Monday, February 15, 2016

George Washington and Mount Vernon

On Presidents' Day, who better to pay tribute than George Washington.  His influence on design and decoration is clearly evident here in Virginia where he spent a good portion of his life.  Mount Vernon is a lovely spot and if ever near Washington, D.C., the estate is a short drive south of Alexandria, VA.

The house was constructed in 1735 by Washington's father, Augustine Washington and was inherited upon the death in 1752 of Washington's older half-brother, Lawrence.  Washington lived at Mount Vernon for the rest of his life (d. 1799).

Washington played a central role in designing the Mansion, outbuildings, and surrounding landscape at Mount Vernon. With a general lack of professional architects in eighteenth century America, Washington followed a common path for estate holders, consulting a variety of sources to assist in developing plans, including: books on building, architecture, and garden design, inspiration from other structures and gardens, and advice from artisans and builders.

When Washington took possession of Mount Vernon in 1754 he initially retained his father’s house. For most of the next four years Washington was busy serving as an officer in the Virginia militia fighting alongside British troops during the French and Indian War. Following the war, Washington made plans to return to Mount Vernon and commit himself to the life of a tobacco planter. As a result, he decided to enlarge and remodel the structure to suit his changing needs. Washington directed that the mansion be raised from one-and-one-half to two-and-one-half stories, rearranged interior spaces, reconfigured the main staircase, and upgraded the finishes of publicly accessible areas.

Washington began planning the second rebuilding of Mount Vernon in 1773. During this renovation Washington worked to design a house that was original. However, the design also was inspired by many details derived from the neo-classical aesthetic popularized by the Italian architect and author, Andrea Palladio. Washington was exposed to the ideals and designs of Palladianism through a variety of builder’s guides often referred to as "pattern books" that were published in the eighteenth century.

(The Miller Center)

Few renderings exist of the original Mount Vernon, but Washington obviously had very good taste.  The spot is lovely and untouched.  Go see it!

1 comment:

  1. Always a favorite! Also, Mount Vernon is a super dog friendly place to visit. They even allow pets inside in some places!


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