Mount Vernon was the plantation house of George Washington, the first President of the United States, and his wife, Martha Dandridge Custis Washington. The estate is situated on the banks of the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia, near Alexandria, across from Prince George’s County, Maryland. The estate, gardens, and farm of Mount Vernon totaled some 8,000 acres in the 18th century. Presently, an estimated 500 acres of this historic property have been painstakingly preserved along the banks of the Potomac River.
The mansion is built of wood in a loose Palladian style, and was constructed by George Washington in stages between 1758 and 1778. It occupies the site of an earlier, smaller house built by George Washington’s father Augustine, some time between 1726 and 1735. It remained Washington’s country home for the rest of his life. Following his death in 1799, under the ownership of several successive generations of the family, the estate progressively declined as revenues were insufficient to maintain it adequately. In 1858, the house’s historical importance was recognized and it was saved from ruin by The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association; this philanthropic organization acquired it together with part of the Washington property estate. Escaping the damage suffered by many plantation houses during the American Civil War, Mount Vernon was restored.
Mount Vernon was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and is today listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is still owned and maintained in trust by The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, and is open every day of the year, including Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Allowing the public to see the estate is not an innovation, but part of a 200-year-old tradition started by George Washington himself. In 1794 he wrote: “I have no objection to any sober or orderly person’s gratifying their curiosity in viewing the buildings, Gardens, &ca. about Mount Vernon.”
Every American want to know the singular story of the Father of Our Country. Ever mindful of our past, we seek innovative and compelling ways to tell the story of George Washington so that his timeless and relevant life lessons are accessible to the world. Open 365 days of the year, Mount Vernon is the most popular historic estate in America. Over 85 million people have visited Mount Vernon since 1860, when the estate officially opened to the public. Today, Mount Vernon welcomes an average of one million guests each year.
Guests visiting the estate can view Washington’s Mansion and many other original structures. The historic footprint also includes the tomb of George and Martha Washington and a memorial dedicated to the enslaved people who lived and worked on the estate. Interpretive spaces such as the Pioneer Farm and George Washington’s Gristmill & Distillery provide a rich understanding of Washington’s enterprising and profitable business ventures.
Offering additional engaging experiences, the Ford Orientation Center and the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center include 25 theaters and galleries showcasing Mount Vernon’s superb collections. The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon is a groundbreaking center for scholarship and educational outreach on the life of George Washington and the colonial and founding eras.
Mount Vernon does not accept grants from federal, state, or local governments, and no tax dollars are expended to support its purposes. Primary sources of income are revenue from the retail and dining facilities, ticket sales, and generous donations from foundations, corporations, and individuals.
The present house was built in phases from 1758, by an unknown architect, on the site of the Washingtons’ former farmhouse. This staggered and unplanned evolution is indicated by the off-center main door, which would once have been central to an earlier façade. As completed and seen today, the house is in a loose Palladian style. The principal block, dating from 1758, is a two-storied corps de logis flanked by two single-story secondary wings, built in 1775. These secondary wings, which house the servants hall on the northern side and the kitchen on the southern side, are connected to the corps de logis by symmetrical, quadrant colonnades, built in 1778. The completion of the colonnades cemented the classical Palladian arrangement of the complex and formed a distinct cour d’honneur, known at Mount Vernon as Mansion Circle, giving the house its imposing perspective.
The corps de logis and secondary wings have hipped roofs with dormers. In addition to its second story, the importance of the corps de logis is further emphasized by two large chimneys piercing the roof, and by a cupola surmounting the center of the house; this octagonal focal point has a short spire topped by a gilded dove of peace. This placement of the cupola is more in the earlier Carolean style than Palladian, and was probably incorporated to improve ventilation of the enlarged attic and enhance the overall symmetry of the structure and the two wings; a similar cupola crowns the Governor’s House at Williamsburg, of which Washington would have been aware.
The Mansion of George Washington’s Mount Vernon is one of the most iconic 18th-century homes in America.
George Washington’s beloved Mount Vernon began as a one and one-half story house built in 1735 by his father, Augustine, and received its well-known name during the ownership of his half-brother Lawrence. George acquired Mount Vernon in 1754, and over the next 45 years slowly enlarged the dwelling to create the resplendent 21-room residence we see today. Washington personally supervised each renovation; advising on design, construction and decoration—even during the Revolutionary War. Conscious that the world was watching, Washington selected architectural features that expressed his growing status as a Virginia gentleman planter and ultimately as the leader of a fledgling democratic nation.
