Here at MissPres, we love to categorize and organize buildings–by style, building type, architect, builder, time period, you name it! So you can imagine how excited I was when a friend sent me a link to a crowdsource project that Mount Vernon (yes, THE Mount Vernon) is undertaking to create a map of Mount Vernon replicas around the . . . I started to say “country” but in fact, from the map, I see that for some reason Canada boasts at least two Mount Vernon replicas. Go figure.
Mount Vernon Everywhere!
George Washington might have designed Mount Vernon’s piazza as an ideal place to enjoy his beautiful view of the Potomac, but generations of Americans after him copied the long porch for purposes he could never have imagined. Houses, motels, college buildings, banks, restaurants, and even funeral homes sport Mount Vernon’s iconic piazza, its red-white-green color scheme, asymmetrical west elevation, three-part organization, or cupola. By duplicating or interpreting these highly recognizable features in contemporary architecture, business and homeowners tie their “replicas” – and themselves – to George Washington, American history, patriotism, and tradition.
As you zoom into the map, notice that Mississippi has no pins yet. You can fix that problem by finding local Mount Vernons and submitting them to the Mount Vernon webmaster on an easy online form here.
I have two possibilities in mind to submit, both in Jackson. The most obvious is the Belhaven estate now known as Fairview Inn, with its two-story piazza and three dormers. It was built in 1909 and designed by a Chicago architectural firm, Spencer & Powers.
Fairview’s piazza has fancy Corinthian columns instead of the paneled wooden piers of the original. Notice also that it has the Chippendale roof balustrade that was on Mount Vernon in the early 20th century but was removed in 1936 from The Real MV as not accurate to the Washington period. According to Lydia Brandt, author of First in the Homes of His Countrymen: George Washington’s Mount Vernon in the American Imagination (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2016), the Chippendale railing was almost as popular as the piazza.
Sometimes, buildings recalled Mount Vernon with only a Chinese Chippendale railing on a roof or porch. Such railings became shorthand for referencing Washington’s home even though the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association had removed the one that topped the house’s piazza in 1936, when it confirmed that the feature dated to after Washington’s lifetime. The railing had appeared in nearly seventy-five years of photographs of Mount Vernon by the 1950s and Americans continued associating it with the building.
That railing on a much smaller version of the piazza is what apparently qualified this one-story house in Jackson’s Woodland Hills neighborhood as a “Modern Mt. Vernon Home” in a 1940 real estate ad.
Unfortunately, Google streetview confirms why I can’t remember seeing this house even though I’ve walked Ridge Drive a number of times. It appears the modern Mt. Vernon has been replaced by a c.2000 French chateau. :-(
But still, I’ll send in both of these to the Mount Vernon website, and the rest of you can help fill in the gaps in Mississippi–a fun activity for the whole family during the holidays!