George Washington Birthplace National Monument Things to Do

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    Washington's Birthplace: Site of Wakefield House

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jul 6, 2009

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    George Washington's Great-Grandfather John Washington made the initial land acquisitions in the area for the Washington family, establishing the Bridges Creek Plantation,today marked by the Washington family cemetery, and just a mile from the Wakefield House. Washington's father Augustine added to the original plantation by purchasing this land on Popes Creek in 1718, and renaming the entire estate as the Popes Creek Plantation.

    Originally called the Popes Creek House, the house that was later called Wakefield was built by George Washington's father Augustine, in stages, starting before 1718. Washington was born here in 1732. By 1762, the house had been enlarged with three additions, and it was then big enough to hold 10 beds, 13 tables, 57 chairs, and some eight fireplaces.

    The home in which George Washington was born, burned on Christmas Day 1779. The site was lost for about 150 years until it was rediscovered in the 1930s. In 1936, the foundation was excavated, recovered and preserved. Crushed oyster shells on the surface of the ground mark the location of the home and the size and shape of the foundation.

    The Memorial Mansion stands just a few yards from this site, and from the outline on the ground, it is apparent that the Memorial Mansion is quite a bit different in shape than the original building.

    The sign at the outline of the house reads:

    George Washington's Birthplace

    On the ground before you once stood the plantation home of Augustine Washington and his second wife, Mary Ball Washinton. Here, on February 22, 1732, George Washington--farmer, general of the Continental Army, and first president of the United States--was born.

    George Washington lived here only three years, but returned often during his youth and came to know Popes Creek Plantation well. The house remained in the Washington family until 1779, when it burned in a Christmas Day fire. Its exact location remained hidden under deepening soil and thickening underbrush for the next 150 years.

    The white oyster shell fragments on the ground in front of you mark the foundations of the birth house.

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    Washington's Birthplace: Memorial Obelisk

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jul 6, 2009

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    The first thing visitors will notice when entering the grounds is the memorial shaft obelisk that is made of Vermont marble. In 1895-1896, Congress donated this 50-foot obelisk and had it erected on a brick foundation under what is now the Memorial House, which researchers originally thought was the foundation of the birth house of Washington.

    The obelisk is supposedly a tenth of the size of the original in Washington, D.C., but if it really is exactly 50 feet tall, and the one in DC truly stands 555 feet and 5 1/2 inches, then the Washington Monument is more than 11 times larger than this replica.

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    Washington's Birthplace: Memorial Mansion & Garden

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jul 6, 2009

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    The Memorial House and Colonial Kitchen were constructed in 1931 to recreate the home in which George Washington was born. Typical of a moderately wealthy planter of the 1730s, the buildings are not true replicas of the original Washington plantation. The reconstructed plantation does successfully depict the culture and social standing of the Washingtons during George Washington's youth.

    The Memorial House and Colonial Kitchen are fully furnished with over 1,000 museum pieces from the Colonial era, including a tea table that is believed to have been in the original house.

    At the edge of the house is the "Colonial Herb and Flower Garden," with a variety of plants common here in Washington's time, such as thyme, sage, basil, and other herbs, flowers such as hollyhocks, forget-me-nots, and roses, as well as trees and bushes.

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    Washington's Birthplace: Living Colonial Farm

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jul 6, 2009
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    The Living Colonial Farm has heritage livestock breeds and fowl typical of the Colonial era. Tobacco is grown in season.

    The park's farm buildings, groves of trees, livestock, gardens, and crops of tobacco and wheat, represent the boyhood environment Washington knew.

    The present farm was established in 1968, and it also has a staffed kitchen house where costumed actors demonstrate the traditional methods for making soap, candles, and cloth.

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    Washington's Birthplace National Historic Monument

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jul 1, 2009
    View to the Potomac from Washington's birthplace
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    George Washington Birthplace National Historic Monument is a 550-acre National Park Service site that commemorates the location where our first President George Washington was born and lived his earliest years. The main features of the monument are a marble obelisk, the family cemetery, a Memorial Mansion that was typical of the time, a colonial farm, a National Park visitors center, and the outline marking the foundation of the original house where Washington was born.

