In 1674 John Washington and Nicholas Spencer came into possession of the land from which Mount Vernon plantation would be carved. When John died in 1677, George Washington's half-brother, Lawrence Washington, inherited a bit less than half of the original tract. In 1743 Lawrence rebuilt the home his father Augustine had earlier built on the property. Initally named Eppsewasson, the plantation was later renamed in honor of Admiral Edward Vernon under whom Lawrence served in mid 18th century British campaigns against the Spanish in the West Indies. George was responsible for a great number of additions and improvements to the structures. On two occasions he practically rebuilt the main house, doubling its size each time. The great majority of the work was performed by slaves and artisans.
In 1754, following Lawrence's 1752 death, George leased the estate from his sister-in-law, Anne. Upon Anne's death in 1761 he inherited the property. From 1759 until the American Revolutionary War, Washington, who at the time aspired to become a prominent agriculturist, operated the estate as five separate farms. Washington took a scientific approach to farming and kept extensive and meticulous records of both labor and results.
Following his service in the war, Washington returned to Mount Vernon and in 1785-1786 spent a great deal of effort in improving the landscaping of the estate. It is estimated that during his terms as US President (1789-1797) Washington spent 434 days in residence at Mount Vernon. After his presidency, Washington tended to repairs to the buildings, socializing, and further gardening. The remains of George and Martha Washington, as well as other family members, are entombed on the grounds.
After Washington's death in 1799, plantation ownership passed through a series of descendants who lacked either the will or means to maintain the property. After trying unsuccessfully for five years to restore the estate, John Augustine Washington offered it for sale in 1848.
In 1860, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, under the leadership of Ann Pamela Cunningham, acquired the mansion and a portion of the land for US$200,000, rescuing it from a state of disrepair and neglect. The mansion has been restored, complete with period furniture and fixings, and today serves as a popular tourist attraction. The estate is also well known for its exceptional landscaping and ancillary buildings.
Image of Mt. Vernon on 1936 US postage stamp