Distillery and Gristmill
Visit fully functioning reconstructions of George Washington’s Distillery® and Gristmill, located 2.7 miles from the estate’s main entrance. Come see the mighty gears turning and the stones grinding at our Gristmill, where Washington produced flour and cornmeal. And within our functioning distillery, you can see where we make George Washington’s whiskey. In 1799, it was one of the largest whiskey distillery in America.
Gardens & Landscapes
George Washington’s mind was rarely far from the lush gardens and majestic views at Mount Vernon.
George Washington oversaw all aspects of the landscape at Mount Vernon. He extensively redesigned the grounds surrounding his home, adopting the less formal, more naturalistic style of 18th century English garden landscape designer Batty Langley. Washington reshaped walks, roads, and lawns; cut vistas through the forest, and planted hundreds of native trees and shrubs. The well-ordered gardens provided food for the Mansion’s table and were also pleasing to the eye. Eighteenth-century visitors to Mount Vernon were delighted by bountiful offerings of fresh vegetables and fruits, and reveled in after-dinner walks amongst all manner of opulent flowering plants.
Come visit the final resting place of George and Martha Washington. Both the Old and New Tombs can be seen during your visit to Mount Vernon.
George Washington died in his bedchamber at Mount Vernon on December 14, 1799. His last will outlined his desire to be buried at home at Mount Vernon. Washington additionally made provisions for a new brick tomb to be constructed after his death, which would replace the original yet quickly deteriorating family burial vault. In 1831, Washington’s body was transferred to the new tomb, along with the remains of Martha Washington and other family members. Today, the gently wooded enclosure that surrounds the Washingtons’ final resting place is a lovely, fitting space to pay homage to the Father of Our Country and the first First Lady.
Museum and Education Center:
Visit the Museum and Education Center to view the fascinating array of Mount Vernon artifacts and learn more about George Washington.
The Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center features 23 galleries and theaters where visitors learn about Washington through interactive displays, an action adventure movie, short films produced by The History Channel, immersive experiences, and a rich and comprehensive collection of more than 700 objects which give an unprecedented look at the personal effects of the Washington family.
The Museum collection includes paintings, prints, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, metals, glass, textiles, tools, clothing, and personal accessories owned by or related to George and Martha Washington and their family, as well as period pieces similar to original Mount Vernon objects.
Located on the banks of the Potomac near the wharf, the four-acre Pioneer Farm site explores George Washington’s role as visionary farmer.
Washington used Mount Vernon as a laboratory for testing and implementing progressive farming practices and the Pioneer Farm represents the more than 3,000 acres he cultivated during the second half of the 18th century. It also offers visitors a chance to learn more about the lives of the enslaved workers who put Washington’s agrarian ideas into practice.
The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington fosters new scholarly research about George Washington and the Founding Era, while safeguarding original Washington books and manuscripts.
On 7 November 2007, President George W. Bush hosted French President Nicolas Sarkozy for a general press conference on the front lawn of Mount Vernon following Sarkozy’s address to a joint session of Congress earlier that day.
On 30 March 2007, the estate officially opened a reconstruction of George Washington’s distillery. This fully functional replica received special legislation from the Virginia General Assembly to produce up to 5,000 US gal (19,000 l) of whiskey annually, for sale only at the Mount Vernon gift shop. The construction of this operational distillery cost $2.1 million, and is located on the site of Washington’s original distillery, a short distance from his mansion on the Potomac River. Frank Coleman, spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council that funded the reconstruction, said the distillery “will become the equivalent of a national distillery museum” and serve as a gateway to the American Whiskey Trail.
As of 2012, since first opening to the paying public in 1860, the estate had received more than 80 million visitors. In addition to the mansion, visitors can see original and reconstructed outbuildings and barns (including slaves’ quarters), an operational blacksmith shop, and the Pioneer Farm. Each year on Christmas Day, Aladdin the Christmas Camel recreates Washington’s 1787 hiring of a camel for 18 shillings to entertain his guests with an example of the animal that brought the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem to visit the newborn Jesus.
Mount Vernon remains a privately owned property. Its income is derived from charitable donations and the sales of tickets, produce and goods to visitors. Its non-profit owners, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, continue their mission “to preserve, restore, and manage the estate of George Washington to the highest standards and to educate visitors and people throughout the world about the life and legacies of George Washington, so that his example of character and leadership will continue to inform and inspire future generations.”