Synopses & Reviews
George Washington's Mount Vernon
brings together--for the first time--the details of Washington's 45-year endeavor to build and perfect Mount Vernon. In doing so it introduces us to a Washington few of his contemporaries knew, and one little noticed by historians since.
Here we meet the planter/patriot who also genuinely loved building, a man passionately human in his desire to impress on his physical surroundings the stamp of his character and personal beliefs. As chief architect and planner of the countless changes made at Mount Vernon over the years, Washington began by imitating accepted models of fashionable taste, but as time passed he increasingly followed his own ideas. Hence, architecturally, as the authors show, Mount Vernon blends the orthodox and the innovative in surprising ways, just as the new American nation would. Equally interesting is the light the book sheds on the process of building at Mount Vernon, and on the people--slave and free--who did the work. Washington was a demanding master, and in their determination to preserve their own independence his workers often clashed with him. Yet, as the Dalzells argue, that experience played a vital role in shaping his hopes for the future of American society--hope that embraced in full measure the promise of the revolution in which he had led his fellow citizens.
George Washington's Mount Vernon thus compellingly combines the two sides of Washington's life--the public and the private--and uses the combination to enrich our understanding of both. Gracefully written, with more than 80 photographs, maps, and engravings, the book tells a fascinating story with memorable insight.
"George Washington's Mount Vernon, the husband-and-wife collaboration of Robert and Lee Dalzell, is a lovely book...as much about the builder, the foremost Founding Father, as abour his house. There are insights in it about the character of George Washington that don't emerge from the rest of the Washington literature, vast as the corpus is." Eric L. McKitrick, The New York Review of Books
"Washington left no formal memoir of either his public or private life, but [the authors] find Washington's personal history writ large in the home he loved so much. Rich in detail mined from Washington's personal papers, this beautifully illustrated volume chronicles not only the architectural facts of Mount Vernon, but also the human ones, most especially Washington's complicated relationship with his slaves...a superb history." Publishers Weekly
"The definitive study of Mount Vernon, long overdue for the place that's been a seeding ground for ideals of American independence." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Robert F. Dalzell, Jr.
is Ephraim Williams Professor of American History at Williams College and the author of Enterprising Elite: The Boston Associates and the World They Made
and Daniel Webster and the Trial of American Nationalism, 1843-1852
Lee Baldwin Dalzell is the Head of the Reference Department at the Williams College Library.