Saturday, August 30, 2014

Virginia, Alexandria - Saturday, August 30, 2014 - Maddie's Birthday

We got to attend a pirate princess birthday party today.
This is the pirate princess.

She had some special decorations.
A special cake.
And some “pirate” food for her guests.
Papaw Greg built a couple of pirate boats that mama had painted.
There were lots of little pirates in attendance.
And they brought gifts for the princess.  All of the little pirates were really excited now.
In return they were anxious to get some cake – just what they needed – sugar!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Virginia, Lorton - Thursday, August 28, 2014 - Gunston Hall

On Tuesday I came down with a fever and sore throat.  I was feeling pretty good by this afternoon so we decided to get out and about for a while.  Gunston Hall, the colonial home of George Mason is about half a mile from the campground so we decided to check it out.
I had no idea who George Mason was until I started reading about Gunston Hall.  He wrote the Virginia Bill of Rights to preserve the individual rights of the Virginia citizens.  It was adopted in convention June 12, 1776.

When the colonies became independent from Britain’s rule the members of Congress were having trouble governing the newly independent states.  A federal convention was called in Philadelphia and George Mason agreed to attend as Virginia’s delegate.  From mid-May to mid-September 1787 delegates worked to write our Constitution.  George Mason delivered over 125 speeches during the convention and was regarded as one of the primary architects of the Constitution.    However, once the Constitution was completed Mason was one of three delegates who refused to sign the finished document because there was no Bill of Rights included in it.  He felt that the proposed federal government would diminish the rights of the individual citizen.  Our Bill of Rights came at a later date and the wording is very similar to the Virginia Bill of Rights written by Mason.
George Mason married sixteen year old Ann Eilbeck, they were married 23 years.  She bore him 12 children, nine survived.  Ann died at the age of 39 (I think I know why).  Gunston Hall was constructed as their home between 1755 and 1759.
Louis Hertle was the last private owner of Gunston Hall.  He purchased it in 1912 and began restoration of it in 1913.  Upon his death in 1949 the estate was presented to the Commonwealth of Virginia and the renovation has continued.
Gunston Hall was once a 5500 acre tobacco and wheat plantation.  Today it totals 550 acres.  The home is a prime example of Georgian architecture.

You approach Gunston Hall by way of a long driveway flanked on both sides by magnolia trees.
The entry hall was constructed to impress visitors continuing the Georgian style of the outside of the house.  Looking down the stairs into the entry hall.  The “public” side with a parlor and dining room is on the left.  The “private” or family side is on the right and consists of the master bedroom and Mason’s office plus the back stairway used by family and servants to get to the seven bedrooms on the second floor.

I was impressed with the hinges on the front door.

And the stairway detail.

Right now most of the furnishings are out of the house anticipating a roof repair in September.  Because of that we were able to actually walk into the rooms and take pictures of the architecture instead of just looking at it from a doorway.  Having everyone in the room made it pretty difficult to take a picture of the room as a whole, but I could get some pretty good pictures of the details of the rooms.

The parlor is the most elegant room in the house.  It is done in the Palladian style.
There was lots of gold gilding plus red silk/damask wall coverings.
The guide said that there were four styles of architecture used to complete the house, something rare in England and practically unheard of in the Colonies.  I can remember three styles she mentioned but the fourth escapes me.
The dining room where Mason’s friends and colleagues Washington, Jefferson and Madison were entertained is done in Chinoiserie or “Chinese-style” architecture which was just coming into style in England so it was pretty cutting edge here.  It’s pretty awesome to know that you are standing in the same room that those famous men stood in over 250 years before.

This is a view of the garden from the porch at the back of the entry hall.  This porch was originally the “front porch” because it faces the river.  Later when the popular mode of travel changed from the river to land the other side of the house became the front.

This is a picture of Mason’s office and the desk where he wrote the Virginia Bill of Rights.

Notice the detail on the shelving in the closets of his office.
In the master bedroom an expensive green glaze was chosen.  One of the women in our group recognized it as “colonial green”.  Definitely not my taste but evidently it was the thing to have in colonial times.
The closet in the master bedroom held the family’s most precious items for the table under lock and key.
The back stairway is narrow and curved, making you wonder how the servants made the many trips up and down during the day.  I bet those chamber pots were a challenge.

Upstairs four of the seven bedrooms had fireplaces and some of the better furnishings.

The other three bedroom were sparser.  That is a mousetrap to the left of the bed.

This is a picture of the gardens from an upstairs window.  The gardens are still being renovated, I can picture very formal gardens.

Just outside the main house are the kitchen, dairy storage and wash house.

This is a view of the Potomac from the gardens. 

Some of the boxwood in the garden are over 250 years old.

This school house is where all of the Mason children were educated.  The teacher lived in quarters upstairs.

I usually don’t buy items from gift shops but I couldn’t resist these bayberry candles.  I love bayberry candles for Christmas and it is really hard to find them anymore.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Virginia, Alexandria - Sunday, August 24, 2014 - Old Town Alexandria, VA

We met up with Robyn, Jason and Maddie to stroll through Old Town this afternoon.  This morning started out cool in the mid-60’s but by this afternoon it ended up getting pretty hot.
Alexandria was named for the family of John Alexander, A Virginia planter who acquired the tract in 1669.  George Washington frequented the town.  Robert E. Lee claimed it as his boyhood home.  In 1946 Alexandria created the third historic district in the United States to protect its 18th and 19th century buildings.

We basically stayed on King Street this afternoon.  A lot of other people had the same idea and it was pretty crowded today, but I did manage to get pictures of some interesting buildings.

The temperature was a little bit cooler around the fountain.  Maddie was disappointed that none of the grown-ups had any change for her to throw in the fountain.

I thought this was interesting – the sign, not the guy running.

This cobblestone street is a block off of King Street.  It runs right to the river so I think a lot of the ship’s captains had homes along this street.  I'm sure this view would be a lot better without the modern day cars.

The harbor was a destination for a lot of people today.
Maddie has a birthday coming up and the theme of the party is "pirate princess".  So, she has been practicing her pirate lingo by placing a spoon up to one eye (for her patch) and growling "arrrrrr Ladies".  She doesn't have the concept of mateys down yet.  As we are walking around the harbor today a lady is coming toward us wearing a black eye patch.  Robyn and I are just holding our breath waiting for an "arrrrr Ladies" to come from Maddie.  Luckily she was looking the other way when the lady passed us.
Obviously, someone more important than us was at the harbor.  We couldn't tell what flag they were flying, but we know it wasn't a U.S. flag.

There is a wedding going on in the gazebo to the left.

There was a good breeze for this sailboat today.

We stopped at a Mexican restaurant in Old Town, food was good but I can't remember the name of the restaurant.  Maddie's kids menu item came with ice cream for dessert.  When the waitress came to ask if she was ready for her ice cream she said, "no, I want to see the menu".

We were parked in front of this house which was built for investment by George Washington in 1797.  I think this was on Pitt Street.