Mount Vernon Magazine Spring 2020 editionGod and Country
Portrait of President & CEO Doug Bradburn

From the President

I hope this issue finds you enjoying the blessings of family and fellowship during this season of thanksgiving.

We are thankful for many things here at Mount Vernon. We are thankful for our active and generous supporters, whose loyalty helped the organization through this challenging time. We are thankful that we have not lost a step with our major initiatives in preservation and education. And we are thankful for the hundreds of thousands of visitors this spring and summer who came to learn and be inspired by stories of the nation’s founding.

We are particularly thankful for the selfless service of our Regent, Sarah Coulson, who is stepping down as chair of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association Board after five years of critical leadership. She faced unprecedented challenges, including a historic viewshed fight and the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to her grit and grace under pressure, Mount Vernon remains as strong as ever.

We are thankful that Margaret Hartman Nichols, Vice Regent for Maine, will serve as the 23rd Regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union. See the News section for an article on her.

This issue launches an important campaign for Mount Vernon, the largest in the history of the MVLA. The $150-million Strengthening Our Foundations campaign will allow us to achieve critical preservation goals, ensure that George Washington remains first in the hearts of Americans, and strengthen our financial base to ensure our mission continues well into the future. The culmination of the campaign will enable us to present a rejuvenated icon as a fitting birthday gift to the nation in 2026—the 250th anniversary of American independence.

I am always grateful for a holiday centered on food! This edition of the magazine offers a taste of the feasts and foodways at Mount Vernon. The Washingtons famously played host to thousands of guests. What was it like to enjoy the hospitality of the Washingtons’ dining table? The story by associate curator Jessie MacLeod lets us pull up a chair and find out. From culinary historian Michael W. Twitty, we explore the African influences on American cuisine—innovations experienced at Mount Vernon in the 18th century.

George Washington was considered one of the best farmers in America. He implemented innovative farming practices drawn from experts throughout the colonies and Europe. He made an early switch from tobacco to wheat, rotated crops, employed fertilizers, built a state-of-the-art gristmill, and established one of the nation’s largest distilleries.

Today, our expert horticulture team ensures Mount Vernon’s 18th-century gardens continue to offer their bounty to new generations. George Washington’s Gristmill, originally built 250 years ago in 1771, produces, with expertise from the historic trades team, various grains for sale and use at Mount Vernon, including grits, cornmeal, and pancake flour. South Carolina baker Justin Cherry, a 2019 Washington Library research fellow and author of the feature on Washington’s fields and gardens, often works with Mount Vernon to transform heirloom grains into extraordinary breads, pies, and cakes.

I know you will agree this is the most delicious edition of the magazine yet! And I look forward to seeing you soon at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.


Douglas Bradburn



Campaign update, Washington Prize winner, new Regent term begins, and more Read

Focus on Philanthropy

Inspired by the mission of the women who saved Mount Vernon, Lynn and Scott Molitor pledge their support. Read

Object Spotlight

A recently acquired copper pan may have served up delectable Dutch treats at the estate.  Read

Washington in the Classroom

How one California teacher dishes history, economics, and science through a culinary education. Read

Research at Mount Vernon

Protected from the winter extremes, citrus trees, palms, jasmine, and aloe thrived at Mount Vernon.  Read

Featured Photo

A circa 1930s menu from the Little Hatchet Inn tells of the tastes of the time. Read

Shows of Support

The Spirit of Mount Vernon raises record funds on its milestone anniversary. Plus The Lifeguard Society’s Fall fundraiser. Read


Person holding chickpeas

The Source

The records are sparse on the foodways of the enslaved at Mount Vernon and in colonial Virginia. To fill in the blanks, take a journey to the Senegambia.

The upper garden in bloom

In the Garden

The seeds of many of today’s culinary trends were planted in George Washington’s garden.

A set of fine china

Kitchen Confidential

Hoecake breakfasts, punctual dinners, post-prandial Madeiras, and other details about dining at Mount Vernon.



...impress it on the gardener to have every thing in his garden that will be nessary [sic] in the House keeping way as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country...

—  Martha Washington to Fanny Bassett Washington,
July 1, 1792