Every trip is a journey, a journey that can take a passenger to amazing experiences and destinations. I had the pleasure to visit Washington, DC with my husband this past September, but this trip to the american south was not my first. On previous travels, I have fancied the antebellum plantation homes that lure me to their style. I have had the pleasure to walk the grounds of many southern homes, and unearthed different emotions from the varying sites. Mount Vernon is special and has become a favourite. The mansion resides in Maryland and favours a beautiful view of the Potomac river.
Mount Vernon is the home of General George Washington, who was the first president of the United States. I stepped onto his land from the wharf after travelling by boat from National Harbour on the Potomac river, which is how most visitors travelled to Mount Vernon during the 18th century. The temperature sweltered at its high of 35°C (96°F), and as I walked along the path that led to the manor house, the sound of Cicadas (tree crickets) surprised me. Loud and shrill little creatures, their mating cry only added to my journey.
Perhaps due to the fact that the day was hot, there were few visitors and after briefly viewing the red-brick stables and outbuildings, I toured the mansion.
Augustine Washington, George Washington’s father, built a one-half storey farmhouse on the land in 1735. George inherited the property from his half brother’s widow after she passed away in 1761. He expanded the home on both sides and added two wings, which increased the height from 1.5 to 2.5 storeys. The most impressive feature of the manor house is the east facing piazza. Standing two storeys high, the view of the lawn stretching toward the Potomac river is stunning. Perhaps on a day not too long ago, George Washington looked out across his land to the river, and dreamed a dream of american independence.
Pictures were not permitted inside the house, but as in most plantation homes, the mansion consists of a central corridor with rooms on either side. The first floor was primarily for entertaining, and contained two parlors, a downstairs bedchamber, dining room, study, butler’s pantry and the “New Room.” This grand room with its rich green paint conveyed a feeling of american aristocracy and wealth; many fine guests dined and danced in its space. The intricately carved marble mantelpiece was a favourite from this room.
The second floor held bed chambers for guests and also contained George and Martha Washington’s room. After George died in his bed in December 1799, Martha closed the room, and for the rest of her life lived on the third floor.
The Upper and Lower Garden
The gardens at Mount Vernon served several purposes. George Washington designed the upper garden with three large planting areas separated by wide paths. It contained a greenhouse that accommodated tropical plants during the winter months. A beautiful spot, the garden served a pleasure purpose with its flower mix, but also grew fruits and some vegetables in the centre of its boxed style. I enjoyed walking the gravel path. Martha Washington must have enjoyed walking here too.
The lower garden served mainly as a kitchen garden and provided many vegetables and herbs for the family.
The Mansion Grounds
The mansion grounds were beautiful to walk and enjoy as well. A canopy of green ivy grows along the fences and hundreds of varieties of trees line the rich and fertile landscape. The corn grew tall, cattle grazed and sheep rested in their stalls. Further beyond the serpentine path I pondered archeologists excavating a slave burial ground, and not far from their graves stood the family tomb of George Washington, where he, his wife Martha, and other family members rest today.
Mount Vernon Inn
Once my husband and I had completed our own exploration, we dined at the Mount Vernon Inn, which is a historic restaurant on the site. I enjoyed my favourite appetizer of corn bread, and the peanut chestnut soup with its nutty surprises in most spoonfuls was delicious too! A perfect end to our visit.