior of the Mansion. Through this system, enslaved domestic staff could be summoned at any time.

Before the 2021 partial restoration, the bell wire was more clearly visible against the pale yellow walls.

See the Bell Wire On The Virtual Tour

 

Learn More about Labor in the Mansion

Future Restoration

View from Yellow Room into the Upper Hall, c. 2021 (MVLA)

View from Yellow Room into the Upper Hall, c. 2021 (MVLA)

2021 Yellow Room's south wall; closet, passage way to Washington's Bedchamber, and fireplace. (MVLA)

2021 Yellow Room's south wall; closet, passage way to Washington's Bedchamber, and fireplace. (MVLA)

Studying Under the Floorboards

The 2021 refurnishing of the room did not include in-depth architectural preservation work; when it resumes in the future, the team will perform physical investigation underneath the floors, in order to fine-tune our understanding of the evolution of the smaller house occupied by Augustine and Lawrence Washington into the fully developed Mansion we see today.

Investigating the South Door Frame

The team will further probe the framing around the south door into the back stair hall to more firmly identify its origins. This door did not exist during the Washingtons’ residence. Documentary evidence suggests that John Augustine Washington III opened the doorway, as the room was likely a nursery during his tenure at Mount Vernon. Paint analysis and mid-20th-century physical investigation also support this theory.

Repair and restore

The window sashes will be restored; the mopboards will be subject to repairs; loose lath behind the plaster walls will be resecured; the ceiling will be conserved and whitewashed.

Future Rumford Insert

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Second Image

The team plans to further investigate the firebox and hearth, anticipating the rebuilding of a Rumford insert (similar to the construction in the Blue Room.)

Wallpaper and Paint

In the 18th century, rooms were typically named after the color of their textiles, and the wall finishes were chosen to complement these. The name indicates that yellow defined the room’s textiles and wall finishes.

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