Like many Virginia gentleman-farmers of his day, George Washington was land rich and cash poor. Mount Vernon, his estate overlooking the Potomac River, was self-sufficient because it had no money to buy goods from outside its own edges. Built by George’s father Augustus Washington in 1735, Mount Vernon first passed to George’s brother Lawrence, and then to George in 1752.
Today Mount Vernon is a museum, and also a mausoleum, commemorating George Washington in all his greatness. Debate about the man’s actual greatness will continue as long as there are Americans around to study their own history. But the greatness of Mount Vernon is not in doubt. It perfectly captures the life of an 18th-century estate. Stately home, beautiful garden, land as far as you can see, access to a major waterway, and slave quarters. I’m not much for grand tombs, but if anyone is deserving of one so stately and solemn, it’s George Washington.
It’s sunny and beautiful on this spring day. It’s field-trip season, and Mount Vernon is alive with middle-school classes from all over the DC area. Mount Vernon has something for everyone. It’s a working archeological site. It houses the largest distillery of its era. It has a working model pioneer-era farm. It has an air-conditioned museum with the obligatory 20-minute film. Bring the family, and if everyone in your party doesn’t find something interesting here, keep going back until they do.
Two famous people are immortalized in the first shot.
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