WASHINGTON — Torrential rains last week caused over $1 million in damage at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, but the historic site has remained open as crews work on repairs.
Heavy rains Friday evening — more than 5 and 1/2 inches of rain in about a 45-minute period — washed away paths, flooded some areas of the estate and caused a small mudslide that wiped out part of a historic wall.
“None of the historic or modern buildings thankfully were damaged,” said estate president Curt Viebranz said. “But the landscape suffered a significant amount of damage.”
The rain-triggered mudslide Friday knocked out about 75-100 feet of the historic wall on the estate’s East Lawn that sits between the mansion and the Potomac River. “And the mud actually ran down all the way to the Potomac,” Viebranz said.
Viebranz said the wall has been in place at least since 1799 which was the year of Washington’s death. There have been mudslides on the property before but not as forceful as this one, he said, and they’ve always happened below the brick wall. The wall has been repaired many times over the years, but there are bricks that date back to 1799.
The estate’s South Lane, which is the path down to Washington’s tomb, was also wiped out in the heavy rains and is currently closed.
There are a few other areas cordoned off to visitors. “But we’re open for business,” Viebranz said.
As part of the $1 million price tag, Viebranz said crews will be upgrading drainage around the estate to protect infrastructure against future storms, which are becoming more frequent.
“They’re not really rare occurrences anymore,” he said.
Most people don’t realize that the Mount Vernon Estate is private and does not accept government funding, he said. “We don’t take any government support,” Viebranz said.
The Mount Vernon Ladies Association, the first national historic preservation organization in the U.S., rescued the home from potential disrepair in the 1850s and took on the responsibility for its upkeep.
Viebranz said the group will have to raise money to cover the cost for the one-time storm-related repairs.
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