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Archaeologists Discover Two Intact, Sealed 18th Century Glass Bottles During Mansion Revitalization at George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Preliminary Analysis of the Liquid Contents Reveals Complete Cherries and Pits

Archeologists digging up bottles at Mount Vernon estate.
18th century bottles discovered at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. (Photo: Mount Vernon Ladies Association)

Mount Vernon, VA, April 22, 2024 – As part of the landmark privately funded $40 million Mansion Revitalization Project at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, archaeologists have made a significant discovery of two intact European-manufactured bottles in the Mansion cellar. The dark green glass bottles were found upright and sealed, each containing liquid. The bottle shapes are characteristic of styles from the 1740s – 1750s and were recovered from a pit where they may have been forgotten and eventually buried beneath a brick floor laid in the 1770s.

“As we conduct a historic preservation effort at the iconic home of America’s first President and revolutionary hero, we have been deliberate and intentional about carefully excavating areas of potential disruption,” said Mount Vernon President & CEO Doug Bradburn. “Consequently, we have made a number of useful discoveries including this blockbuster find of two fully intact glass bottles containing liquid that have not been seen since before the war for American independence.”
Old Bottles covered in dirt in Mount Vernon estate.
18th century bottles discovered at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. (Photo: Mount Vernon Ladies Association)
“As the bottles are shipped off for a complete scientific analysis, we want to share our findings and next steps for this historic archaeological and preservation initiative at Mount Vernon. This discovery comes at the beginning of an exciting and transformational project to strengthen and restore the home of the nation’s first president so that it will be stronger than ever when we celebrate America’s 250th birthday in 2026. This historic preservation project is our birthday gift to America,” Bradburn said.
Mount Vernon Principal Archaeologist Jason Boroughs said, “This incredible discovery at Mount Vernon is a significant archaeological find. Not only did we recover intact, sealed bottles, but they contained organic material that can provide us with valuable insight and perspective into 18th-century lives at Mount Vernon. These bottles have the potential to enrich the historic narrative, and we’re excited to have the contents analyzed so we can share this discovery with fellow researchers and the visiting public.”
Scientists analyzing contents of newly discovered 18th century bottles at George Washington's Mount Vernon.
Scientists analyzing contents of newly discovered 18th century bottles at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. (Photo: Mount Vernon Ladies Association)
After the bottles were unearthed, each was carefully removed and transported to the Mount Vernon archaeology lab. Upon consultation with archaeological conservators, it was determined that removing the liquid contents would help stabilize the glass, which had not been directly exposed to the atmosphere for approximately two centuries. Cherries, including stems and pits, were preserved within the liquid contents, which still bore the characteristic scent of cherry blossoms familiar to residents of the region during the spring season.
The Mansion Revitalization Project is underway because today’s highly popular Mansion performs functions for which it was not designed. Built as a private residence, it is now a public monument visited by thousands daily, translating to a much heavier traffic flow than the Washingtons could have imagined. That increased visitation causes wear, tear, and strain on the building fabric. Although repairs throughout the Mansion’s 290-year history have been accomplished using the best techniques available at the time, some of those repairs are now more than a century old. Significant advances in preservation technology afford exciting opportunities to improve structural and environmental conditions in the building, preparing it for another century of service.
Sludgy substance being extracted from 18th century bottle.
Sludgy substance being extracted and examined from one of the newly discovered any=tique bottles at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. (Photo: Mount Vernon Ladies Association)
Some of the earliest interventions completed in the Mansion were “localized” repairs intended to solve specific problems of immediate concern. Though successful, such repairs can have unintended consequences that affect the overall health of the Mansion. With this project, Mount Vernon’s preservation team is proceeding holistically, approaching the Mansion as a complex network of interlocking systems. The primary tasks of the Mansion Revitalization Project include:
  • Repairing sections of the Mansion’s framing and masonry
  • Designing and installing a new state-of-the-art heating/ventilation/air conditioning system for the Mansion
  • Improving drainage in and around the Mansion’s cellar
When the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association (MVLA) took possession of George Washington’s home in 1860, it faced a monumental restoration challenge. Since then, the MVLA has meticulously restored the Mansion and surrounding outbuildings, turning Mount Vernon into a shining example of historic preservation. After extensive investigation, assessment, research, planning, and design, Mount Vernon is taking proactive steps to ensure the health of the Mansion as it enters its fourth century. The Mansion Revitalization Project is being conducted in four phases and is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2026.
Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, is owned and maintained by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, the oldest national historic preservation organization in the United States. The estate is open to visitors and includes the Mansion, a museum and education center, gardens, tombs, a working farm, a functioning distillery, and a gristmill. It also includes the George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon.

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