We did not know before we went, but there is a ceremony at Washington's Tomb every day. We went there after the tour - they were going to lay a wreath and they asked if there were any Veterans in the group. Two guys stepped forward - one was active duty and one was retired. My daughter 'outted' me and told them I was a veteran too. But I don't think they really believed me since I was neither active duty nor retired. I guess they were not aware that a veteran is A person who has served in the armed forces
George Washington died in the Mansion’s master bedchamber on December 14, 1799. His will directed that he be buried on his beloved estate. He also chose a site for a new brick tomb to replace the original burial vault, which was deteriorating. The Tomb was completed in 1831, and the remains of Washington, his wife, Martha, and other family members were moved there.
Driving to Mount Vernon from the South, we drove scenic route SR-235 called Mount Vernon Memorial Highway which connects route US-1 and the Washington's estate. The 3.2 mi long road goes up through the forests passing by Washington's Mill Historical State Park on the left, Fort Belvoir military reservation on the right.
There is the commemorative plaque, on my picture, put off the beaten path, at the end of the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, outside the Washington's estate. It contains the following writing:
1732 - 1932
The Mount Vernon Memorial Highway was authorized by Congress May 23, 1928 as an activity of the United States Commission for the celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of George Washington.
The highway was designed and constructed under the direction of the United States Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Public Roads.
Construction started September 12, 1929. Open to traffic January 16, 1932. This highway was formally dedicated to the service of the people November 15, 1932.
There is fenced small area by the upper part of the Mount Vernon Mountain Trail. There are turkeys bred inside. Today, there is a variety of colonial breeds at Mount Vernon including the rare breed Dominique Chickens and Bronze Gobbler Turkeys in addition to guinea hens and wild turkeys.
The turkey is native to North America and was domesticated by the Aztecs in Mexico 500 years ago. They were imported from America and rapidly became known across Europe.
Poultry was very important in the 18th century, supplying both meat and eggs. George Washington raised chicken, turkeys and ducks. The slaves were allowed to raise poultry as well to provide extra food for their tables and to sell at market to earn money.
The turkey in the picture sassed Nat and he threatened to have him for Thanksgiving supper.
The area around Little Hunting Creek was in George Washington's family for many generations. His great grandfather, John Washington was the first to take possession of the land, though he lived about 50 miles south of here. Later George Washing moved here before becoming General then President. The first house on Little Hunting Creek was built by Thomas Francis Mason in the early 1800s. The arched stone bridge over the creek which carries the George Washington Memorial Parkway was constructed in 1931.
The historic marker at this site just north of Mount Vernon reads:
Little Hunting Creek
The Washington family land south of here,
named Mount Vernon in the 1740s, was part
of a grant made in 1677 by the Northern Neck
proprietors to Col. Nicholas Spencer and Lt.
Col. John Washington, George Washington's
Great-Grandfather. John Washington's son
Lawrence Washington took possession of
the eastern half of the Grant on Little
Hunting Creek. George Washington inherited
it in 1761. Across Little Hunting Creek, the
Brent family also was granted land in the
17th Century. Margaret Brent, secretary
to Lord Baltimore, is regarded as the first
woman in the British colonies to demand the
right to vote.
After George Washington moved to Mount Vernon, his closest neighbor, both in distance and friendship, was Colonel William Fairfax, who built and resided at Belvoir Plantation on a bluff overlooking the Potomac. William Fairfax was the grandson of the 4th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, and his bother Thomas was the 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron.
William Fairfax first lived in the Colonies in Marblehead, Massachusetts, but he moved to Virginia in the 1730s to oversee his bother Thomas' vast quantities of land. In 1741 William Fairfax construct Belvoir Plantation, an elegant mansion with splendid views of the River and into Maryland. William Fairfax had a tremendous political career, serving in such positions as President of the Governor's Council in Williamsburg, member of the House of Burgesses, Justice of the County Court, and as County Lieutenant.
William's bother, Thomas Fairfax, the 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, lived at Belvoir for a few years before he moved to the Winchester, Virginia area. He was the first member of British nobility to live in America, and he employed George Washington as a surveyor of his lands.
During the American Revolution the mansion was confiscated by the fledgling American government. In 1783, fire destroyed much of the mansion and its surrounding buildings. In 1814, during the War of 1812, the mansion ruins were further damaged when bombarded by the British fleet that was part of the force that captured Washington DC. Finally in 1917 the ruins of the house and the surrounding lands were acquired by Virginia and ceded to the US Army, forming today's Fort Belvoir. The obelisk monument at the family grave site was constructed in the 1920s as well. In 1931 the fort's commanding officer began the first archeological dig at the old house. In the 1970s a three-year archeological dig culminated in the site being listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
The Belvoir Mansion site is located at a very poorly marked site on Fort Belvoir, Virginia. From the main gate, take Belvoir Road several miles to its end and turn right on Fairfax Drive. Where Fairfax Drive meets Forney Loop, there is a small parking area that sits at the trailhead for the mansion trail. The trail is well-marked with many interpretive signs. The total distance from the parking lot to the grave site is only about a quarter mile, and the house is located at the halfway point wjust above the river.
The George Washington Mural is tucked in where few tourists will ever see it, but where locals enjoy it daily. Where is this wonderful mural that stretches 1,200 feet (yes, almost a quarter mile), stands 10 feet tall, and depicts 13 of the most significant scenes from the life of our first President? It is along the Mount Vernon Trail, in one of the most rarely traveled sections behind the Alexandria power plant.
The mural starts with Washington's boyhood home at Ferry Farm in Fredericksburg (but not his birth home...?), then continues to show scenes of his life as a surveyor, British soldier, Revolutionary General, and his life as the President. The figures in the foreground of the painting are full sized, amazing for a mural of this length. At the northern-most section of the mural are paintings of various objects related to Washington such as the $1 bill, the quarter, and stamps for example.
