Adventures in History: Gunston Hall
After this last week, I really needed a fun outing or two. So it was off to Gunston Hall. I’d seen the signs on the way to Pohick Bay Park and Mason Neck Park, but I’d never visited before. The day started out a little chilly.
Gunston Hall was the home of George Mason. That’s a familiar name around Northern Virginia, though his role in history is largely forgotten. And it was an important role!
He was a plantation owner at the time of the Revolutionary War. He drafted the Virginia Bill of Rights, which was used as a basis for the U.S. Bill of Rights.
When everyone gathered in Philadelphia to sign the Constitution, he was one of three people who refused to sign. They were called the “non-signers” (some trends don’t die. I’ve certainly seen some labeling today). The other two were Edmond Randolph (many streets and schools named after him) and Elbridge Gerry (haven’t seen his name around).
George Washington disagreed and thought the Constitution was enough. George and George had been friends, but the disagreement effectively ended their friendship. George Washington never visited George Mason again.
Now for the pictures!
This is a map that shows where George Mason owned land. All the brown squares represent his land. He was a third generation Mason, and each family member acquired more land. He owned a lot of land! Most of is now gone. All that’s left is the area where the house is.
This is the house. It’s in the Georgian style, where everything is symmetrical, which you can see in the location of the chimneys, the windows–even the door and the window over it.
The name of the house comes from the family home in England.
Inside, I’m walking on a plank floor that George Washington, James Madison, and even Winston Churchill has walked on. The planks creak under my feet, announcing where I am to the house.
This is the parlor room. Some of the furniture in the house is original, obtained from donations, loans, or auctions.
The colors on the walls and fireplace are also what they would have been in George Mason’s time. The fireplace was carved out of black walnut. It was, indeed, painted, because paint was a luxury item. If you could afford paint, you painted everything.
This was the family room of the era. This desk was the one George Mason actually used, and perhaps he drafted the Virginia Bill of Rights here. His family would also eat in here.
It was also the room where he passed away.
The bedroom. The green paint was an expensive color for the time. You can’t see it in the photo, but there’s also a pantry in here. Mrs. Mason locked up the valuables in it: chocolate, sugar, and tea.
Mrs. Mason was also friends with Martha Washington, so maybe they talked about the two Georges in here. 🙂
This is the view of the gardens through the back door. The trees lining the path are the original Boxwoods–240 years old! The trees were struck by a disease or a blight, so they’re not in good shape.
By the time I get outside, it’s nice out. Comfortably warm, though clouds are moving in. The last of the cicadas are buzzing, hoping for a mate. They probably only have a few weeks left.
I stop by for a look at the kitchen. In George Mason’s time, it was a separate building. A later owner added a kitchen onto the end of the house. After the house was turned over to the state of Virginia, that was removed to help restore the house to its original appearance.
And another well, right across from the kitchen building. I couldn’t see the bottom of this. There were two women checking this out too and commented it was the perfect place to lose your cell phone in.
And another exterior building where the laundry was done. I was reminded of a story my grandmother told. When she moved into the family house–after having grown up during the Depression–she was horrified at the seeming extravagance of having eight table cloths. Turned out the reason for it was because it took so long to clean each one and iron it out.
The interior or the schoolhouse where the family’s children learned every day. Since the winters here can get pretty cold, can you imagine huddling here by the fire and listening to the teacher? The light might not have been too good either during those winter months.
My final part was a nice walk out in the grassy area behind the house. A pebble path wove around, though it was hard to walk on. The pebbles kept shifting under my feet with each step, and in unexpected ways. I had to be careful not to fall!
The small T about 1/3 down and 1/3 across is the Potomac River.
It was a pretty fun day. You can read more about Gunston Hall and George Mason here.