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Photo Essay: Summer excavations of Mount Vernon's kitchen ongoing Special

By Leigh Goessl     Aug 21, 2013 in World
Mount Vernon - An archaeology dig at Mount Vernon has been taking place throughout the summer outside the property's kitchen. The team's objective is to try to learn more about the earlier layout of the property and also see what other artifacts can be found.
A team of archaeologists at Mount Vernon, which includes several students from the University of Maryland, have been steadily working outside the Mount Vernon Kitchen. According to Mount Vernon's website, Team Archaeology of Mount Vernon’s Historic Preservation and Collections Department began work on May 29.
Working steadily through the summer, the team aimed to find out more about life at Mount Vernon and also to find out what the property looked like pre-Revolutionary War. The students' participation in the project reportedly wrapped up last month, but additional work continues outside the 18th Century kitchen. Visitors to Mount Vernon can watch archaeology in action.
"By excavating these units, we hope to explore one of Mount Vernon’s great history mysteries – what did Mount Vernon look like before the Revolutionary War? In 1775, George Washington began a large-scale and multi-year campaign to renovate and remodel his Mansion, outbuildings, and landscape including the gardens and grounds making it the iconic house you experience when you visit today," states the Mount Vernon website.
Prior to this grand renovation, the main house at Mount Vernon itself was a much smaller structure, described as a simple farmhouse. Over the course of several decades was transformed into the large home you see today. What is known through records is Washington's half-brother, Lawrence Washington, had four outbuildings next to the scaled-down version of the mansion visitors see today. After George Washington inherited the property, he had these buildings demolished and the larger kitchen built.
Since the Mount Vernon Ladies Association purchased the property in 1858, saving it from ruin, restoration to its previous appearance has been ongoing. Over time the mansion, its surrounding outbuildings, along with several other features of the property, have been meticulously restored to a 1799 appearance, the last year of George Washington's life before he died from a throat infection.
Over time, as more information is discovered or found through history or technology, adjustments have been made. For instance, for years, the house and surrounding buildings were white, but later it was learned these were actually more of a tan color, which visitors to Mount Vernon see today. Currently, the mansion's "new room", a wing added by the Washingtons over the years, is being restored and as a part of this renovation, the room's paint is being tweaked since a more accurate color has been discovered.
On Aug. 5, Mount Vernon posted on its Facebook page a half-dime dated 1835 was uncovered. Since the 1930s, many items have been found on the property. Mount Vernon has a collection displayed online to further tell the story of life at Mount Vernon during earlier eras. Additionally, many remnants have been found in a nearby refuse site, including cooking and food storage ceramics and thousands of animal bones from meals that had been served at Mount Vernon.
The kitchen excavation project is anticipated to continue throughout fall 2013.
More about mount vernon, Northern Virginia, Virginia, George washington, Archeology
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