A day trip with the boyfriend to Historic Mount Vernon and a delicious dinner in Maryland.
Things have been crazy here for awhile, but I wanted to get this post up before the end of the month.
Earlier this month (June 3rd to be exact), I suckered the boyfriend into going to Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington. I am a huge history nerd. And while American history isn’t really my thing, I have been wanting to go to Mount Vernon for some time now.
Of course, the day we went was over 95º Fahrenheit and packed (as numerous schools and summer camps were there on trips). Luckily, the large trees provided some shade while we waited in line for the tour of the house. One of the trees, a Cedar of Lebanon, (pictured above), had been there since 1899 and towered over the museum where George, Martha, and other family members reside.
When we went down to the waterfront, there was a Pioneer farm where Washington experimented with farming practices. While there was a beautiful view, there was also an interesting 16-sided barn where wheat would be placed. Not only did this protect the crop from the weather, but allowed horses to trot on top of the wheat in a process called “threshing”. Threshing allowed for the separation and extraction of the wheat berries from the stalk. After separation, the seeds would fall through slats in the barn to allow for replanting, while the remaining wheat was stored in ground safe from the weather. Prior to this day, I had no idea “threshing” was a thing; much less realized that Washington invented this new system. I just thought it was a neat building, and decided to go inside.
Closer to the house was the outhouse or “Necessary”, located in an octagonal building. Inside were three “necessaries” lined up to each other. I know the importance of having a designated waste management area, and I understand the lack of indoor plumbing (hence the use of chamber pots). But I have no idea why the Washington family and their guests would want to use these at the same time, I hope there was an unspoken rule about one at a time. Butt (pun intended) honestly, this is one thing I don’t want to think about; communal bathrooms freak me the hell out.
While we were waiting to enter the house for the tour, our tour guide told us to look closely at the “brick”. The structure was originally made of yellow pine siding before Washington had the home Rusticated. Through rustication, the siding was cut to imitate stone blocks, and then painted and was thrown on wet paint to create a stone texture. This created an expensive and grand appearance. Rustication is still done today, although I’m not sure how often.
I was surprised to learn that George Washington had inherited the house from his family; it was built by his father as a modest farmhouse in 1735, passed onto Georges brother, and then to George in 1762 (although there was a brief time after his brother’s death that he rented the property before he inherited it). George expanded the house; adding the North and South wings, raising the roof to make for two and a half stories high, and adding the cupola and piazza to create the structure we see today. When you walk indoors, you notice right away the difference in design and architecture between the old house and the additions. I believe, and I could be wrong, my tour guide said this was done intentionally.
I didn’t expect the indoor entrance to look the way it did either. Having been to historic locations in PA and Williamsburg, VA, I expected that when you entered the door, you would be able to see the stairs. But the stairs, in the central passage, wrap around and over the front door. This dates back to the original house, which faced the Potomac River. I suppose it makes sense, but it was still shocking to see; Washington must have taken great care to memorialize what his father had built, while still creating something new. It may have been done for financial reasons, but the idea of this renew and reuse is something I have been really interested in lately and was surprised to see.
Inside, the blue room was closed, but I took a peek inside (because I’m a rebel and won’t be held back after paying for a ticket) and it was covered in a blue paisley pattern; which the boyfriend and I took to, surprisingly. Downstairs, in the study, was a “Fan-chair” with paddles which Washington used to keep himself cool during the hot summer days; something I would have liked that day. All throughout the estate, I would find little things like this which I wasn’t sure what it was used for right away; but still sparked my interest. For example the riding chair, a chair attached to a cart, which allowed for single person transportation without having to pay the tax of a carriage; if your not sure what these are, I highly recommend doing an image search (photos were not permitted inside the house). I think this is one of the best things about history, is figuring out how things were used, why, and the significance; in another life, I think I would have been an archaeologist.
When you walked outside of the home, you were greeted with a beautiful view of the Potomac River. The Washingtons evidently used the outdoor patio, or “Piazza” as an additional seating area, and I can see why. The beautiful views and breeze would leave any homeowner in heaven on a beautiful warm evening. Undoubtedly the best view of the estate, its no wonder that visitors sit down, take in the view, and reluctantly give up their seat.
After spending the day outdoors in the heat, we indoor dwellers decided to continue the journey with Crabs. Being the good Maryland Natives that we are, crabs are a staple of any summer. Last year we went to Mikes Crab House (Pasadena location not Annapolis) at the suggestion of his mother and had a great time, so of course, we had to return.
The stunning view just adds to the delicious meaty crabs and hushpuppies. Although we had to wait for about an hour, we ended up seated in the same spot as last year. There was live music, views of the sunset, and waterfront seating. I love seeing people pull up on their boats to stop in for drinks, live music, and good food; there’s just something magical about it. My only complaint with Crabs is that I wish they would bring it out in half-dozen intervals when feeding two people; that way you always had a hot crab.
Despite the heat, I had a great time. I loved going to Mount Vernon, petting the animals, strolling through the estate gardens, and basking in the history. I didn’t realize what an interesting man Washington was beyond his Presidency. Maybe this fall, I will go back and check out the Distillery, Gristmill, and museum (which I didn’t get to see because it was late and the AC in the building didn’t seem to be on) to learn more.