History & Heritage

graphicLooking Back to the Past

History and heritage are more than just words to people who live and work in the Mount Vernon and Lee Magisterial Districts. They are part of the very fabric of their lives. After all, it was here, just minutes from the nation’s capital on the shores of the Potomac River, that our nation’s history began.

From its earliest colonial days, Virginia was known for its natural beauty. Perhaps that’s why George Washington chose to make his home here.

The Mount Vernon estate was settled in 1735, long before Washington became our nation’s first president. This majestic home on the banks of the Potomac was built in stages, and wasn’t completed until 1787. Now listed as a National Historic Landmark, the estate features extensive gardens, the tombs of George and Martha Washington, several museums, and historic outbuildings.graphic

Two other important historic sites, Fort Hunt and the Collingwood Library and Museum on Americanism, were once part of Washington’s River Farm, where the president’s private secretary lived. Today, River Farm houses the national headquarters for the American Horticultural Society.

General Washington’s influence can be felt throughout this historic region. To commemorate the bicentennial of the birth of our nation’s first president, Washington’s Grist Mill was rebuilt in 1932 on the site of the original mill he used to ground wheat and corn into flour and meal. Washington was on the building committee for stately Pohick Church on Richmond Highway. Designed by noted architect James Wren, the church was completed in 1774 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.graphic

Woodlawn Plantation, a majestic brick mansion overlooking Mount Vernon and the Potomac River, was once the home of Washington’s granddaughter and her family. Now it is used to depict the customs and culture of plantation life from 1800 to 1840. Special events throughout the year include needlepoint exhibits, teas, and Christmas celebrations.

The Pope-Leighey House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1942, is also on the Woodlawn grounds. This historic home, part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was moved here from Falls Church in 1964. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

South of Washington’s seat at Mount Vernon is Gunston Hall, home of George Mason who worked to ensure that the principles he first set forth in the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) were translated into the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. This stately home was completed in 1758. Today it is a National Historic Landmark administered by the National Society of Colonial Dames of America.

graphicAnother important site is Huntley, a federal period villa built in 1825 for Thomson Francis Mason, grandson of George Mason. Surrounded today by Huntley Meadows, a natural park, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Virginia Landmarks Register.

Mount Vernon and Lee residents take pride in preserving a cornerstone of American history. These artifacts are more than historic monuments; they serve as vital reminders of the powerful history of democracy and freedom in our country. We are proud of the visionary statesmen who molded our nation from the land beneath our feet and we need to look no further than our own backyard to guide our future for generations of independence.




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