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Attractions and Historic Sites Near Washington, D.C.
Frederick Douglass Home: 1411 w St SE. This is the former home of the famous black abolitionist, orator, diplomat, essayist and auditor of the Treasury. Daily 9-4 PM.

Gunston Hall Plantation: Located on the Potomac River, 14 miles south of Mount Vernon. This is the former home of George Mason, father of the Bill of Rights. See the 1775 Georgian-style mansion, original boxwood gardens, reconstructed kitchen yard and wooded nature trail. Daily 9:30-5 PM.

Hillwood: 4155 Linnean Av NW This is the former home of Marjorie Merriweather Post. It provides a unique opportunity to view varied works of 18th-19th century Russian and French decorative art. The grounds include landscaped French and Japanese gardens and smaller museums. Daily except Tue and Sun. Call for house-tour reservations. No reservations are required to visit the gardens. Gift Shop and café.

Mount Vernon: One can almost feel the presence of George Washington at Mount Vernon. The stately pillared portico reflects the quiet dignity of our first President... and there's a wonderful view of the Potomac River over the wide, sweeping lawns. The grounds are beautiful and contain many trees planted by Washington himself. Mount Vernon was Washington's home from 1754 until his death here in 1799. The house contains the bed in which he died and clothing and other articles belonging to him and Martha. To visit the home, small groups are ushered from room to room, each of which is staffed by a guide who describes the furnishings and answers any questions. Tours of the sprawling grounds are self-guided. A path leads to the tombs of Washington and Martha... as well as to a memorial where slaves were buried in unmarked graves.

Williamsburg: Originally called Middle Plantation, Williamsburg was first settled in 1633 by colonists from Jamestown. In 1698 the Statehouse at Jamestown was burned, and the legislators decided to move the capitol to this location... changing its name to Williamsburg in honor of King William III of England. It remained the capital of the colony (and later the state), until 1780 when the capital was moved to Richmond. The restored historic area covers some 173 acres. The center is about 1 mile long with the College of William and Mary (designed by Chris Wren) on the west end, and the Capitol on the east end. There are nearly 500 preserved, restored, or rebuilt houses, shops, taverns, public buildings in the area. Major structures are the Govenors's Palace, the Capitol, the Magazine, Guardhouse, Bruton Parish Church, Courthouse and the Wren Building. The newest reconstruction is the Public Hospital, which in 1773 was the first institution in America, which was devoted exclusively to treating the mentally ill. While in Williamsburg, do visit the craftshops. Here the artisans will explain their trades and demonstrate the 18th century methods and skills of making their products. Among the ships are those demonstrating spinning, weaving, corn meal, furniture making, wigs, wrought iron, printing... and do make a purchase of fresh gingerbread. Just follow the smell. You can also mail a letter from the reconstructed first Virginia Post Office. One needs a full day for Williamsburg.

Yorktown: This is the town where George Washington accepted the surrender of Lord Cornwallis to end the Revolutionary War. The Visitor's Center features a short orientation film, exhibits, and a special over-look of the battlefield. On a self-guided tour of the grounds, you'll see the site of Washington's headquarters, siege lines and redoubts, and the Moore House where American, French and British officers met to draft the terms of surrender. There's also the home of Thomas Nelson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Check the walls around the home... there are still cannon balls wedged in them. Towering over the grounds is the 95-foot Victory Monument, which salutes the centennial of the battle.

Jamestown: Located on the James River, Jamestown is the first permanent English-speaking colony settled in the New World. Begin your stop here at the Visitor's Center, and then walk around the grounds. See the 103-foot Obelish that was built in 1907 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Jamestown... statues of John Smith and Pocahontas, the Memorial Cross, which marks the graves of the 300 settlers who died during the severe winter of 1609-10. An old church tower, which is now only a shell, is the only 17th century structure still standing. At the Glasshouse where the first industry was begun in America, glassblowers demonstrate their craft. If time permits, visit Jamestown Festival Park with replicas of the 3 ships, which brought the settlers here, and a re-created James Fort of 1607...and a reproduction of Chief Powhatan's lodge, and a re-created Indian Village of the times.

Monticello: Thomas Jefferson's domed mansion is set in the countryside outside the city of Charlottesville. It was his 41-year labor of love. He said, "All my wishes end where I hope, my days will end - at Monticello". This is where he died and he is buried on the grounds. The 3-story building had 35 rooms, but looks more modest because 12 of those rooms are in the basement. The mansion is crammed with Jeffersonian invent-ions. There's a tightly-winding staircase, just 2411 wide, a revolving door with shelves to serve dishes from the kitchen, a dumb-waiter built into the side of the dining room fireplace to hoist wines from the cellar, and a unique 7-day clock over the entry door that uses cannonballs for counter-weights and registers hours as well as the day of the week. The house commands a view of the rolling Virginia countryside. Be sure and visit the small cemetery because all of Jefferson's descendants are entitled to be buried here. And since we now know there are many black descendants, one wonders where they'll all fit.

Charlottesville: This city was named for Queen Charlotte, wife of George 111. However, However, the spirit that lives here is that of Thomas Jefferson. His crowning achievement, the University of Virginia is here... with classical pavilions, sweeping lawns and gardens... and overall one of the country's architectural treasures. Jefferson modeled it after the Pantheon in Rome. One other President, James Monroe, lived in Charlottesville. His "cabin castle"... called Ash Lawn was built here because of his friendship with Jefferson. It was bequeathed in 1974 to the College of William and Mary. Near Charlottesville is the historic Michie Tavern-Museum. It was built by Patrick Henry's father on a popular stagecoach route to accommodate the many travelers. There is a self-guided tour. Nearby are the Meadow Run Grist Mill, a general store and tavern. The tavern is a converted to a log cabin used over 200 years ago as a slave house but today it serves the best lunch in the area. 20 miles northeast of Charlottesville, at Montpelier, is the estate of President James Madison. It is open to visitors. And you are also able to visit the graves of James, Dolley, his mother, father and other relatives.

Shenandoah Valley: In the western portion of Virginia, between the Blue Ridge on the east and the Alleghenies to the west, is the extensive Shenandoah... a land of spacious farms, orchards, pastures and forests... and breadth-taking color during the Fall Season. As a young man, George Washington came here on surveying and military expeditions. Later, the Shenandoah became an anvil on which tragic events in the destiny of the American Republic were forged.

Harper's Ferry: Here, the present co-exists harmoniously with historic remembrances of great people and dramatic events in American History. In 1859, a fanatical abolitionist, John Brown and a small band of followers carried out an abortive raid on the U.S. Arsenal in an attempt to forment a struggle to liberate the slaves. His strategy failed, and Brown was captured, brought to trial for treason, and hanged in nearby Charlestown. At the time of his execution, 1500 troops were stationed around the gallows. Other historic towns nearby: Winchester, Staunton, Lexington.

Gettysburg: This is the site of the decisive Civil War battles of 1863... the same year that Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous speech at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery. A drive thru the old cemetery is very interesting. There's also a good museum and Visitor's Center. Nearby is the home and farm of Dwight D. Eisenhower, left exactly as it was upon Mamie's death. Very interesting.

Lancaster: The heart of the "Pennsylvania Dutch"... and the Amish and Mennonites sects. They're much more "commercial" than one would expect.

Valley Forge: This is the camp where Washington and his troops endured the harsh winter of 1777-78. Washington's Headquarters is worth a short stop.
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Author of this article is Gene Gill. For more information visit his website: Gene Gill Miniatures.
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