Visiting family and guests stayed in this second-floor bedroom called “The room the Marques Delafiat Lodged In” in a 1796 memorandum.

In the summer of 2022, Mount Vernon unveiled the results of a multi-year project that restored the Lafayette Room to its 1799 appearance.

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When the Marquis de Lafayette arrived in the summer of 1784 at Mount Vernon, he wrote home to his wife that he was “reveling in happiness” at again seeing George Washington, his general and adopted father.

Long afterward, the bedchamber where Lafayette stayed, in the northeast corner of the second floor, continued to be associated with its most famous occupant. As the largest room on the second floor outside of the Washingtons’ own bedchamber, the Lafayette Room was one of the more desirable guest spaces, but its connection with Lafayette gave it added attraction.

Today, a reproduction of the nearly life-size portrait of Lafayette retains pride of place, while the distinctive wallpaper and furnishings signal the room’s continued use as a bedchamber for people from many walks of life, from guests from abroad to close kin.

Mrs. Lewis's Room

Mrs. Lewis's Room

In preparing for the restoration of the room, curators and historians sought to determine the room’s appearance and use in 1799, fifteen years after the Marquis' visit.

Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis, and her husband, Major Lawrence Lewis, lodged in this room from the fall of 1799 to the summer of 1802.

2022 Restoration

2022 Restoration

The Likeness

“Portrait of Marquis de Lafayette” by Charles Willson Peale, circa 1781. Washington and Lee University. On loan to Mount Vernon and on view in the exhibit, “Mount Vernon: The Story of an Icon.”

“Portrait of Marquis de Lafayette” by Charles Willson Peale, circa 1781. Washington and Lee University. On loan to Mount Vernon and on view in the exhibit, “Mount Vernon: The Story of an Icon.”

In the Lafayette Room, there was only one recorded image: the nearly life-size portrait of the Marquis as a Major General in the Continental Army.

Commissioned by Washington himself, artist Charles Willson Peale arranged for life-sittings with Lafayette in 1778 and 1780, completing the portrait in 1781.

The Washingtons initially installed the portrait in the Front Parlor, visually confirming Lafayette’s status as one of the family.

In 1785, the year after Lafayette’s visit, the Washingtons received an extraordinary gift from the Lafayettes: a large family portrait depicting the couple and their young children. To make space for the new canvas in the Front Parlor, the Washingtons moved the single portrait of the Marquis to the room where he had formerly stayed.

A high-quality reproduction of Lafayette's portrait gives visitors a glimpse of the young man whom Washington so deeply admired and loved.

Mrs. Lewis's Room

In preparing for the restoration of the room, curators sought to determine the room’s appearance and use in 1799, fifteen years after the Marquis visit.

Granddaughter of Martha Washington, Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis, and her husband, Major Lawrence Lewis, lodged in this room from the fall of 1799 to the summer of 1802. With this new understanding, the curatorial team aimed to accurately represent the comfortable, but modest furniture in a room used by close family.

Furnishings

In the probate inventories taken after the deaths of George Washington in December 1799, and Mrs. Washington in May 1802, the contents of “Mrs. Lewis’s room” (1802) matched the inventory in the “Second Room” (1800).

Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis, and her husband, Major Lawrence Lewis, lodged in this room from the fall of 1799 to the summer of 1802.

The room included a customary set of chamber furnishings: a high-post bed, a dressing table, looking glass, four side chairs, and an armchair. The bed, bedhangings, and chairs were valued at less than the comparable items in other rooms.

The curatorial team aimed to accurately represent the comfortable but modest furniture in a room used by close family.

"Country Made" Chairs

A remarkable set of four walnut Virginia-made chairs from the shop of Robert Walker appear in the room.

Their rich patina and the scrolling silhouettes of their back splats bring to life the documented Washington purchases of “country made” or Virginia furniture used in some of the bedchambers.

Personal Style

To complete the chamber, a period looking glass and an English dressing table, each representative of the preferred style and form purchased by the Washingtons.

