George Washington Birthplace National Monument

Coordinates: 38°11′8″N 76°54′59″W / 38.18556°N 76.91639°W / 38.18556; -76.91639
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George Washington Birthplace National Monument
Map showing the location of George Washington Birthplace National Monument
Map showing the location of George Washington Birthplace National Monument
Map showing the location of George Washington Birthplace National Monument
Map showing the location of George Washington Birthplace National Monument
LocationWestmoreland County, Virginia, U.S.
Nearest cityColonial Beach, Virginia, U.S.
Coordinates38°11′8″N 76°54′59″W / 38.18556°N 76.91639°W / 38.18556; -76.91639
Area661.7 acres (267.8 ha)[1]
EstablishedJanuary 23, 1930 (1930-January-23)
Visitors130,647 (in 2011)[2]
Governing bodyNational Park Service
WebsiteGeorge Washington Birthplace National Monument
George Washington Birthplace National Monument
NRHP reference No.66000850[3]
VLR No.096-0026
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966
Designated VLROctober 18, 1983[4]

The George Washington Birthplace National Monument is a national monument in Westmoreland County, Virginia, at the confluence of Popes Creek and the Potomac River. It commemorates the birthplace location of George Washington, a Founding Father and the first President of the United States, who was born here on February 22, 1732. Washington lived at the residence until age three and later returned to live there as a teenager.


Foundation outline in the foreground marking Washington's birthplace near the memorial house (right rear)
Wakefield Popes Creek Estate, Washington's birthplace
Map of George Washington's birthplace

17th–18th centuries[edit]

John Washington, George Washington's great-grandfather, settled this plantation in 1657 at the original property on Bridges Creek.[5] The family acquired expanded land to the south toward nearby Popes Creek.

Prior to 1718, the first section of the house was built. His father enlarged it between 1722–1726. He added on to it by the mid-1770s, making a ten-room house known as "Wakefield". This house, which George Washington in 1792 would describe as "the ancient mansion seat,"[6] was destroyed by fire and flood on Christmas Day 1779, and never rebuilt.[7]

George Washington was born in the house on February 22, 1732. Thirty-two graves of Washington family members have been found at the Bridges Creek cemetery plot, including George's half-brother, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

Washington's father cultivated tobacco on his several plantations, as his ancestors had done.

19th century[edit]

In 1858, the Commonwealth of Virginia acquired the property to preserve the homesite and cemetery. In 1882, however, Virginia donated the land to the federal government following the Civil War.

20th century[edit]

The Wakefield National Memorial Association was formed in 1923 to restore the property. In 1930, the grounds were authorized by Congress as a U.S. National Monument. In 1931, the Wakefield Association received a grant from John D. Rockefeller Jr., to acquire and transfer a total of 394 acres (1.59 km2) of land to the Federal government.

Since the exact appearance of the original Washington family home is not known, a Memorial House was designed by Edward Donn Jr., representing similar buildings of the era; it was constructed on the approximate site in 1931. The actual location of Washington's boyhood home is adjacent to the memorial house and its foundation is outlined in the ground by crushed oyster shells.

The Memorial House represents a typical tobacco plantation of the period of the original's construction. The Memorial House is constructed of bricks handmade from local clay. It has a central hallway and four rooms on each floor, furnished in the 1730–1750 period style by the Wakefield National Memorial Association. Furnishings include an 18th-century tea table believed to have been in the original house. Most of the other furnishings are more than 200 years old.[7] At the entrance to the grounds, now maintained and operated by the National Park Service, is a Memorial Shaft obelisk of Vermont marble; it is a one-tenth scale replica of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.

The park and Memorial House were opened by the National Park Service in 1932, on the 200th anniversary of George Washington's birth.

21st century[edit]

Blacksmith shop
Artifacts at Visitors Center

In the 21st century, the Monument is part of the National Park Service's ongoing efforts to interpret historical resources.[8] In addition to the Memorial House, park facilities open to visitors include the historic birthplace home area, Kitchen House, hiking trails, and picnic grounds. In the Kitchen House, costumed re-enactors demonstrate candle- and soap-making.[7]

A colonial herb and flower garden has been planted with herbs and flowers common to Washington's time,[7] including thyme, sage, basil, and flowers such as hollyhocks, forget-me-nots, and roses. Typical trees and bushes of Washington's time have also been added to the landscaping. The Colonial Living Farm has a barn and pasture and raises livestock, poultry, and crops that were typical in the 18th century and using farming methods that were common at the time.

Visitors may also tour the Washington family Burial Ground, which contains the graves of 32 members of the Washington family, including George Washington's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Replicas of two original gravestones are visible, along with five memorial tablets placed here in the 1930s.

The Visitors' Center contains artifacts recovered from the burned-down Washington house, including a bowl, clay figurine, wine bottle seal belonging to Augustine Washington, wine bottle, and keyhole plate.

A 15-minute film depicting Washington family life is shown in a theater at the Visitors' Center.


The Memorial House interior – the tea table is from the original house

The George Washington Birthplace National Monument is 38 miles (61 km) east of Fredericksburg, Virginia, located on the Northern Neck. It can be reached via VA Route 204, the access road to the site from VA State Route 3.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Listing of acreage – December 31, 2011" (XLSX). Land Resource Division, National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-14. (National Park Service Acreage Reports)
  2. ^ "NPS Annual Recreation Visits Report". National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
  3. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010. Retrieved 2013-07-16.
  4. ^ "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  5. ^ Marquis, A.N. Company. Who's Who In America, vol. 1:Historical Volume (1607-1896), revised ed., Marquis, A.N. Company., 1967.
  6. ^ Washington, George, Writings, XXXII, p. 29
  7. ^ a b c d George Washington Birthplace, National Park Service brochure (1999)
  8. ^ Seth C. Bruggeman, Here, George Washington Was Born: Memory, Material Culture, and the Public History of a National Monument (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008).
  • Gary W. Ferris (1999), Presidential Places

External links[edit]