Although he shunned public office and thus is not well known outside Virginia, George Mason (1725-92) was one of the most liberal and creative political thinkers of his time. He drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights, upon which Thomas Jefferson drew when he wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Mason also helped draft the Constitution but then refused to sign it because it didn't abolish the slave trade or initially contain a Bill of Rights.
Built between 1755 and 1759, his brick house is one of the finest examples of Colonial Georgian architecture. It is unusual hereabouts because it's only one-and-a-half stories tall (the peaked roof has gables to let light into the upstairs rooms, some of them amazingly spacious). It's also unique for the elaborate interior carvings designed by William Buckland and executed by William Bernard Sears, two indentured servants from England who went on to distinguished careers of their own. The restored formal gardens focus on the 12-foot-high English boxwood-lined walkway believed to have been planted by Mason (that's right: the shrubs could be more than 250 years old!). George and Ann Mason are buried here in the family graveyard.
At the reception center, an 11-minute film will introduce you to Mason and his estate. You must then take a 30-minute tour in order to enter the mansion. Allow 45 minutes for the total house tour, 1 1/2 hours to see the house and gardens. En route to the house, you'll pass a small museum of Mason family memorabilia. If you have an extra hour for the round-trip stroll, you can take a nature trail down the Potomac past Mason's Deer Park and woodland area (you cannot see the river from the mansion).
- © Frommer's 2013
Ask a local about Gunston Hall
Ask Mount Vernon Locals about Gunston Hall
- Highly Recommended 2010