Bed and Bedhangings

For the bed and bedhangings, curators chose to represent a suite the Washingtons acquired for their granddaughter Eleanor Custis’ use while living in Philadelphia in the 1790s.

Distinguished by sleek, mahogany-columned footposts and crimson and white striped hangings, it recreates documented Philadelphia examples from the 1780s and 1790s.

Neat Striped Cotton

The fabric selected for the bed hangings is a reproduction striped cotton, woven in France by Brunschwig & Fils. Striped fabrics were one of the most common choices for bedhangings in the period.

Considerably less expensive than multi-color prints or shimmering silks, woven stripes effectively brought a neat formality to any space.

Matching window curtains and slipcovers on the chairs complete the handsome, unified effect the Washingtons consistently sought within each of their interiors.

Paper and Paint

In 1797, after eight years away, the Washingtons made substantial updates to Mount Vernon’s interiors, including wallpaper and paint throughout the house. Documentary evidence indicates this was the last of several campaigns of wallpapering and painting in the room during the Washingtons’ lifetimes.

Paint analysis of the woodwork identified five layers of early paint. The paint layer corresponding to the improvements of 1797 was a cream or stone color, similar to that used in each of the other second-floor bed chambers and the central passage.

While no 18th-century fragments were found in the room, the sophisticated sprig print wallpaper is a reproduction paper known to have been used in several elite American homes in the 1790s. Printed in black and white with deep pink accents on a gray ground, the design features a motif inspired by the serrated boteh (princely flowers) of Persian and Indian textiles. Adelphi Paperhangings recreated the pattern. 

A similar design appears in Charles Willson Peale’s trompe l’oeil portrait of his sons, The Staircase Group.

Staircase Group (Portrait of Raphaelle Peale and Titian Ramsay Peale I) circa 1795. Charles Willson Peale, American, 1741 - 1827. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Architectural Elements

The origins of the Lafayette Room date to the initial 1730s construction period of the house, with significant changes made at the beginning and end of George Washington’s residence.

The footprint of the room took shape with Washington’s first major building campaign, which began in 1758 and likely continued into the 1760s. The floors, mopboards (baseboards), chair rail, cornice, window architraves, window sashes, door, door architrave, and mantel date to this period.

One notable difference between the 1750s room and the room we see today is the lack of a third window. The Lafayette Room had a window in its north wall that was closed when the New Room was added in the mid-1770s. The framing for that window and some of the early exterior siding survive behind the wall.

During this partial restoration, the floors were cleaned, the ceiling received fresh coats of whitewash, the window sashes were restored, and the woodwork was repainted with hand-ground, replica paint.

The signatures of these visitors belong to Sarah Champe Brockenbrough and Mary M. Brockenbrough of Port Royal, Virginia, etched on July 4, 1829.

Etched in Glass and Time

While the Lafayette Room is most closely associated with the Marquis de Lafayette, other visitors literally made their mark on the space. On three window panes (or lights), one of which is still in place in the upper north window sash, names are etched into the glass.

On the in-situ pane, the signatures of these visitors belong to Sarah Champe Brockenbrough and Mary M. Brockenbrough of Port Royal, Virginia, etched on July 4, 1829.

Two other panes are in Mount Vernon’s decorative arts and architecture collections and include the signatures of Charlotte, Mary, and Nannie Alexander, the nieces of John Augustine Washington III, the last private owner of Mount Vernon.

What’s in a Name?

Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, was a well-loved French general, a celebrated hero of the American Revolution, abolitionist, and a beloved friend of George Washington.

Washington and Lafayette’s correspondence attest to their high regard for each other. In a 1784 letter to the Marquis, George Washington wrote,

It is unnecessary, I persuade myself to repeat to you my Dear Marqs. the sincerity of my regards and friendship, nor have I words which could express my affection for you, were I to attempt it.

George Washington met the nineteen-year-old Marquis de Lafayette on August 5, 1777. Lafayette was assigned to serve on Washington's staff, and came to view Washington as an adopted father. 

Learn more about Lafayette

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