My fascination with old houses probably began one day when I was 9 and wandered through a wooded area at the end of my street. The trail led into a clearing where I discovered the remains of an abandoned old mansion. Pretty cool find! Ever since, I’ve been hooked on the challenge of what could be pieced together about a life from the clues people leave behind.
Over the years I’ve gone out of my way to check out the former dwellings of the likes of Elvis Presley, William Shakespeare, President Franklin Roosevelt, Russian Czar Peter the Great, and Anne Frank.
That’s why, on our last day in DC, I was eager to visit Mount Vernon, home of George Washington. Turns out the Father of our Country never spent a whole lot of time at home. OK, so he didn’t much help Martha around the house, but let’s give the man his due respect. He was very busy serving his country, pretty much continuously from 1752-1797, without a lot of down time. He fought with the British in the French and Indian War (1754–1763). Then he fought against the British as Commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolution (1775-1783).
With American independence won, Washington figured he’d retire to his working farm on the Potomac River. But in less than four years, he was off to Philadelphia to preside over the Constitutional Convention that drafted the U.S. Constitution. And two years after that, in 1789, he was inaugurated as our first President. He served excellently for 2 terms – refusing to extend it to a third and thus setting a very wise precedent that two consecutive terms is all any US President gets. By all accounts, Washington was one of the top three of all times.
Done with public service in 1797, GW happily returned to Martha at Mount Vernon with the idea that he’d finally get to enjoy his home, his family, and his gardens. Unfortunately, just 2 years later, he died of pneumonia at the age of 67.
Yes, Washington was a great man and as a nation we are incredibly fortunate to have had him as our first leader. But he wasn’t perfect. It might surprise you to know that Washington owned slaves. Probably not the way you want to think about him, but it’s true. And facts need to be remembered and factored into the mix for history to create a complete picture of the way things really were.
Here are some of the other sights from the wonderful and highly recommended Mount Vernon…
While we waited in line to get inside the house, we met a 9 year old girl and her mom. They were from San Francisco and pretty much like everyone else we’d talked to all week, they’d come for the Inauguration. I asked the girl why Obama’s election was important to her. Here’s what she told me:
Ella (age 9, San Francisco): I think it will be part of the future. If there is a first black American President… who knows? We could be president too one day.
Annie: You mean women too?
Ella (smiling broadly): Yeah!
Yes we can.