George Washington's Distillery and Gristmill
George Washington's venture into the whiskey business began at the urging of his farm manager, James Anderson. Anderson, who had been involved in the distilling industry in Scotland before immigrating to America in the early 1790s, was convinced that a distilling business would round out Mount Vernon's complement of economic ventures - and generate substantial profits. Ever the discriminating businessman, Washington proceeded cautiously but allowed Anderson to purchase two stills and set up a small operation in the cooperage next to the gristmill in early 1797. The result was the production of six hundred gallons, sold for a good profit. Encouraged, George Washington agreed to construct a large distillery over the winter of 1797-1798. The new distillery was 75 feet by 30 feet and contained 5 copper pot stills, a boiler, and all required equipment for large-scale whiskey production. In 1799, the year of Washington's death, the distillery produced nearly 11,000 gallons, making it the largest whiskey distillery in America at the time.
Washington's merchant gristmill, erected in 1770-1771, was capable of producing 5,000 to 8,000 pounds of flour and cornmeal a day. Over a period of 29 years, Washington's wheat crops were turned into flour for overseas markets, and the corn ground at the gristmill was used to feed the slave population and paid staff, as well as the Washington family and their frequent guests. In the fall of 1791, Washington learned of the newly patented automated milling system invented by Oliver Evans. Evans received U.S. Patent #3 for his groundbreaking system, which moved wheat and flour throughout the mill without the need of manual labor. Washington purchased a license for the patent and had the milling system installed in his gristmill. Today, this milling system is faithfully interpreted, fully-functioning, and open to guests on a seasonal basis.
I was not expecting to have a wonderful of a time as I did. Thought I'd stay for a few hours, ended up staying the whole day. Absolutely wonderful experience! After you've seen the house, take the time to walk around the grounds; the recreated farmland, the forest trail, and the gardens are all breathtaking. Loved the museum inside main building. The gift shop is more tasteful than is usual with historical locations (looking at you, Gettysburg). The food court didn't have much to offer by way of, well, anything that wasn't typical lame fast food, so that was a little disappointing, but they do offer outdoor seating so that was nice. This place is a national treasure. Bring the whole family!
My wife and I visited on President's Day 2018...which is the "Super Bowl" of Mt. Vernon. They pull it together excellently. Parking is an issue, but they have staff regulating it so it isn't madness. Admission is free on President's Day, so plan on having a longer wait to get into the Mansion proper. The Staff is supremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the estates and Washington's life (and death). My wife had to catch a flight at 5 and the staff was able to accomodate us getting in to the Mansion with sufficient time for us to get back to Reagan National. Very nice and family friendly place to go visit!
Great place to get a history lesson about our first president. I recommend the tour the have a specialist for each room and they really know what they are talking about. You can see where he is buried here and just walk around. There is also a nice museum there which is also very informative. It makes a great day trip and there is a food court here so you can eat and spend the second half of the day here too. I would really recommend it to people who want an interesting fun filled day.
My wife and I visited DC (to see Mean Girls the Musical) and after jamming in as much site seeing as we could in three days, Mount Vernon is hands down my favorite stop. We spent extra time walking the grounds and visiting George's tomb, so much that other stops were pushed off the table, and we have zero regrets. If I may give you one word of advice, do not rush. Walk around, look at all the details, sit down if Martha Washington is spitting historical knowledge somewhere. This truly is a remarkable place. P.S. Grab a bite to eat at the restaurant near the entrance!
One of those iconic places you have to visit when in Washington. Beautifully restored and maintained. Interesting tour guide. Good that the displays are balanced and factual, dealing with the issue of slavery and the wider context of Washington's ambitions as a successful farmer/businessman. I guess an oversized gift shop and slightly over orchestrated feel are only to be expected in such a busy tourist attraction.