As you enter Mount Vernon, you will come through the Ford Orientation Center. Take some time to look at the 1/12th scale replica of the Mount Vernon estate. As the walls open you will see the detail. Kids love to make note of one item for each room to look for when they tour the house. Write them down… it is like a treasure hunt. Next, take time to watch the short (18 minutes) film. The kids will likely enjoy this as well as it is an action adventure. Stop off at the information desk and get your copy of the Adventure Map which is free to all parents with a child’s ticket.
As you wind your way up to the house, look closely at the walls. They appear to be masonary but look closer. Our last visit, you could find sections where the coating material had chipped away and you could see it was a wood house underneith. This was the ingenious design idea of Mr. Washington. The wood house had a mixture of mud, sand and limestone applied over the wood and formed into the shape of blocks. It proved to be a great way to preserve the house and is maintained to this day.
Who is Lawrence Washigton? This is George’s older brother. There are many references to him on the estate. Sometimes you will see initials, L W on items in the house and on the grounds. In the movie National Treasure, they used the crest image above to gain access to hidden tunnels under the home. You will see a copy of this crest in the museum towards the end of you visit.
The large dining hall added to the house is the formal room that George Washington was in when he found out that he was elected President. He only recieved 69 votes… that was all the votes there were though. He is the only president to be unanimously elected. We later moved to a popular voting system and the electorial college. The dining room shows many images of what was important to GW… he considered himself a farmer first and you will see images of farm tools and animals all over the room. Make it a game to find them.
In the foyer you will find the key to the Bastille. The Bastille was a notorious prison in Paris where people who had different religious opinions or political opintions were imprisoned for their beliefs. The building was stormed and serves as a symbol of liberty to this day. The keys were given to GW by Lafayette one year after the building was demolished. Lafayette had served under GW in the revolutionary war.
What is stuffed in the mattresses? Usually straw and sometimes the wood sheered from the underbelly of the sheep. That would be soft but it was known to attract bed bugs and become infested. YUCK! George Washington’s room is preserved with the bed he layed in when he died. The portraits in the room are of Martha’s grandchildren but remember that George never had children of his own.
Downstairs is GW’s study. Note the “fan chair”. Washington would sit in the chair and use the foot paddles to fan himself. How interesting. Outside is the front of the house and the view of the Potomac. Even to this day as military vessels pass this home, they salute and lower their flag in respect for our first President.
George Washington was not supposed to be buried at Mt Vernon initially. The Rotunda at the National Capital was built to house his tomb. However, he wanted to be barried at Mt. Vernon. Martha Washington is to his left. Down the trail behind the tomb is the monument to the slaves. Mr. Washington freed his slaves upon his death but many stayed on to help on the property.
After walking around the grounds, go back to the museum and check out the large image of George Washington. His eyes will follow you around the room. Kids love that. His teeth are on display as well. No, they were not made of wood. One set was made from cow teeth and another from ivory from a hippo. They had to be uncomfortable.
To really make history come alive… try to plan your trip when there is a reinactment at Mt. Vernon. Typically you can find these dates at their website in the resource list below. Enjoy!
Walk down to the boat dock and you can catch a ride on the hay wagon that explores the estate grounds. The wagon will not take you back up to the mansion but will be an added adventure for the kids.