Today Mount Vernon is a gem, a symbol of a great man, history permeates its grounds, many have toured the grounds, the home and learned about what life was like during the mid and late 18th century.
Can you believe its condition was once described as
It is hard to believe that the most popular historic estate in America almost, well, wasn’t.
Averaging one million guests a year, George Washington’s Mount Vernon opened to the public in 1860. Only a few years prior, the estate was actively deteriorating. The Virginia home could’ve been lost to time had it not been for a South Carolina woman by the name of Ann Pamela Cunningham.
In 1853, Cunningham received a letter from her mother who saw Mount Vernon during a homeward bound steamboat trip. The writer was “painfully distressed” at the “ruin and desolation” of the first president’s estate.
According to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the mother’s letter posed the question: “Why was it that the women of his country did not try to keep it in repair, if the men could not do it?”
Thanks to George Stewart, President of the Cincinnati Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution for sharing this article.
The letter inspired Cunningham, who founded the Mount Vernon Ladies Association. It is among the first—if not the very first—nationwide women’s organizations, according to the National Park Service, and is also one of the oldest national historic preservation organizations in the country.
After fundraising to purchase the estate, the organization did just that in 1859 for $200,000. A restoration effort began shortly thereafter—and more than 160 years later, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association still owns the property.
See what can happen with recognition of a symbolic place which needed to be saved so that its story, the history can be preserved for all future generations to learn about.
Ann Pamela Cunningham had a vision, she took the lead and preserved a valuable piece of the American journey. That is her legacy!
If you would like to learn more, please visit the George Washington’s Mount Vernon website at: