On Saturday, Mark and I finally managed to get out to Mount Vernon for the first time in more than a year. We were excited to see the new museum that opened on site late last year. It has an amazing collection of paintings, household items, clothes and other objects that relate to Washington’s family, life and times. Basically, it’s a museum all about how great George Washington was. And what a worthy topic that is!
Mark and I are donors to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, the non-profit organization that owns and administers George Washington’s former home. We try to go out to visit the site at least a couple of times a year. Both of us are fascinated by Washington and his role in American history. He’s one of those remarkable public figures that stands up to close scrutiny. In fact the more I read about him, the more admirable he comes across. Managing to win the Revolutionary War despite all odds against one the world’s great military powers. Serving as the nation’s first president and the only one ever to be elected unanimously. Twice. Then stepping down to private life despite widespread sentiment that would have made him president for life. What new nation ever had such a figure as its founding father?
In addition to the very enjoyable museum, there are many new exhibits at Mount Vernon that relate to the life of the slaves who lived there in Washington’s time. The multiple farms owned by Washington relied upon the labor of more than 300 slaves during his lifetime. Some 100 of them lived on the Mansion Farm, where George and Martha lived. There’s a newly built slave cabin down the hill from the mansion on the bluff, a simple one-room wooden structure with a loft for sleeping, situated beside the fields. It’s very similar to the kind of simple houses early settlers of all kinds lived in. I thought the topic of slavery was well handled, though I’d be interested to know what African American visitors think.
The day we went was sunny and clear, with low humidity. The kind of day we often dream of during a Washington D.C. summer but almost never get. We spent part of the afternoon happily just sitting on the grass in front of the big house, watching sailboats passing up and down on the Potomac below. A glorious day, and one I hope to repeat at least once more before the summer is over.