Destination List > Mount Vernon
Photo by Warren LeMay
Mount Vernon is an American landmark and former plantation of George Washington, the first President of the United States, and his wife, Martha Washington. The estate is on the banks of the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia, near Alexandria, across from Prince George's County, Maryland. The Washington family had owned land in the area since 1674. Around 1734, they embarked on an expansion of the estate that continued under George Washington, who began leasing the estate in 1754 but did not become its sole owner until 1761.
The mansion was built of wood in a loose Palladian style; the original house was built by George Washington's father Augustine, around 1734. George Washington expanded the house twice, once in the late 1750s and again in the 1770s. It remained Washington's home for the rest of his life. Following his death in 1799, under the ownership of several successive generations of the family, the estate progressively declined as revenues were insufficient to maintain it adequately. In 1858, the house's historical importance was recognized and it was saved from ruin by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association; this philanthropic organization acquired it together with part of the Washington property estate. Escaping the damage suffered by many plantation houses during the American Civil War, Mount Vernon was restored.
Mount Vernon was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is still owned and maintained in trust by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association and is open every day of the year. Allowing the public to see the estate is not an innovation, but part of an over 200-year-old tradition started by George Washington himself. In 1794 he wrote: "I have no objection to any sober or orderly person's gratifying their curiosity in viewing the buildings, Gardens, &ca. about Mount Vernon."