Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mount Vernon-Washington's Home

Mount Vernon is located west of Washington, D.C. and was the home of George Washington.

This is the front of the home, or where the road would have brought horseman and carriages. The home was one of several properties George Washington's father owned and farmed, and eventually, George inherited the property. When he got the farm it was only 1 story and neither the west or the east wings had been added. He and Martha moved there after their wedding in 1759. George Washington considered this his home until his death in 1799. All of the additions to the house were added while he and Martha were living there. It took about 20 years because he kept getting interrupted by things such as commanding the army for the Revolutionary War and then being elected as president.

This is the back of the home which faces the Potomoc River. Notice the big porch.

Max decided to walk along with George, Martha and her 2 children.

I even got to listen to Martha reminisce about times gone by.

One of George's carriages. Pretty fancy for the times.

George and Martha both are buried on the property.

George also owned several other farms nearby and even a distillery and a grist mill. George really considered himself a farmer and even patented several of his inventions for modernizing the farming industry. He was considered quite an inventor and entrepeneur.

See how the water runs under the building? George placed the water wheel inside instead of outside. This kept the wooden wheel from weathering and needing to be replaced as often.

Here is the large water wheel inside the grist mill. The original mill, except for some of the rock walls, was destroyed years ago, but the mill has been restored to what it would have been in the late 1700s.

And it is a working mill and you can even purchase ground corn in the visitor center.

In the 1790s, a new farm manager convinced George Washington he had the perfect setup for a distillery. The whiskey which was made back then was nothing like you have today. It was not aged, never stored in charred oak barrels, and was not colored. It was clear, fermented grains which had been distilled several times. Then it was kegged and sold immediately.

Here are the barrels they would have used to ferment the grains. Most whiskey made during that time would have been primarily rye grain, with a little corn.

To get the fermented liquid over to the still they used these buckets with long handles. It weighs about 20 pounds without anything in it. I don't think I could have filled it with liquid and moved it.

The stove was next to the still. The fermented liquid was put into the large pot sitting on top of the brick stove/oven. As it cooked the steam traveled through the barrel in coils of copper tubing. Cooler water was run through the barrel around the coils causing the steam to condense and drip out of the copper tubing at the back of the barrel into another holding barrel. This process was usually repeated several times to bring the alcohol content up to the 80-90 proof needed.

They made whiskey for 3 weeks each year. It is made just like they would have made it back in the 1790s. It is sold out before it is completely bottled.