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MOUNT VERNON

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Originally appearing in Volume V18, Page 943 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MOUNT VERNON, the former home of George Washington, in Fairfax county, Virginia, U.S.A., on the Potomac river, 15 m. below Washington, D.C., reached by steamer from Washington and by electric railway from Alexandria, Virginia. The mansion-house, which is the centre of interest, stands on a bluff overlooking the river. The house is built of wood, but the siding is of wide thick boards so panelled as to give the appearance of cut and dressed stonework. The rooms contain much of the furniture which was in them when they were occupied by General Washington and his family; and the furniture that had been lost has been in part replaced by other furniture of historic interest and of the style in use in Washington's day. In the main hall hangs a glass casket containing the key to the Bastille which Washington received from Lafayette in 1790. From each end of the house a curved colonnade and a pavement lead westerly to a row of out-buildings which partially enclose a bowling green and spacious lawn with shaded drives and walks, and beautiful gardens (with trees planted by Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Lafayette and others). A short distance south-west of the mansion-house and between it and the wharf is a plain brick tomb, which was built by Washington's direction on a site chosen by himself, and contains the remains of Washington and Mrs Washington (removed to this tomb from the old family vault in 1831), and of about thirty relatives —members of the Washington, Blackburn, Corbin, Bushrod, Lewis and Custis families. The estate, originally called " Little Hunting Creek Plantation," was devised in 1676 by John Washington (the first of the family in America) to his son, Lawrence, who in turn devised' it to his daughter, Mildred, by whom (and her husband Roger Gregory) it was deeded in 1726 to her brother Augustine (George Washington's father). On Augustine's death (1743) it passed to Lawrence (George's half-brother), who built in 1743 the villa which forms the middle portion of the present mansion-house and named the estate Mount Vernon, in honour of his former commander, Admiral Edward Vernon (1684–1757). Lawrence left it (1752) to his widow Anne Fairfax (who in the same year married George Lee) with the proviso that it should pass at her death to George Washington, who meanwhile rented the estate, gaining full possession at her death in 1761. In 1784–1785 he enlarged the villa into the mansion-house with its present dimensions by building an addition at each end, erected several of the out-buildings, and adorned the grounds, all according to his own plans and specifications. At General Washington's death (1799) Mount Vernon passed to his widow; at her death (1802) it passed to his nephew, Bushrod Washington, and at Bushrod Washington's death (1829) to his nephew John Augustine Washington, who devised it in 1832 to his widow, by whom it was devised in 1835 to their son John A. Washington. This last was authorized by his father's will to sell the estate to the United States government, and in 1847 offered the property for $ioo,000, but the offer was refused. In 186o the mansion-house and 200 acres of the original estate, fast falling into decay, were bought for $200,000 (much of which had been raised through the efforts of Edward Everett) by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union. This association under its charter (1856) bound itself to restore the estate as far as possible to the condition in which it was in the lifetime of Washington and to keep it sacred to his memory, and Virginia agreed to exempt it from taxation as long as these terms were fulfilled. See B. J. Lossing, The Home of Washington: or Mount Vernon and its Associations (Hartford, 1870).
End of Article: MOUNT VERNON
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