On the 14th I visited Gen. Washington’s country-seat of Mt. Vernon, on the river below Alexandria, and left not a corner of house or grounds unexamin’d. It were trite to speak in detail of this well-known scene, but I may mention that the house was built in 1743 by Lawrence Washington, half-brother to the General, and that the latter inherited it in 1752, upon the death of Lawrence and his daughter. It was call’d Hunting Creek Estate till its builder renam’d it in honour of Admiral Vernon, the inventor of “grog”, under whom he had serv’d against Spain. The house is low and spacious, most of the rooms being rather smaller than one wou’d expect in an edifice of such pretensions. The grounds, sloping down from a high bluff to the river with many a wooded ravine and willow-lin’d path, display the finest taste in selection. Stables and other outbuildings comport with the mansion house in style and beauty; the whole forming as sightly a plantation as any gentleman in Virginia cou’d reasonably demand. The elegance of the lower rooms, in point of architectural ornament, is carry’d almost to excess; but the upper rooms are singularly austere. I beheld the bed upon which the General dy’d, together with innumerable other objects connected with him. In walking thro’ the grounds I came upon his tomb, and stood but a few feet from the body (in its sarcophagus beyond the grating) which even now must bear some resemblance to the living gentleman, so perfectly was it embalm’d. In the 1830’s, when it was transferr’d from its original resting-place on the river bluff to this mausoleum, a person who gaz’d upon the features declar’d them but little impaired by the more than three decades of internment. I descended to the river, view’d all the buildings, and in general familiaris’d myself with the whole estate. I cannot praise it too highly, or hope too strongly that it may always be preserv’d with unremitting diligence as a specimen of good architecture and ideal type of southern gentleman’s seat.
DESCRIPTION: In his essay “Observations on Several Parts of America,” Lovecraft describes his trip to Mount Vernon, one of many historic sites he visited during the summer of 1928.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Observations on Several Parts of America.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 4, Hippocampus Press, 2005, pp. 16-30.