‘Reopening D.C.’: George Washington’s Mount Vernon

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MOUNT VERNON, Va. – The coronavirus pandemic shut down George Washington’s Mount Vernon for 99 days last year, the longest stretch since the Civil War.

“We had the mansion closed for a period of time,” said Matthew Briney, vice president of media and communications at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. “We were running tours only through the first floor.”

But this summer, the home of the United States’ first president is welcoming visitors once again. Located just 15 miles outside of Washington, D.C., Mount Vernon welcomes an average of 2,000 guests per day and 3,000 on the weekends.

“We’ve seen student groups, group tours from around the country,” Briney said of recent visitors.

And, he said, they are ready for you, as well.

Visitors will be led through a tour of George and Martha Washington’s mansion where they will find plenty of relics that actually belonged to Washington himself. That includes paintings; his personal desk remains in what was the first president’s study; even his bed, currently wrapped in plastic while some renovations are underway.

“We like to say Mount Vernon is really the autobiography of George Washington,” Briney said, “where they can learn about Washington the man, not Washington the marble statue, not Washington on the dollar bill.”

The mansion at Mount Vernon was actually built in 1734. In fact, about 83 percent of the wood that makes up the wood is from that era, Briney said. So, this summer, visitors to the mansion will see some preservation work on the side of the building.

“The aim is always to keep things as original as if Washington was coming here tomorrow, he would recognize the place,” he explained.

Mount Vernon’s spacious 384-acre estate has accommodated social distancing pretty well over the last 18 months since the pandemic began. Once you leave the mansion, you’ll see the land is still home to plenty of other Washington originals including a greenhouse (he was interested in agriculture and farming).

Down the road, you’ll find cattle and livestock like you would in the 1700s. You’ll also find a modern memorial to the 317 slaves that kept the estate operating centuries ago. Ultimately, visitors will find their way to George and Martha Washington’s tomb, a solemn place to pay their respects.

“(The estate) has been meticulously maintained exactly as it did in the time of Washington’s death, 1799,” Briney said.

The tour wraps up at an interactive 4-D theater and exhibits, where visitors can learn more about the life of George Washington before, during, and after the presidency. This historic home and estate is of the many sites in the D.C. region welcoming back visitors and reopening their doors this summer.

“It really means a lot, I think, when you see people being able to experience so much of American culture here at Mount Vernon,” Briney said.


Author’s Note: This week, WNY News Now is launching its “Reopening D.C.” series to learn how some of the top tourist destinations in the Washington, D.C. area are reopening their doors to visitors this summer during the COVID-19 pandemic, and also to offer viewers a virtual tour of these locations.


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