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George Washington’s Mount Vernon undergoes restoration

A historic landmark in Fairfax County is getting presidential treatment, though it will require visitors and tourists to walk under scaffolding for a while.

The first U.S. president’s Mount Vernon plantation is undergoing a restoration on the eastern side of the mansion.

Exterior work to preserve the home began in late March and could finish this fall. Crews are closely replicating the look that George Washington wanted, where the exterior resembles sand blocks but is actually wood covered in sand and paint.

“It’s essentially the same process that Washington had because he wanted a house that looked like stone, but it’s all wood,” Mount Vernon President and CEO Doug Bradburn said. “The boards would be cut to look like stone blocks.”

Work on the west side, where the main entrance is located, occurred in 2019, and the other sides underwent restoration in 2021.

“This east side is the most complicated,” Bradburn said. “We’ll do the interior later in the year.”

Matt Briney, Mount Vernon’s vice president of media and communications, said the work is funded through ticket sales, retail sales, donations and memberships.

The destination typically draws over 1 million visitors per year, but the COVID-19 pandemic led the site to close for 99 days in early 2020.

Mount Vernon saw 384,000 visits that year, around 450,000 in 2021, and could reach 500,000 or 600,000 this year, Briney said.

The site always sees a three-year recovery from dips over a century’s worth of data, he said.

To help boost the tourism sector, public and private sector partnerships have launched a digital marketing pass for discounts to Mount Vernon and other destinations in southern Fairfax County.

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