Posted by Richard Gamble on August 13, 1999 at 11:11:12:
Subject: George Washington's Mount Vernon-- Who built it & When?
Lawrence Washington (born ca. 1718 - died 1752) was not the original
architect of Mount Vernon. The home was built for him by his
father, Augustine Washington (b.1694 - d.1743), while Captain
Lawrence Washington was away at war in the Caribbean with
Royal Navy [Vice-] Admiral Edward Vernon (b.1684 - d.1757).
And Augustine Washington erected the original home in 1741-42, not 1743.
A detailed, annotated property survey (a plat) prepared by the county
surveyor pursuant to a 2 May 1741 court order shows no home existing
on the site of the present home at that time: although the plat itself
is undated, surveyor Robert Brooke undoubtedly carried out his
detailed survey within a few weeks, if not months of the court order.
About one year later, a letter dated 3 August 1742 is the oldest surviving document
to bear the [now] famous dateline, Mount Vernon [Letter is preserved in
the MVLA archives. It is a routine business letter from [neighbor]
William Fairfax to Henry Lee concerning the tobacco trade
on the Potomac River: Fairfax & Lee were river officials.]
Lawrence Washington returned home from the
war at the end of 1742 and took up residence in the new home
the following year, probably in the late spring/early summer
1743. Lawrence was married on 19 July 1743, the earliest date
at which he can be positively placed in the home. Lawrence under-
took a small remodeling of the house at some point during his 10 years, likely
sometime during the last years circa 1748-52. The fact that two of
men who witnessed his Will in 1752 were builders-joiners, suggests the
work was carried out in 1751-52, while Lawrence was out of Virginia.
The evidence for Augustine Washington as the original architect is
presented by Robert M. Moxham, The First Hundred Years at Mount Vernon,
1653-1753 (Colonial Press: 1976). The expansion carried out by
Lawrence Washington is presented in MVLA's 1993 Historic Structure
Report (prepared by Mesick, Cohen, Waite Architects), and elaborated on in
in the new book, George Washington's Mount Vernon: At Home in
Revolutionary America, by Robert Dalzell and [wife] Lee Baldwin Dalzell
(Oxford Univ. Press: 1998). Note: The Dalzell's claim to originality is seriously
flawed by their failure to include any mention of Moxham's pioneering work. Chapter 2 of the Dalzell's
book contains many citations to the 1993 Historic Structure Report,
which in turn dealt with Moxham's 1976 study. Any study of the
origins of Mount Vernon which does not address Robert Moxham's 1976
monograph and Robert Brooke's 1741 plat can not be taken seriously.
Moxham was an expert on the colonial settlement of Fairfax County
and a trained cartographer. His immense contributions to the
study of the county's early history is Acknowledged in the
definitive study of the county: Beginnning at a
White Oak, by Beth Mitchell (Fairfax Gov't Press: 1976). Mitchell too is ignored
by the Dalzell's. Posted: 13 AUG 99, by Richard Gamble, 4321 Granada St., Alexandria, VA 22309
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