The first White House of the US
Mount Vernon was the plantation home of George Washington, first President of the United States. The estate is situated on the banks of the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia, near Alexandria, across from Prince George’s County, Maryland. The Washington family had owned land in the area since the time of Washington’s great-grandfather in 1674, and in 1739 embarked on an expansion of the estate that continued under George Washington, who came into possession of the estate in 1754, but did not become its sole owner until 1761.
The mansion is built of wood in a loose Palladian style, and was constructed by George Washington in stages between 1758 and 1778; it occupies the site of an earlier, smaller house built by George Washington’s father Augustine, some time between 1726 and 1735. It remained Washington’s country home for the rest of his life. Following his death in 1799, under the ownership of several successive generations of the family, the estate progressively declined. In 1858, the house’s historical importance was recognized and it was saved from ruin by The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association; this philanthropic organization acquired it together with part of the Washington estate. Escaping the damage suffered by many plantation houses during the American Civil War, Mount Vernon was restored.
Mount Vernon was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and is today listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is still owned and maintained in trust by The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, and is open every day of the year. However, admitting the public is not a new innovation, but maintenance of a tradition over 200 years old begun by George Washington himself; as early as 1796, he wrote: “I have no objection to any sober or orderly person’s gratifying their curiosity in viewing the buildings, Gardens, &ca. about Mount Vernon.”