The George Washington Birthplace National Monument, located in Colonial Beach, Virginia, memorializes the Washington homestead. First bought by George Washington’s grandfather and expanded over time, the park consists of 367 acres in Northern Virginia. Turned over to the National Park Service in 1932, the Monument stands to honor the memory of the first president of the United States. Today's visitor can partake in the charm of the property, while learning about life in colonial America.
It is important to note that the house Washington was born in burned in 1779. Although the house present is not the one George Washington was born in, it is based on wealthy plantation homes during the period. In the 1920s and '30s, much of the property was rebuilt, like Colonial Williamsburg. As such, the home is grander than what the Washington's would have lived in for the first three years of George’s life. For the visitor hoping for a typical plantation tour, this is not the site for you. Given the site's historical challenges, rangers discuss the choices made in the creation of the site alongside known facts. Images of the creators stand alongside the historical furnishings, allowing the visitor to engage the historical inaccuracies and inconsistencies between the documentation and the property itself.
Perhaps one of the greatest weaknesses of the site is it’s silence on the contributions of the enslaved population who once lived on the property. Given the prominence of slavery in tobacco country, this silence is troubling. While there is some information available on the park’s website, the hands that shaped the property are ignored for the prominence of George. The website suggests that the park will expand the exhibits dedicated to these unidentified laborers in the future.
Grounds are open most of the year, although hours are seasonal. Tours of the house are available at no cost each hour, and the grounds are a peaceful place to pass an hour or two. With several lovely views of the Chesapeake Bay and trails surrounding the house, it is a must stop for those in the region. The rangers who staff the property are helpful, friendly, and ready to provide information and answer questions. Hours are seasonal, and tour information is available at https://www.nps.gov/gewa.
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Kate is a museum professional located in the United States. She works seasonally as a Museum Technician for the National Park Service at sites like Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park and Everglades National Park. Kate holds a BA in History from Geneva College, and a MA in History (concentrating in Museum Studies) from Appalachian State University. She firmly believes that the museums are the best kept secrets of the National Park Service, and loves sharing those secrets with others. Kate can be found on Twitter at @KatyB94511.