Despite the play on words (which is word play itself if you think about it) on the musical Sunday in the Park with George, there was surprisingly less singing of anything involving Washington from Hamilton on my part than I would have imagined.
Regardless, on my second full day of being in Washington D.C., the Hall family was kind enough to take me somewhere I probably wouldn’t have thought to drive out and visit- George Washington’s estate at Mount Vernon. It’s not too far from Alexandria, Virginia, making it about what seemed to be a thirty-something minute drive from D.C.
I have to admit, I truly didn’t know what to expect. I’ve traveled throughout Europe and have seen a handful of castles/manors that kings and lords and so on and so on have lived and stayed in throughout the ages, but I’ve never visited any cities in the States, and so my expectations of where important Americans come from/have lived are pretty much blank slates. Generally, I know very little about American history. My knowledge is comprised of the basics one learns in school, my recent obsession with the aforementioned Hamilton and my binge-watching of Liberty’s Kids as a youngin’ without cable television– and if you’re not sure what the heck I’m talking about, just Google it, it’s an animated kids show about the American Revolution and the opening song features Aaron Carter. Yup.
So obviously, it wasn’t a palace like the ones I’ve seen in Europe, but it certainly was grand. Growing up in Chicago, I don’t think I’ve come close to seeing architecture like this in person. Buildings like this only existed in pictures and films for me. Fun fact, there is also a National Treasure tour that we happened to be a part of. It was an interesting tour of Mount Vernon and the grounds, but as you can imagine, the two minutes of the historical location that actually made it into the film wasn’t really enough to build a tour for it. By the end of the tour, I began to even question if they actually filmed anything with Nick Cage at the estate, given that each question asked (most of it by Pat’s brother Graeme because we asked him to) about the film resulted in something along the lines of “Oh, it was actually filmed on a sound stage” or “No, that actually has nothing to do with the film.” That being said, I’m in no way National Treasure‘s biggest fan, so I didn’t really mind, but it just struck me as something funny.
Regardless, it was a lovely day and if you’re into American history and architecture, it’s a cool place to visit. We toured the inside of the home (no photos allowed in there), walked around the grounds before being told to run away “because of a deluge” approaching, which seemed dramatic at the moment as there were gale-force winds and rain turning our umbrellas every which way, but it calmed down the moment we got to the visitor’s center and museum.
I will say though, like any history, despite its goal of objectivity, Mount Vernon’s history is super subjective. The whole museum felt like a shrine to Washington, which again, I don’t doubt his importance and contributions to America, but at times it felt a little creepy and propaganda-esque, especially in a room with a 360-degree screen surrounding me as a choir of children singing God Bless America and the Star Spangled Banner. I feel like as a Western society, we tend to giggle or laugh about the fact that some cultures regard their leaders as God-like and we roll our eyes at the idea of having an origin myth– but hey, the cherry tree legend isn’t 100% factual is it? It’s just to push the idea that he was an honest man who couldn’t tell a lie. Also, who gives a six-year old a hatchet for their birthday? But I digress…
I think it’s definitely worth a visit if you don’t know too much about Washington. There’s no doubt that he is a pivotal figure in American history, so it never hurts to know a little more about the man he was and just how critical his decisions were in relation to how America is today.
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P.S. Enjoy this photo of a painting in the museum which basically claims little Georgie was never actually a child. We got a good laugh out of it.