Tuesday, June 2, 2009

George's house

It usually goes by the slightly more formal name of "Mt. Vernon," but doesn't "George's house" sound so much more welcoming? Dana and I spent a lovely, if somewhat warm, afternoon at George's house over Memorial Day weekend, soaking up some of the pleasant Virginia countryside and a little history to go along with it.

Unfortunately, my camera battery was still tired from Europe, and I'd forgotten that my extra battery, which I was so proud of myself for remembering to bring along...already dead and not charged at all. My photo take for the day was a whopping six, so I'll entertain you with the best of those shots and wait on Dana's for a more complete story of the day. And that picture of the mansion is totally not mine...I stole it from the interwebs.

Did you know that George was 6'3"? And Martha was 4'11"? And that I'm pretty much in between at 5'6" or so? Visual to your left.

It was pretty cool to see just how the Washingtons lived back in the day...although George was traveling around so much that he didn't really get to spend a ton of time at home. When he was there, though, he was way into farming and took it pretty seriously - he always considered himself a farmer first. Well, a farmer and strong supporter of animal husbandry. Most colonial farmers or planters did not raise nearly the number and variety of livestock that populated Mount Vernon. Of course, when you have all of those animals running around (hopefully running around in their specified fenced area the majority of the time), you'll accumulate quite a bit of...well...poo. That's why George had himself a 31x12 foot dung repository near the stable. You see, all of that dung makes for some might fine fertilizer, which helped out with the farming...got this whole circle-of-life thing going on. Nice work, George. Oh, and you can actually catch whiffs of leather and straw and other stable-like smells, which briefly reminded me of home out on the plains of West Texas...and prompted Dana to say "stinky!"...city girl.

The gardens were beautiful - the Upper Garden has some sculpted areas with boxwoods in the shape of a fleur-de-lis. The landscape scholars at Mt. Vernon (yes, they have landscape scholars - wowza) speculate that this was a way both to honor his friendship with the Marquis de Lafayette and to pay tribute to the French for helping America win the Revolutionary War.

I thought it was really interesting that the house and surrounding buildings, while they look like they're made of stone, are actually constructed from pine blocks that are beveled and coated with paint and sand to give the appearance of stone. I also just learned that this process is known as "rustification" - fascinating stuff. We toured the mansion and several of the other buildings, visited George and Martha's tomb, walked through the gardens, waved at some bovine and ovine critters, and zoomed through the very detailed museum as closing time drew near. All in all, a very educational experience and semi-patriotic way to spend an afternoon over Memorial Day weekend.

Ok, so this whole thing felt a little history lesson-ish on one of our founding fathers, but isn't that what I'm supposed to do? Impart a little knowledge from our nation's capital from time to time? Nah...I think I'll just go exploring.


Addy's Daddy said...

Cool post, Erin. I'm jealous that you get to see so many important historical places all the time.

Erin said...

Thanks, Thomas! Hey, you're surrounded by history, too...I bet you could learn amazing things about the cotton industry...