We decided to take a break from seeing D.C. and drove south to Mount Vernon, home and final resting place of George Washington, on Thursday, October 31st.
It was very interesting to see how the legendary general and president lived his life when he was not serving his country. It gave us an indication of what he gave up in order to serve his fledgling country. The mansion is situation along the banks of the Potomac River, and the view is beautiful this time of the year.
We started our visit with an introductory dramatized film of his life. The film covered his life from his service during the French and Indian War, through his command of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War (including his time at Valley Forge), and ended with him returning home to Mount Vernon after the war's end.
Then we had a guided tour of the mansion. Given the era, this would have been a very impressive home. One thing that really impressed me was a display case on the wall with a key to the Bastille. This key was given to Washington by his friend Lafayette during the French Revolution, and it has hung on the wall of the mansion in that exact same spot ever since. We also saw the room and bed that Washington died in, as well as his personal study.
Following the tour of the mansion, we wandered the grounds of Mount Vernon. We saw the kitchen, the clerk's quarters, smokehouse, wash house, coach house, stable, paddock, gardens... there was a lot to see!
The highlight was seeing Washington's tomb. The tomb has been gated since the mid-1800's, and out of respect for Washington it has not been opened since.
We also saw the area where a multitude of slaves were buried. There is now a memorial in place identifying the significance of the area.
Then we wandered down the hill toward the Potomac River to the wharf and pioneer farm. It is a working farm, so we did see some costumed workers harrowing a field. We also saw a 16-sided barn and a reproduction slave cabin.
To end our time on the estate, we watched a blacksmith working some iron and finished up the younger boys' "adventure maps" that they were working on.
When we left the grounds of the estate, we then went into the museum and education center. Some highlights of the museum were Washington's actual false teeth (they are NOT wooden!), as well as a multi-media film that was a great hit with the boys (it even SNOWED in the theater!).
Unfortunately, photography was not allowed in many areas, especially not within the mansion. However, we were able to get some good pictures regardless.
I always enjoy seeing the homes of the great Americans. It really gives you a sense of who they were. And I know this sounds macabre, but I also enjoy seeing the gravesites, too. When you see the gravesite, it changes them in your mind from "legend" to "real". To realize that you are standing only six feet away from the actual person of history makes you realize that they were entirely real people, just like you and me. Many times I wonder if they knew how revered they would become, and what they would think of this country nowadays. I wonder how much of history we got right, and how much of it we might have wrong. I wonder if they knew what they did was so remarkable, or if they just did what needed to be done at the time. I think that many times people are thrust into greatness without realizing it, becoming accidental legends. But most likely they knew they were on the precipice of something great, but perhaps not realizing exactly what it was. Deep thoughts.
We had a nice day at Mount Vernon. It is worth paying the money to see the estate of our country's forefather.