Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory - Virginia


Mount Vernon

The Mansion House cellar, Mount Vernon, Fairfax (38,707967,-77.086172)

Felling Dates: Spring 1732, Summer 1733, and Spring 1734

Sill beam 1732(16½C); Transverse beam 1731(26¼C); Central summer beam 1732(28½C); Joists 1733(22¼C, 23¼C). Site Master 1513-1733 mtv215 (t = 6.6 MTVx1; 6.3 MONTP; 6.3 PIEDMONT).

The first evidence that members of the Washington family resided at Mount Vernon dates to 1735, when George Washington’s father, Augustine, is listed as residing in the area. The early history of Mount Vernon is only poorly understood, but a house is likely to have been built on the site of the present Mansion by that date (1735). The structure was passed down to George Washington’s elder half-brother, Lawrence, who may have substantially rebuilt the house some time in the 1740s. This event is marked by a stone -- emblazoned with the initials “LW” -- that is set into a partition wall in the basement. Although it is impossible to know for certain, Lawrence Washington may have decided to expand the building only a decade after its construction in order to adopt a more modern floor plan. Whether completely rebuilt or only modified, at this point the dwelling was one and one-half stories, with four rooms and a central passage on the first floor, with another four rooms on the level above. George Washington acquired Mount Vernon after Lawrence’s death in 1752, and began expanding his brother’s house in 1758. He raised it to two and one-half stories, added exterior closets to either gable, and upgraded the interior finishes and furnishings. In 1774 he began a second, more extensive building campaign, adding a wing to the south that accommodated his study on the first floor, his and Martha Washington’s bedroom on the second level, and a storage room above. When he left in the spring of 1775 to serve in the Second Continental Congress, and ultimately to fight in the Revolutionary War, the completion of this wing, and the other planned additions to the house that were carried out over the next eight years, were left to his plantation manager and cousin, Lund Washington. In 1775 the interior of the Small Dining Room was completely renovated, with the addition of an ornate plaster ceiling and an elaborate carved mantel and plaster overmantel. In 1776 Lund Washington began construction of the north addition, which accommodated a two-story dining room and a store room above. The following year the piazza, a highly unusual double-height porch supported by eight pillars, was added running the length of the east façade of the house. A pediment and a cupola were added to provide a strong central axis to divert attention from the asymmetry of the west front that was the result of the various building campaigns. Finally, curving open colonnades were built to link the Mansion with the Kitchen and Servant’s Hall dependencies. Drawn from a description by Dennis J Pogue, PhD, revised 17 October 2006.

Miles, D W H and Worthington, M J, 2006 ‘ The Tree-Ring Dating of timbers from the Mansion House cellar, Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, Fairfax County, Virginia, unpubl ODL archive report 2006/20.

Link to the Mount Vernon's wedpage here




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Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory

Michael Worthington
Jane Seiter, Ph.D

25 E. Montgomery St.
Baltimore, MD 21230