This shrine to George Washington is so near to the hearts of Americans and its history so well known to every school child, that it is trite to attempt an extended sketch of it in this volume.
The mansion was built in 1743 by Lawrence Washington, half brother and guardian of George Washington. It was named in honor of Admiral Vernon with whom Lawrence was associated during the campaign against Carthegena.
George Washington lived here from 1747 and inherited the estate upon the death of Lawrence and of his sister. Here he resided for twenty years after his participation in the French and Indian War. His life at Mount Vernon during this and other periods of private life was that of a Virginia planter, consistent member of the Episcopal Church, and large slave-holder. Here he developed many of his agricultural instruments-notably his plow; and here, tradition holds, he introduced the cultivation of alfalfa.
From Mount Vernon, he took an active part in the political agitation incident to the Declaration of Independence, and from this beautiful estate he rode North to take command of the Continental army. It was here that he returned in 1797, worn by the great cares of public life, and here two years later he died and was buried.
Mount Vernon experienced many vicissitudes until Anne Pamela Cunningham, of South Carolina, saved it for the nation and for posterity. The estate was offered for sale in 1853 by Lawrence Washington, and this patriotic woman devoted herself to the task of raising $200,000 for its purchase. In 1856 the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union was incorporated-it had been in existence since 1853-with Miss Cunningham as regent, and vice-regents representing twelve States. The full purchase price was in hand by 1859, and a year later the estate became the Association’s property. An additional fund was later provided for maintenance and preservation purposes. Portions of the original estate which had been sold or had fallen into decay were acquired and restored, and many mementoes of Washington and Martha Custis saved from the hands of private collectors, including the key to the Bastille which was presented to Washington in 1789 by Lafayette. The key is now in the relic house at Mount Vernon. Since the middle of the nineteenth century Mount Vernon has been growing in beauty and interest, due to the untiring and patriotic zeal of the women of the nation. There are now thirty-four vice-regents from as many states devoting their time to making this shrine the most beautiful in America.
Mount Vernon’s beauty and associations are best appreciated when considered in the light of George Washington, private citizen, devoted husband. and ardent agriculturalist. And too, Mount Vernon is of especial interest to all Freemasons, as in its design are many symbols of the order.