    This area was settled by George Washington's Great Grandfather, John Washington in 1657 at a site called Bridges Creek, just north of George Washington's birth site. Washington's father Augustine expanded the family plantation by purchasing the land along the Broad Creek, moving the family's main house and renaming the entire estate the Broad Creek Plantation. The new house at Broad Creek was built sometime around 1718 and expanded several times over the year. In 1732, Washington was born in this house, which later became known as Wakefield. This house where Washington was born was destroyed by fire in 1779 and never rebuilt. In later years the foundation became buried in soil and undergrowth and was lost.

    Virginia acquired the site in 1858 then passed it on to the Federal Government in 1882. soon the obelisk stood near the site of the house where Washington was born. In 1923 the Wakefield Memorial Association was created to preserve and restore the property. In 1931 this organization constructed the Memorial House on the plantation site, as a representation of the house in which Washington was born. The Memorial Mansion is constructed in a style and manner similar to other houses of the era with hand made bricks and period furniture. The National Park opened in 1932 to mark the 200th anniversary of Washington's birth.


    A sign near the entrance to the national historic monument reads:

    George Washington's Birthplace
    (Wakefield)

    George Washington's birthplace is two miles
    north on Pope's Creek, just off the Potomac
    River. He was born on 22 Feb. 1732 and lived
    there only for three years. Washington's
    father, Augustine, purchased the land in 1718 and
    built the house by 1726.President Washington's
    half-brother Augustine, Jr., inherited the
    property after his father's death in 1743. The
    dwelling, a U-shaped timber-frame house,
    burned on Christmas Day 1779. The present
    Memorial House, erected in 1930-31 is a Colonial
    Revival-style version of a medium-size
    planter's house. Originally known as Pope's
    Creek, the property was renamed Wakefield
    about 1770 by George Washington's half-
    nephew William Augustine Washington.

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    Washington's Birthplace: Family Cemetery

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jul 1, 2009
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    The Washington Family Cemetery is located on the 550 acres of the National Historic Site. From memorial obelisk, turn left, away from the Visitors Center. After about a mile, there will be a small parking area on the right next to an open field. The cemetery is across the road to the left, barely visible in a grove of trees.

    The approach to the cemetery is a long tree-line path that leads visitors past the site of the John Washington House. The cemetery is small, with just seven grave markers for the 32 of Washington's family members buried here. The two gravestone replicas and the five memorial tablets were erected in the 1930s to commemorate the most famous Washingtons buried at this site, including George Washington's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

    A plaque at the entrance to the walled cemetery displays a photo of the cemetery in 1930, with a description that reads:


    The Burial Ground

    Three generations of George Washington's
    forebears are buried here. The first
    burials were made in 1668, when John
    Washington's wife Anne and two small
    children died. During the next thirty years,
    at least nine more Washingtons--including
    George Washington's grandparents--were
    interred here.

    The cemetery today bears no resemblance to
    the cemetery George Washington visited
    during his youth. In 1930, the Wakefield
    National Memorial Association constructed
    the wall around the grounds, consolidated
    the graves into a single casket, and interred
    the remains in a single vault.

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    Washington's Birthplace: John Washington House

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jul 1, 2009
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    The site of John Washington's home is located on a flat, level piece of ground adjacent to the Washington family cemetery. This is where the Washington family began their rise to prominence in America, led by a man who was an active farmer, military man, and community leader. After thirteen years at this site, John Washington built the Wakefield House, where George Washington was born. A sign marking the location of the John Washington House reads:


    The John Washington House

    In 1664, John Washington, the great-grandfather of George
    Washington, built a small house on this site. From these
    modest beginnings, a powerful and prominent Virginia
    family would arise.

    During his thirteen years here, John
    Washington attended to his farm,
    his growing business interests, and
    his ascending social position. He
    purchased extensive tracts of land
    throughout Westmoreland County
    and as far north as Little Hunting
    Creek--a tract today called Mount
    Vernon. He served in the Virginia
    legislature, as an officer in the
    militia, and as a justice of the peace.
    When he died in 1677, he left an
    estate that included 8,500 acres.

    Archeologists revealed that the John Washington
    site included the main house (40x20 feet), at
    least two outbuildings, and the family burial
    ground, to your right.

    This exhibit made possible by the John Washington Chapter of
    National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.

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    Nearby Colonial Beach

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jul 1, 2009

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    Besides these great historic sites, in the same area you will find a cool little beach town called Colonial Beach. Its nickname is Golf Cart Town because these little scooters are street legal here once regstered with the town. The beaches look pretty nice, there is some history in the town Alexander Graham Bell's home for example), and there are a handful of good seafood restaurants.

