Mount Vernon Unveils Restoration of ‘New Room'

Historians had long called the biggest room in George Washington's Mount Vernon estate "the Large Dining Room." Where else would the first president hold his meals except in the most auspicious room?

It turns out they were wrong.

Mount Vernon historians discovered last year that the room George and Martha Washington referred to as the "new room" was actually a multi-purpose salon (or sitting room) created to entertain guests. Armed with this new information, curators took the no-longer-a-dining-room through one of Mount Vernon's largest restoration projects.

Mount Vernon unveiled the "New Room" March 21 after a massive restoration project that lasted more than a year, according to the estate.

The room had been closed off for the $600,000 restoration project since January 2013, but has now reopened to the public. During the project, crews replaced the paint with historically accurate colors and designs, as well as cleaned and repaired the architectural ornaments and replaced the wallpaper.

They also removed the dining table and rearranged the artwork adorning the walls into a gallery style.

The ceiling cove, which had been painted green since a paint analysis done in the room in 1979 incorrectly determined this color, is now painted white. The restoration team found that the cove was whitewashed in the 18th century and remained white for decades until 1980, when the green paint layer was applied, according to the New Room restoration blog.

The modern paint layers -- which had fallen into poor condition -- were stripped and the cove was painted a white acrylic distemper to simulate the original whitewash.

The team looked at inventory records and Martha Washington’s will to complete more historically accurate reproductions of the wallpaper border and the window treatments. The works of art, ornaments, vases and the marble mantelpiece were given conservation treatments.

During the restoration, the team found that a small, porcelain handle recovered in 1994 matched one of the smaller jars in the New Room, and was able to mend the handle back to the vase.

And Mount Vernon officially christened the space the New Room -- because that's what George and Martha called it.

The restoration project was funded by contributions from Mount Vernon donor groups, a donation from the Dr. Scholl Foundation and a $100,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Mount Vernon is owned and maintained by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.

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