Monday, January 7, 2013
On this absolutely beautiful and warm Sunday winter afternoon, on a day in which the Seattle Seahawks of Washington state are playing the District of Columbia's Washington Redskins in an NFC playoff game, these transplanted Washingtonians (well, not really, but it does suit me for tax purposes to claim Bremerton, WA as my legal residence) now residing in the greater Washington, D.C. metro area to visit the home of this nation's first president and Revolutionary war hero, George Washington.
OK, the above paragraph tries much too hard. Let's just say that today we made the short drive (about 45 minutes) to Mount Vernon, Washington's historic plantation that he and his wife Martha called home for forty years. My wife was suitably impressed with what life was like for an 18th century member of the landed gentry. I don't know what she thought of the General's use of slave labor, or of how the ideals of the American Revolution clashed with the institution of slavery, but at least Washington did the right thing upon his death - in his will, he freed all of the slaves that he owned. Political correctness aside, Washington was an extraordinary individual who played a key role in the events leading to the establishment of the United States as an independent country, and Mount Vernon deserves to be on the itinerary of all visitors to this nation's capital - there were certainly a lot of Chinese there when we visited today!
My daughter poses in front of the mansion while we were in line to join a tour of the house. The interior is impressive, though photography of the various parlors and bedrooms isn't allowed. Which was a shame because I would've liked to have gotten pictures of the key from the Bastille, given by Lafayette as a gift to Washington after the mob had destroyed the notorious prison; and the reading chair in the study that came with a built-in fan for use on those hot and humid Virginia summer days.
Once the tour was over, we were free to wander the grounds of Mount Vernon. The fabulous view of the Potomac River from the East Lawn has apparently changed little since Washington's time.
Front (top) and rear (bottom) views of the mansion
A number of small buildings can be seen on the estate's grounds, including the stables (top), with Washington's personal carriage, and the kitchen (below). Kitchens were often housed in separate structures away from the main residences due to the risk of fire.
The tomb containing the marble sarcophagi of George and Martha
George Washington is sleeping here
Why would there be a camel at Mount Vernon? It seems that Washington hired one at Christmas in 1787 to entertain his guests with an example of the animal that took the Three Wise Men to Nazareth.
After touring the grounds, we visited the onsite museum filled with dioramas of major events from Washington's life. Despite his role as the commander of the American forces during the revolution, his chairmanship of the Constitutional Convention and the eight years in office as the first president, Washington's greatest contribution to American political development may have been his decision to step down after two terms. By setting a precedent later made law by the 22nd Amendment, he may have prevented the emergence of a permanent ruling political class.
The result of the obligatory visit to Mount Vernon's gift shop. I'm very curious to see how the spruce beer will go down the palate.