    The town was established in 1892 and incorporated in 1917. In the 1950s and 1960 the town was able to draw many visitors and skirt the law by building casinos in the Potomac River, which belongs to the state of Maryland up to the Virginia shoreline. In recent years the town has made a comeback of sorts, buoyed by legalized off-track betting. In the summers this town of about 3,500 swells to over 10,000 on busy weekends.

    Colonial Beach is about 65 miles from both Washington, DC and Richmond, drawing visitors from both of these metropolitan areas. From here you are just two miles from Monroe Hall, maybe 10 miles from George Washington's Birthplace, and 15 miles from the Lee's plantation at Stratford Hall.

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    Potomac River

    by Ewingjr98 Written Jun 30, 2009

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    The Potomac River runs 383 miles from the West Virginia-Maryland border to the Chesapeake Bay south of Washington DC. Some of the major cities along the river include Harper's Ferry, WV, Washington, DC, Arlington, VA, and Alexandria, VA. The river forms part of the borders between Maryland and Washington, D.C. to the north and West Virginia and Virginia to the south. At the mouth of the Potomac, the river is 11 miles wide, between Point Lookout, Maryland and Smith Point, Virginia.

    Numerous famous Americans were born and lived along the Potomac. Two of the most famous are George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Of course, every President and Congressman has also resided along the river while serving in Washington DC!

    Various methods have been used to navigate the river. The Patowmack Canal was envisioned and partially funded by George Washington to connect the area Georgetown with Cumberland, Maryland. Started in 1785, its five short canals were not completed until 1802, and they ceased operations in 1830. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal operated along the opposite bank of the Potomac in Maryland from 1850 to 1924 and it also connected Cumberland to Washington, D.C.

    Today numerous parks line the Potomac. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park runs is 184.5 miles along the north side of the river. Also in Maryland, south of DC, you will find Oxon Hill Farm, Fort Foot National Park, Fort Washington Park, Piscataway National Park, and Point Lookout State Park. In Washington DC you will find Georgetown Waterfront Park, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Lady Bird Johnson Park, West Potomac Park, and East Potomac Park including Hains Point. In Virginia, you'll find Harpers Ferry National Park, Balls Bluff Battlefield, Great Falls Park, Jones Point Park, Fort Hunt National Park, Mount Vernon, Leesylvania State Park, and of course George Washington's Birthplace National Park.

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    Monroe Hall - Birthplace of President James Monroe

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jun 30, 2009

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    James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States, was born 28 April 1758 in a rural area now known as Munroe Hall in Westmoreland County, Virgina, just a few miles from George Washington's Birthplace. His parents were certainly not aristocracy. Monroe's father, Spence Monroe (1727–1774) was a farmer and carpenter. His mother, Elizabeth Jones Monroe (1730–1774) married Spence Monroe in 1752, and they had five children, four of which lived to adulthood. Monroe lived at his father's farm until he was sixteen, and his childhood was spent learning to boat, fish, ride, and hunt.

    From age 11 through his 16th birthday, Monroe studied nearby at the Campbelltown Academy, a school nearby his home in Westmoreland County. Among his classmates was John Marshall, later chief justice of the U.S.

    In 1774, around the time his mother died, Monroe left Monroe Hall to go to the College of William and Mary. His father passed away shortly after he enrolled in the school. Monroe dropped out of college in 1775 to enlist in the Continental Army, where he served under George Washington in various battles including the crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas 1776 and the ensuing Battle of Trenton. Later he studied law under Thomas Jefferson, then he held numerous public offices including a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, a seat in the Continental Congress, Ambassador to France, Governor of Virginia, Secretary of State, and President of the United States from 1817 to 1825, a time known as the "Era of Good Feelings."


    There are three different historical markers along the road at the entrance to the former Monroe estate. A traditional white plaque reads:

    Birthplace of Monroe

    In this vicinity stood the
    Monroe home where James Monroe,
    fifth president of the United
    States, was born, April 28,
    1758. His father was Spence
    Monroe and his mother, Eliza-
    beth Jones. He left home at
    the age of sixteen to enter
    William and Mary College and
    left college to enter the army.

