Thursday, August 27, 2009
Mount Vernon: Site Report
Some souvenir buildings are printed with dates of when and why they were created. Other miniature replicas can be dated in other ways. The souvenir coin bank replica of Mount Vernon (above) can be dated because of an architectural feature. After George Washington’s death, a roof-top balustrade (or fence-type decotation) with a Chinese design was added to the roof of Mt. Vernon’s front Piazza by Bushrod Washington during his ownership (1802-1829). The balustrade was restored in 1860 and again in 1876. In 1936, the balustrade was finally removed once it was determined that it was a feature postdating George Washington’s period of occupation. Today, the Mansion has been restored to its appearance in 1799, the last year of Washington's life. Therefore, because this coin bank depicts the balustrade, we can date this souvenir to pre-1936. The bank measures 4 inches wide by 2.5 inches tall and has a coin slot on top. To retrieve the saved coins, one must unscrew the bottom as there is no trap nor key. A few smaller pewter replicas have been created in the past. A few years ago, a smaller 3-D pewter souvenir buiding version of the mansion was made by Superb USA and does not show the balustrade.This replica measures. 2.5” long. Another version was also cast in pewter and no longer being made. Standing 1" tall on a 2.25” base, the words Mount Vernon are written across the top of the front step base. The real Mount Vernon, located near Alexandria, Virginia, was the plantation home of the first President of the United States, George Washington. The mansion is built of wood in neoclassical Georgian architectural style and is located on the banks of the Potomac River. When Augustine Washington owned the estate, it was known as Little Hunting Creek Plantation after the nearby Little Hunting Creek. Lawrence Washington, George's older half-brother, inherited the estate and changed its name to Mount Vernon in honor of Vice Admiral Edward Vernon. Vernon had been Lawrence's commanding officer in the British Navy, and Lawrence greatly admired him. When George Washington inherited the property he kept the name Mount Vernon. During the years he lived at the estate, Washington transformed the Mansion's modest frame exterior, using a process called "rustication." This meant replacing the original plain wooden siding with bevel-edged pine blocks that had been coated with a mixture of paint and sand to give the appearance of stone. Washington also added a stunning two-story porch, or "piazza," overlooking the Potomac. Here family and guests would gather in warm weather to enjoy the breeze off the river. Another Washington addition to the house was a cupola -- which served as both a decorative rooftop element and a practical device. With windows open, the cupola helped to cool the house on sultry summer days. After the war, Washington added to the Mansion its final crowning touch -- a dove of peace weathervane atop the cupola. After Washington's death in 1799, plantation ownership passed through a series of relatives who lacked neither the will nor the means to maintain the property. After trying unsuccessfully for five years to restore the estate, John Augustine Washington offered it for sale in 1848. The Commonwealth of Virginia and United States governments declined to buy the estate. In 1858, the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union acquired the mansion and a portion of the land rescuing it from a state of disrepair and neglect. The estate served as neutral ground for both sides during the American Civil War, although fighting raged across the nearby countryside. Mount Vernon was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and later administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Mount Vernon is open for tours every day of the year, including holidays and Christmas. Check out a virtual Tour of the mansion. The Mount Vernon gift shop has a whole slew of minature replicas of the mansion. From metal and blown-glass ornaments, resin replicas to flat wooden replicas. However no metal replicas were available recently. Do you know of other miniature versions of Mt. Vernon?