Washington, D.C.'s Top 10 : Mount Vernon (part 2) - Features of Mr. Washington’s Farm

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Features of Mr. Washington’s Farm

  1. 16-Sided Treading Barn

    With this unique design, George Washington created one of the most aesthetically pleasing and yet efficient working barns. The circular floorplan of the building with its slatted upper floor allowed horses to tread over grain placed on the floor to break the heads from the stalks. The grain then fell through the slats into temporary storage below. The building seen today is a painstaking reconstruction of the original based on thorough research by numerous archeologists and curators.

    16-Sided Treading Barn
  2. Shipping and Receiving Dock

    The wharf of the plantation was the main transportation center for shipping outbound produce and receiving farming and household supplies. The Potomac River was a major carrier of passengers and trade goods in Washington’s day. At this evocative spot on its banks, it is easy to imagine the bustle and excitement of early commerce on the river.

    Shipping and Receiving Dock
  3. River Tours

    Visitors can still use the Potomac River to reach Mount Vernon. Two tour boat lines serve the wharf from the city: Spirit Cruise Line and Old Town Alexandria. Spirit Cruise Line also offers lovely summer river sightseeing tours originating and ending at Mount Vernon’s wharf.

    Spirit Cruise Line

    Potomac Riverboat Company

    • Old Town Alexandria

    • 703 684 0580

  4. Slave Quarters

    Many slaves had living spaces distributed over the plantation so that they were convenient to the work they were assigned. The remaining slaves lived communally in these quarters on the edge of the estate. In his will, Washington freed all his slaves and made provision for their ongoing support. Memorials to his slaves, erected in 1983, are located at the slave burial ground southwest of Washington’s tomb, which itself is at the southwest end of the plantation.

    Slave Quarters
  5. Upper and Lower Gardens

    The wonderfully colorful upper flower garden is densely planted with varieties known to be cultivated in Washington’s time. The lower garden is surrounded by boxwood bushes that were planted before Washington’s death. This orderly and expansive plot yielded a wealth of vegetables and berries for the plantation.

    Upper Garden
  6. Crop Experimentation

    The extremely handsome greenhouse complex was one place where Washington carried out his extensive experimentation with different plant varieties. He always sought to find potentially profitable new crops for his five farms. Slaves were assigned to tend the wood fires to keep the greenhouse warm in the winter.

  7. Livestock

    Younger visitors to Mount Vernon love the chance to come face to face with some of the animals typical of colonial farming. Pearl, a Percheron draft horse; Blue, the mule; Penelope, the Ossabaw Island hog; Nellie, the Belgian draft horse; Flopsie, the Hog Island sheep; and Cochise the pinto pony bring alive the animal-oriented culture of 18th-century agriculture.

  8. New Farming Tools

    Washington adapted or invented many new farm implements to suit his various agricultural needs. He designed a new shape for a plow, made improvements to a seeding machine with a barrel feeder, and invented a turnip planter.

    Pioneer farming methods
  9. Crop Rotation and Soil Conservation

    The president was possibly the first farmer to successfully combat the depletion of farming soils. He drew up a chart of his fields and devised planting schedules that would give each field time to be replenished before new crop production began again. He also pioneered the use of organic matter, such as dung and even fish heads, to improve the soil’s fertility.

  10. Gristmill and Distillery

    Located 3 miles (5 km) from Mount Vernon on Route 235, South is Washington’s 18th-century water mill, which played an important part in his vision for America as a “granary to the world.” Colonial millers grind wheat into flour and corn into meal just as it was done more than 200 years ago. Archaeologists excavated the site of Washington’s 1797 whiskey distillery. A fully reconstructed distillery provides demonstrations and hands- on activities.

    Gristmill and Distillery

    • Open Apr–Oct:10am–5pm daily

    • Adm

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