George Washington was a personal hero for me. I grew up not far from Valley Forge Park. My parents took my brother and I there when I was about five years old and we saw the log cabins, headquarters, and frothy white dogwood trees. When I was in High School, I performed the Ballad of Valley Forge in 1976 on a well maintained lawn within the Park with the Pottstown Symphony. As I looked out from my spot on stage while holding my viola, I wondered what it might have been like during Washington’s time.
Later, I learned, George Washington led a rag tag group of men on retreat from the Battle of Brandywine, right through the very neighborhood where I grew up and reconnoitered at the Antes Farm in New Hanover, Pennsylvania.
I was thrilled by Washington’s heroic crossing of the Delaware and his defeat of the British at Trenton. Later, as an antiques dealer, I was intrigued by his relationship with Richard Stockton and poet wife Annis Boudinot, the owners of Morven in Princeton, New Jersey. This was due to a painting of their son Richard Stockton which I had on consignment. I also bought and sold through Noonmark Antiques a painting of the Hasbrouck House, Washington’s headquarters at Newburgh, New York.
To me, George Washington belonged to our region – the Philadelphia, Valley Forge, Trenton areas. But, I knew, he had a home in Virginia and I decided it was time for me to see where his heart belonged.
Before we made the trip to Mount Vernon, I looked up the Mount Vernon website. Spoiler alert. You can see a virtual tour of the entire interior of the house. It really is quite helpful especially since I later learned, no photography permitted within the house and we spent less than five minutes in each room. MountVernon.org/virtualtour
The virtual tour helped prepare me for the bold colors in some of the rooms. Washington’s favorite color was green and the brilliant verdigris dining room took my breath away. Another room is painted bright robin’s egg blue. These colors were the actual original colors of the rooms. Bright colors were a sign of wealth. Since Washington was a wealthy farmer and he actually owned five farms, his color choices are understandable.
Photographs of post cards by Hal Conroy
The tours at Mount Vernon are well organized. Visitors are assigned a tour time. There are kind helpful guides with cheery attitudes in spite of the heat and humidity to direct you to your destination. Each room had its own docent and although brief, the presentations were succinct and knowledgeable. There is an opportunity mid tour to stand on the back porch and gaze at the mighty Potomac River. Mount Vernon is perfectly situated to gain the best vantage point. After the tour, there was a choice- wander the grounds or join more tours. We chose to wander separately. I walked down the terraced steps to the wharf and enjoyed the cool breeze off the Potomac.
Then, I made my way to the Washington burial site, the inspiration for many early needlework samplers.
If you go, wear comfortable shoes and bring drinking water. There is a lot of walking. I did 13,000 steps that day. Children ages 5 and over may enjoy this trip. Children under 5 may get tired of the walk and strollers are not permitted in the mansion tour. There were many visitors even on a very hot day in 90 + temperatures. I would return in the Spring and allow 2 days for my visit next time. There is a muesum, 6-8 theatres that show related films, a distillery and grist mill, and the grounds themselves which include gardens, beside the mansion tour.
Found this fellow as I descended the stairs to the wharf.
A painting of Mount Vernon at the Whitney Museum in NYC, by Herman Trunk, Jr. 1932.