Mount Vernon’s Hidden Entrance

Mount Vernon is located just south of us, right down the aptly named George Washington Parkway. Visitors to Mount Vernon pass through the main entrance, beyond which – and out of sight – lie the mansion, out buildings, and gardens.

There’s a great 30-mile-loop bike ride from Old Town we frequently use that passes by Mount Vernon as the route continues to the turnaround point in Yacht Haven, so we encounter the estate’s entrance several times a month.

However, the ride also passes by a different portal into the estate that tourists have no idea even exists: the overlooked West Gate.

Mount Vernon’s West Gate is located at the opposite end of the estate and off the parkway itself. The Google Earth image below shows the main entrance to Mount Vernon on the right (at the base of the roundabout) and the West Gate indicated by the red dot on the left.

The gate lies along an unassuming stretch of the appropriately monikered Old Mount Vernon Road at its intersection with Old Mill Road:

The trajectory of Old Mill Road would continue straight through to the mansion, if not for the gate:

Beyond which lies Mount Vernon itself,

From the site regarding traveling to Mount Vernon when George and Martha still occupied the estate: “Since the wharf on the Potomac River was reserved almost exclusively for deliveries, most of George Washington’s visitors arrived overland, on roads and paths that meandered past the fields and pastures surrounding the Mansion Farm House. Washington places a premium on first impressions. Visitors first sighted the Mansion from what is now known as the west gate. From there, they were afforded a “visto”, or view, of the west face of the Mansion, in front of which were cleared land and rolling hills for about seven-tenths of a mile.”

This 18th-century “visto” still exists, under the radar, and unknown to the tourists piling out of buses and filing into the main entrance:

Brief information on the West Gate right inside the barrier:

Definitely worth a look the next time you’re riding (or driving) near Mount Vernon:

Categories: Alexandria History, Maps and Miscellany, WolfeStreetProject | Leave a comment

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