    Virginia Conservation Commission 1947

    A second sign, this one engraved on the bottom of a memorial obelisk reads:

    Birthplace of
    James Monroe

    April 28, 1758
    July 4, 1831
    Fifth president of the
    United States
    1817- 1825
    Governor of Virginia
    1799 and 1811
    Proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine
    December 2, 1823
    Declares the Americas
    no longer subject to
    European colonization

    A third plaque stands on a square podium-like monument with the words on top and stars representing the states around the sides. The plaque reads:

    James Monroe
    1758 - 1831

    Soldier * Patriot * Statesman

    This marks the birthplace of James Monroe, April 28, 1758
    Westmoreland County, Virginia

    Attended college of William & Mary; Officer, Continental
    Army, American Revolution; Married Elizabeth Kortright, 1786;
    US Senator; Minister Plenipotentiary to France and then to
    England; Represented the United States in Spain; Governor of
    Virginia; Signed treaty of Louisiana Purchase; Negotiated to
    acquire Florida; Secretary of State; Secretary of War; Fifth
    U.S. President, 1817-1825; Promulgated Monroe Doctrine, 1823;
    Died July 4, 1831, Buried Hollywood Cemetery; Richmond, VA.

    Placed by the Virginia Daughters of the American Revolution
    April 24, 2004 Mary Jane Irwin Davis, State Regent

    Presented 26 April 2008 by the Virginia Daughters of the American Revolution
    Bana Weems Caskey - State Regent 2007-2010
    Patricia Hatfield Mayar - Honorary State Regent * State Regent 2004-2007
    Sine Die

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    Stratford Hall - Home of the Lee Family

    by Ewingjr98 Updated Jun 30, 2009

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    Stratford Hall was home to four generations of Lees, including two signers of the Declaration of Independence, several diplomats, a Revolutionary War hero, and a Civil War hero, among numerous other distinguished members of the Lee family, one of the "First Families of Virginia."

    Colonel Thomas Lee, who was once the acting Governor of Virginia under British rule, purchased the land for Stratford Hall in 1717 and began construction on the main "Great House" in 1730. Here he established a plantation, a dock on the Potomac, and numerous other businesses such as blacksmith shops and a gristmill.

    Thomas Lee had eight children. The eldest son, Philip Ludwell Lee, Sr., was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, and he took over operations at Stratford Hall. The next two sons, Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, were delegates to the Second Continental Congress and signers of the Declaration of Independence. Another child, Thomas Ludwell Lee, helped George Mason create the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Thomas Lee's later sons, William Lee and Dr. Arthur Lee, served as diplomats in England during the American Revolution. Hannah Lee is said to have been an early advocate of women's rights, and the youngest child, Alice Lee, married Philadelphia physician Dr. William Shippen, who is said to have started the first maternity hospital in America, and he was the Surgeon General of the Continental Army.

    Philip Ludwell Lee, Sr. married Elizabeth Steptoe and had two daughters before his death. One of the daughters, named Matilda, married her cousin, future Revolutionary War hero Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee in 1782. Elizabeth Steptoe, a few years after her husband's death, married a gentleman named Philip Richard Fendall I. Light Horse Harry Lee worked out a bargain of a deal that he would take over Stratford Hall, and in exchange he's give Fendall and his wife property in Alexandria, Virginia, that eventually became the Lee-Fendall House.

    Matilda and Light Horse Henry Lee had three children together before Matilda passed away in 1790. In 1793 Lee married again, this time to Anne Hill Carter, and the couple had six children. The most famous son, Robert E. Lee was born at Stratford Hall in 1807, but spent just four years here. In 1811 Henry Lee moved his family to a modest home in Alexandria, just across the street from the Lee Fendall House; this home is now called The Robert E. Lee Boyhood Home.

    Harry and Matilda's surviving son, Robert E. Lee's half brother, Maj. Henry "Black Horse" Lee IV took over Stratford Hall in 1809. He was the last Lee to own the fine, historic plantation. It is said he had an affair with his wife's sister, named Elizabeth or Betsy, and the resulting lawsuits left him in financial ruin that forced him to sell Stratford Hall in 1822.

    Henry "Black Horse" Lee's wife's sister, Elizabeth, with whom Henry had his affair, convinced her husband, Henry Storke, to purchase the plantation in 1829, and she remained there until her death in 1879.

    In 1929, the Robert E. Lee Memorial Association was incorporated as a non-profit organization, and the organization purchased Stratford Hall.

    The Lee family is known as one of the First Families of Virginia, because the family's patriarch, Richard Lee I, immigrated from England to Jamestown in 1639, as one of the town's earliest settlers.

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