The mural was just completed in May 2009 after years of work. Before the mural was finished, this was a plain old chain link fence barely hiding the coal yard for the power plant.
Fort Hunt was once a part of George Washington's River Farm, one of the five farms he owned and part of the Mount Vernon estate. The land was acquired by the army in 1892, and construction of the fort began in 1897. The fort was manned during the Spanish-American War, then completed in 1904. It had four primary batteries called the Mount Vernon Battery, Battery Sater, Battery Porter and Battery Robinson. In 1930 Congress approved plans for the Mount Vernon Parkway to run through the now abandoned fort. From 1933 to 1942 the Fort Hunt grounds were used by the Civilian Conservation Corps camp that was building the Mount Vernon Parkway, and the King and Queen of Great Britain actually visited the site in 1939. During World War II, the fort was used as a highly classified interrogation camp for German prisoners of war.
Some 3,400 German prisoners passed through Fort Hunt. It is said that most of the prisoners here were submarine crews, and they were actually held here just long enough to extract vital war-time information. Most prisoners stayed here about three months, then they were transferred to regular POW camps and the International Red Cross was notified of their capture. It is said that Lieutenant Commander Werner Henke, the highest-ranking German officer to be shot while in American captivity during World War II, was killed while attempting an escape from Fort Hunt in 1944.
Today the fort has picnic areas, playgrounds, and other recreational opportunities. The concrete batteries and numerous buildings are also preserved as National Historic Landmarks.
Fort Hunt Park is located approximately 6 miles south of Old Town Alexandria in Virginia along the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
Dyke Marsh, with about 380 acres of ancient wetlands, is considered the largest area of unspoiled freshwater tidal wetlands in the Washington DC region. The area is part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway next to Belle Haven Marina, and it offers areas for picnicking, hiking, birdwatching, and even canoeing.
The area is called Dyke Marsh, because farmers built dikes around the area to prevent tidal flooding so their animals could graze here The marsh was once about 650 acres, but has shrink to about half that size due to development in the 1950s and beyond.
This tree, hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) on my picture, was planted personally by George Washington in 1785. It's signed by small mark affixed to the trunk and it's located along the north serpentine walk, by the bowling green.
Of the hundreds of trees planted by George Washington at Mount Vernon, only thirteen, including the white ash, survive today. The thirteen trees are two tulip poplars, two white ash, a white mulberry, a hemlock and seven American hollies.
George Washington was creative landscape designer in Mount Vernon. The gardens and grounds are a masterful mix of both formal, symmetrical and nauralistic design styles originating in England. George Washington has never left America, like suprisingly many Americans nowadays, right?
When I was walking around the Bowling Green I noticed a small sign affixed to the trunk of a tree on my picture:
White Ash (Fraxinus americana). Planted in 1785. Well, there are more trees which remain George Washington in the estate.
White ash, also known as American Biltmore or cane ash, grows north into Canada, south to northern Florida and west to eastern Texas. This tree offers the best wood for baseball bats and other sports equipment such as hockey sticks, tennis racquets and others.
There is the wooden, painted in white entrance gate and unique cobblestone incline west of the Washington's Mansion. In the past it was the main entrance for carriages and coaches coming to the estate.
Behind the entrance there is longitudinal space of green, cut lawn surronded by tall trees of a forest on both sides. The Mansion closes the view straigt on the horison.
In Mount Vernon I found many of the same breeds raised two centuries ago. I learned about the important role livestock played in the lives of colonial Americans. It provided strong work animals as well as meat, milk, butter, wool, leather and perhaps most importantly to a farmer - fertilizer.
There is a fenced pasture with grazing cows by the upper part of the Mount Vernon Mountain Trail.
Cattle were a valuable source of beef and veal. Cow's milk was used to make butter, cream and cheese. Even the manure was composted and later used to fertilize gardens and fields. So it's not surprising that Washungton worked hard to improve his herd. He experimented with a variety of feeds and imported breeding stock from England. One of his favourite breed was the Milking Devon, the type of cattle raised at Mount Vernon today.
At the end of Mount Vernon Forest Trail there is a wooden bridge over a deep ravine. There is an interpretive sign along the way with information on disaperrance of the American Chestnut.
Since the middle of the 20th century, the tree has all but vanished throughout the eastern United States, due to chestnut blight. Today, scientists have made some progress in developing a blight-resistant chestnut tree. The experiments are currently taking place at National Colonial Farm, located directly across the Potomac River from Mount Vernon.
The Washington's barn doesn't operate October through May but it is open, so I could see its interior and I got to know how it worked in the past in Washington's times and that the key functional feature of the barn was hidden in roof above the ground floor.
IN WASHINGTON'S BARN
An oak threshing lane encircled the center section of the second floor of the barn. Horses run around and around within the lane, treading the grain out of the wheat. A worker was present to make sure that the horses did not stop running. Why? Because horses do not urinate or deficate while they are running. There were 1 1/2-inch gaps between the floorboards (on my picture), so the grain fell between the gaps to the first floor, where it was gathered up and stored and then taken to the gristmill to be ground into flour.
Walking short Mount Vernon Forest Trail we didn't see any animals but numerous oaks, hollies, laurel trees, human beings and several small birds. But there are interpretative signs put along the trail which say about trees and animals of this forest then and now. Let me share it.
Mount Vernon is still home to wild turkeys, rabbits, deer and other wildlife but do not look for a fox, opossum or wolves which have disappeared from Washington's forest. Instead several birds have been introduced since Washington's deatch in 1799 like including the house finch, rock dove, house sparrow and European starling.