“No estate in United America is more pleasantly situated than this.” — George Washington.
By Kelly MacConomy
On any given day at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, which is open 365 days of the year, visitors from around the world and all fifty states revel in the unobstructed pastoral view across the placid Potomac; a scene unaltered and vigilantly guarded for over three centuries.
Touring the mansion begins in what was formerly called the dining room. One lucky visitor is invited to open the door in the ”New Room” where so much “it” happened, to quote “Hamilton.” The very hallowed ground upon which The General entertained The Marquis de Lafayette and Lt. General of the Continental Army Jean Baptiste de Rochambeau while planning the decisive Battle of the Revolutionary War. The very place where history had its eyes upon heads of state, First Ladies, Winston Churchill, Presidents Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Trump.
Hardly a tour passes through the green door to the Windsor-chair bedecked Piazza overlooking the East Lawn without a chorus of gasps and wide-eyed astonishment gazing out across the green lawn to the expansive unadulterated view-180 degrees, three miles in all directions. Breathtaking doesn’t do it justice. It’s simply splendiferous.
Dominion Energy plans to build a compressor station in Charles County, Maryland directly across the Potomac River from the Mount Vernon Estate. The site is being developed 40 feet from the rural conservation zone within the viewshed of Mount Vernon adjacent to Piscataway Park, part of the National Park system and the very first National Park property specifically appropriated to protect this view to history. It remains resoundingly a veritable national treasure for all who behold and invariably cherish it.
The Mount Vernon Ladies Association, led today by Regent Sarah Miller Coulson, is the owner and custodian of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Since 1858 the Ladies have diligently protected and restored the Mansion estate and farm, perpetuating The General’s entrepreneurial, agricultural and Distillery legacy while fostering educational enrichment alongside the newer scholarly research campus for generations of tourists, local classroom field trips and the inevitable middle schooler trip to Washington. The ladies have valiantly fended off scenic easement encroachment threats twice before-once in the ‘50s against an oil tanker and again in the ‘60s when a sewage treatment plant was proposed.
Michigan child and family counselor Lorra Bancroft, in town for a counseling conference, had not been to Mount Vernon in 20 years. She made a beeline to the Piazza, recalling the magnificent view unchanged by history. Upon discovering the presence of media, Lorra inquired what was up. Learning Dominion Energy planned to build a compressor station, she gasped. Not the rapturous exclamation that the view usually engenders but an expression of horror and dismay. “This is the second time I have been here in 20 years. I was coming back just to sit and enjoy this view. It would be horrific for the historical value. I gasped when you told me what was going on. It would destroy the historical significance of the longstanding preservation of the view George and Martha enjoyed, just like we are today.”
On this day, June 26, Stephanie K. Meeks, President and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, announced that Mount Vernon has been added to the top 11 most endangered historic sites in the United States along with the dock in Annapolis and hurricane-damaged historic properties in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In the words of President and CEO of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Dr. Douglas Bradburn, “Dominion Energy can move their compressor station. We can’t move Mount Vernon.” Mount Vernon is truly like no other place in the world.
You can help protect the incomparable viewshed whose virtue was so fervently extolled by our Founding Father by signing the petition to Save George Washington’s View. Take action by going to mountvernon.org/savetheview sign the petition, and donate to the cause as much or as little as you can spare. Friends, members and neighbors of Mount Vernon, along with the steadfast determination of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association and the Trust for Historic Preservation, aren’t gonna miss their shot.
“I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.” George Washington to
Frances Van der Kamp, 1788.