Presidents’ Day is the federal holiday in the official holiday calendar of United States, which is also designated as Washington’s Birthday. It is usually observed on the third Monday of February, this year on 19 Feb 2007. I wish to present a special travelogue in commemoration of this day.
Portrait of George Washington
I had a very great opportunity to visit Mount Vernon which is the home property of the First US President Sir. George Washington. The Estate and gardens are situated in a very pleasant and scenic area on the bank of Potomac river, 30 min away from Wahsington DC .
Recalling the history, George Washington inherited the entire property of 2000 acres from his half brother John Washington in 1754. He tirelessly worked for nearly half a century to expand his plantation to 8000 acres and improve the appearance of the Mansion, outbuildings, and extensive gardens and grounds.
Continuous tours are held to the Mansion with a group of around twenty people. The entire Mansion’s detail of design and architecture and all vivid colors are visible and make one reveals the creativity of Sir Washington as a designer and an architect. There are totally 14 rooms with a kitchen and a butler room attached to the mansion on the left hand side of the mansion.
The dining room which is also the largest room inside the mansion was fantastic with beautiful art on the ceilings and walls. The walls and ceilings are adorned with designs of crops and farming with his favorite green color. The American presidency too began in this room on April 14, 1789, when the Secretary of Congress Charles Thomson announced that George Washington was unanimously elected as the first president of the United States of America.
Among the interesting spots inside the mansion, was a spacious master bedroom of George and Martha Washington located on the second floor. This room was later closed by Martha Washington after the death of her husband in this room on December 14, 1799 and she moved to the smaller bed room located on the third floor. She lived in here until her death on May 22, 1802, two and a half years after her husband’s death.
They also showed us the private library of Washington consisting of 884 books, where he used to read, his play room and his chair where he wrote the first legislation. We missed to capture the pictures of these important antiques since the photography has been restricted inside the mansion.
The area around the Mansion provides an opportunity to witness Sir Washington’s passion for design of landscape that added beauty to the estate and the gardens.
The large area of plantations and gardens along the vistas of the mansions and the other side of the land contained livestock including sheep, goat, cow and pigs. Even the cottages for the slaves who used to work from dawn to dusk spinning wool, preparing food , washing clothes , curing meat , shoeing horse , churning the milk and other plantation services were situated side by side .
This is a short trail which provides the glimpse of the natural environment where Washington used to supply firewood for entire estate population, lumber for construction and source of entertainment and exercise for Washington and other fox hunters who visited the site.
Old vault, Washington’s tomb
George Washington breathed his last in the master bedroom at Mount Vernon on December 14 1799. In his ‘will’ he had directed that he should be buried in his beloved Mount Vernon Estate.
He also had selected a site to replace the old family vault which was deteriorating. When the tomb was completed in 1831, Washington’s body was moved to the new tomb from the old vault, with the remains of his wife, Martha and other family members.
Pioneer Farmer site
Pioneer Farmer site outstretches over 4 acres, just few minutes south of the mansion. Here we can see a unique 16-sided barn. In his days, wheat was threshed by hand or ‘treaded out’ by horses. Washington designed a ?round’ barn mainly to accommodate treading of grain indoors, where it would be safe from weather.
The barn’s most innovative feature was its flooring, which was laid with a gap between the boards so that once the grain was separated from the stalk by the action of the horses’ hooves; it could fall to the floor below. Then it was gathered and cleaned, then sent to Washington’s mill, two miles away, to be ground into flour. A full-scale replica of the barn and its associated stables and corn houses were erected at Mount Vernon in 1996. This truly reveals his architectural skill. He put lot of efforts to improve his farming methods with crop rotation, new fertilizers and ploughing methods.
Mount Vernon wharf
Amidst the Mansion, the Potomac River flows, which creates a beautiful scene. Washington’s farming and fishing activities motivated him to build a wharf extending into Potomac River to transport goods for trading. You can also take a ride across the Potomac River by cruise.
Fruit Garden and Nursery
The Upper garden includes a wide variety of flowers, trees and few vegetable beds.The Lower Garden supplied fresh produce for the Mount Vernon Kitchen.
Fruit garden and Nursery was used by Washington to experiment with the latest seed varieties. He attempted to grow grapes, Cotton plants and produced nursery plants. Vegetables and herbs are grown to this day too.
Traveling to Mount Vernon was really a thrilling experience.
Author: Rosanne DSouza- USA