Harrison Howell Dodge

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Harrison Howell Dodge (March 31, 1852 – May 20, 1937) was the third resident superintendent of George Washington's estate at Mount Vernon. During his 52 years overseeing the estate, he doubled the facility's acreage, improved the grounds and added many historic artifacts to the collections there.


Dodge was born on March 31, 1852, in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Columbian College, which was later renamed George Washington University.[1] After graduating from college, Dodge worked in the Wall Street banking house of Jay Cooke & Company, until that firmed collapsed in the Panic of 1873. He returned to Washington, D.C., where he spent 1874 indexing the Congressional Record. He worked from 1874 to 1877 with commissioners of a sinking fund and at Riggs & Co. from 1877 to 1885.[1]


In 1885, he was appointed as the third resident superintendent by the regents of The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association and as postmaster of Mount Vernon by President of the United States Grover Cleveland and was reappointed as postmaster by successive Presidents until his death.[2][1] Dodge reviewed George Washington's writings about the estate, visited other Colonial-era gardens, and traveled to England to see gardens there dating from the Georgian period. Using this knowledge, Dodge oversaw the restoration of the site and put in place a number of improvements that Washington had planned but never implemented.[2] Dodge and then-assistant superintendent Charles Wall, who had been hired in 1929, rotated turns sleeping as guard in the manor house.[3]

Dodge's 1932 book Mount Vernon: Its Owner and Its Story, with an introduction by Owen Wister, told many stories about Washington and his home, including details of a mechanical roasting spit that Washington had designed and of finding a pocket-knife that had belonged to Washington in his youth. The knife was said to have played a role at Valley Forge in convincing the General to continue as leader of the Continental Army in one of its darkest days.[4] George Washington University recognized Harrison Howell Dodge in 1931 with an honorary LL.D. degree.[2]

Dodge died at age 85 on May 20, 1937, at Garfield Hospital in Washington, D.C. He was survived by his wife, the former Elizabeth Knowlton, as well as by two of his four daughters.[1][2] He was succeeded as resident superintendent in 1937 by Wall, who continued many of the improvements to the grounds and buildings that Dodge had initiated.[5][6] He is buried in the cemetery of Pohick Church, at which he served for many years as vestryman.[7]