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Dominion Blog

The Treasures of Mount Vernon

Posted by Scott Walter on Mar 16, 2022 9:05:15 AM

As a K-12 classical Christian School, Dominion values the study of history, the pursuit of leisure over entertainment, and igniting the imaginations of children.  Our area offers a wealth of treasures that support all of these goals, and a Dominion dad was pleased to share one of his favorites.

There’s no end to historical sites in North Virginia, but one of our family’s favorites remains Mount Vernon, the family home of George Washington. It’s convenient, only 20 minutes’ drive from Old Town Alexandria, where you can eat before or afterwards at Gadsby’s Tavern, where Washington and other Founders like Jefferson wined and dined and which also has its own museum.

There is good parking at Mount Vernon, and many millions have been invested in recent years to improve all of the facilities and exhibits. The story behind this is a wonderful tale of wise American philanthropy. Decades ago some donors who feared that American history was being forgotten and suppressed decided to make Mount Vernon a powerful attraction that would draw large numbers of visitors. They also devoted support to touring exhibits that travel the country, teaching schoolchildren. This strategy also involved creating free curricula on Washington and the Founding era that could be used by schools that visited the exhibits.

An older story of great American philanthropy explains why Washington’s home is still with us. In the nineteenth century, the property began to be neglected by his family, and some Virginia women decided to raise money to save it, restore it, and preserve it for future generations. They famously collected pennies from across the country to raise the needed funds, and to this day Mount Vernon is the property of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, a private nonprofit founded in 1853 by Ann Pamela Cunningham. The story is here, and this private institution still refuses tax dollars from any local, state, or federal agency.

When you visit, there are 500 acres of beautiful riverside estate to enjoy. Visitors learn about the era’s agriculture, its domestic life, the politics of the time, and of course George and Martha’s lives. The (timed admission) visit of the mansion takes about 20 minutes, but the grounds, which include handsome gardens, deserve at least an hour. There is a food court and a fine sit-down restaurant.

There are also two gift shops, which together rank as the best in the metropolitan area, in my view. One large shop is for children, with endless old-fashioned toys like wooden mock rifles, and the other large shop has handsome adult gifts like busts, books, Delft china, and more, with all proceeds benefiting the museum.

Plan your visit by visiting the website.


Scott Walter has two children at Dominion Christian: William, tenth grade, and Edmund, seventh grade. He and his wife, Erica, live in Sterling. They met at a think tank in Washington, D.C., and Scott now runs one.