While excavating Washington’s cellar during the Mansion Revitalization Project, Mount Vernon’s archaeologists made a thrilling discovery.

As part of Mount Vernon’s three-year Mansion Revitalization Project, archaeologists working in the cellar of the Mansion unexpectedly discovered two intact European-manufactured bottles. The dark green glass bottles were found upright and sealed, each containing liquid.

(MVLA)

The bottle shapes are characteristic of styles from the 1740s – 1750s and were recovered from a pit where they may have been forgotten and eventually buried beneath a floor laid in the 1770s.

The dark green glass bottles were found upright and sealed, each containing liquid.

(MVLA)

Mansion Revitalization Project

Mount Vernon’s Archaeology team watches with anticipation as project archaeologist Nick Beard removes one bottle from the ground. (MVLA)

Mount Vernon’s Archaeology team watches with anticipation as project archaeologist Nick Beard removes one bottle from the ground. (MVLA)

In 2023, Mount Vernon launched the Mansion Revitalization Project to ensure the long-term health of George Washington’s home. As is standard before any major construction at Mount Vernon, archaeological investigations have preceded all parts of the project that involve breaking ground.

“As we conduct a historic preservation effort at the iconic home of America’s first President and revolutionary hero, we have been deliberate and intentional about carefully excavating areas of potential disruption,” said Mount Vernon President & CEO Doug Bradburn. “Consequently, we have made a number of useful discoveries including this blockbuster find of two fully intact glass bottles containing liquid that have not been seen since before the war for American independence.

“As the bottles are shipped off for a complete scientific analysis, we want to share our findings and next steps for this historic archaeological and preservation initiative at Mount Vernon. This discovery comes at the beginning of an exciting and transformational project to strengthen and restore the home of the nation’s first president so that it will be stronger than ever when we celebrate America’s 250th birthday in 2026. This historic preservation project is our birthday gift to America,” Bradburn said.

Mount Vernon Principal Archaeologist Jason Boroughs said, “This incredible discovery at Mount Vernon is a significant archaeological find. Not only did we recover intact, sealed bottles, but they contained organic material that can provide us with valuable insight and perspective into 18th-century lives at Mount Vernon. These bottles have the potential to enrich the historic narrative, and we’re excited to have the contents analyzed so we can share this discovery with fellow researchers and the visiting public.”

Explore Other Discoveries From this Project

Sealed 18th-century Bottles Discovered


Watch Mount Vernon's Archaeology team excavate two intact bottles from George Washington's cellar.

The Bottles' Contents

Archaeology Lab Analyst Alice Keith empties the contents of one bottle into a plastic container for further analysis. (MVLA)

Archaeology Lab Analyst Alice Keith empties the contents of one bottle into a plastic container for further analysis. (MVLA)

After the bottles were unearthed, each was carefully removed and transported to the Mount Vernon archaeology lab. Upon consultation with archaeological conservators, it was determined that removing the liquid contents would help stabilize the glass, which had not been directly exposed to the atmosphere for approximately two centuries.

Cherries, including stems and pits, were preserved within the liquid contents, which still bore the characteristic scent of cherry blossoms familiar to residents of the region during the spring season. The bottles will be sent for conservation and their contents will be shipped to a laboratory for scientific analysis and testing by specialists in a controlled environment.

Archaeology Lab Analyst Alice Keith carefully removes the solid contents of one bottle, which included cherry stems and pits. (MVLA)

Recipe: Cherry Bounce

Among the few recipes known to have been used by the Washington family is this one for Cherry Bounce, a brandy-based cherry drink popular in the 18th century and known to have been enjoyed by George Washington.

See the Recipe

An In-Depth Look

As Mount Vernon's Mansion Revitalization Project proceeds into 2026, take a deep dive into the various aspects of this landmark preservation project.

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