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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Five Down, 39 to Go

I blame President Harry Truman for this.  About eight years ago, I was driving through Independence, MO and saw a sign for President Truman's library.  I had the time, so I decided to stop and tour it.  That started it.  I have now decided to visit every presidential home/library.  This was my fifth home or library, the others being Truman, JFK, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower.

 

I just returned from Mt. Vernon, the home of our first president, George Washington.  The home is nicely furnished with mostly original furnishings.  It was an interesting tour.  I learned a few things that were new to me.  I did not know that Pres. Washington was more than a plantation owner.  He was one of the first Virginia farmers to switch from growing tobacco to wheat.  He also experimented with composting and crop rotation.

The grounds are quite large.  I did a lot of walking.  I saw the stable area where they had a carriage similar to one Washington might have used.


 The horses were gone from the stable, but their essence remains.  I saw the outbuildings - kitchen, laundry room, cobbler's workspace, blacksmith's area, etc. 


There is an area for the graves of the president and his wife and other members of the family.  Near these sites, there is a memorial for the slaves who lived and worked there.  They are also working on this area to survey the actual graves of the slaves.  The slaves who belonged to Washington were freed when he died.



There is a learning center and museum on the grounds.  The learning center has three theaters that show films about different times in Washington's life, including one about Martha, their meeting and life together.  There I learned that when he died, Martha locked their bedroom door and never returned to that room.

One of the other theaters gave us the revolutionary experience.  It centered on that winter at Valley Forge and the crossing of the Delaware.  We got the full effect of the cannon firing that shook the seats and sent smoke coming up from the floor.  We also got "snowed" on.  That was very interesting.

Also available, although separate from the control of the Mt. Vernon Ladies' Association, is a short boat ride on the Potomac.  It was a very relaxing and refreshing ride.  This last photo shows the mansion from the river.


I should add that Mt. Vernon is not a national part, it is completely under the auspices of the Mt. Vernon Ladies' Association which was founded in 1854 to purchase the mansion and 200 acres of adjoining land from Washington's great-great nephew who could not afford to maintain the estate.  They immediately started shoring up the buildings, but stopped during the Civil War.  After the war they started furnishing the house with some Washington-owned pieces and an assortment of 18th century objects.  The association relies on admission and sale of souveniers and private donations and does not take any federal monies.

I thoroughly enjoyed this trip and recommend it to anyone with any interest in the beginnings of our country, or even to just get a look at how people lived in those days.

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