Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2)

The south side of Independence Hall, seen from Independence Square around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Independence Hall in 2018:

As discussed in greater detail in a previous post, Independence Hall was built over the course of a 21-year period between 1732 and 1753. It was designed and built by Edmund Woolley, and it featured a brick Georgian style of architecture that was common for public buildings of this period. Upon its completion, it became the first capitol building for the colony, and it remained the seat of Pennsylvania’s government throughout the rest of the 18th century.

However, Independence Hall is best remembered today for its role in the early history of the United States. From 1775 to 1783, the Continental Congress met here, and it was during this time that, in 1776, the delegates debated, approved, and signed the Declaration of Independence. This occurred in the Assembly Room, which is located on the first floor on the right side of the building. Eleven years later, state delegates gathered in the same room for the Constitutional Convention, and the current United States Constitution was signed here on September 17, 1787.

Over the years, the exterior of Independence Hall has undergone some significant changes. The original wooden steeple had, by the time of the American Revolution, become badly deteriorated, and it was ultimately removed in 1782. The brick tower was capped with a simple roof for the next few decades, but in 1828 a new steeple was added. It was designed by architect William Strickland, and it was similar to – although not identical to – the original one. Another change came in 1812, when the original wings of the building were demolished. However, replicas of these wings were constructed in 1898, and they are connected to the main building by the brick arcades that are visible on the right and left sides of both photos.

Today, despite these many changes, Independence Hall stands as one of the most historic landmarks in the country. The exterior has remained largely the same since the first photo was taken more than a century ago, and it has long been recognized as a major symbol of American liberty and freedom. In 1948, it became a part of the Independence National Historical Park, and in 1966 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark, which is the highest level of federal recognition for a historic site. However, it has also received international recognition for its significance, and in 1979 it was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Because of its historical importance, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the northeast, with the park drawing an average of over 4 million visitors each year.

Assembly Room, Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Assembly Room on the first floor of Independence Hall, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The room in 2018:

As discussed in an earlier post, Independence Hall was completed in 1753 as the Pennsylvania State House, the colony’s first capitol building. The first floor consisted of two large rooms on either side of a central hall. To the west was the courtroom for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, while the room on the east side, which is shown here, housed the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly. As a result, this room was known as the Assembly Room, and it was the meeting place of the colonial legislature – and later the state legislature – throughout the second half of the 18th century. However, this room is most remembered for housing the Continental Congress from 1775 to 1783, and for being the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

Philadelphia had played a central role in the American Revolution since 1774, when the First Continental Congress convened in the city from September 5 to October 26 of that year. The city served as a convenient meeting place between the northern and southern colonies, but the delegates met at the recently-constructed Carpenters’ Hall, instead of here at the State House. It was not until the Second Continental Congress, which convened on May 10, 1775, that the colonial delegates would meet here in the Assembly Room of what would become known as Independence Hall.

When these delegates arrived here for the Second Continental Congress, the American Revolution was less than a month old, having started on April 19 with the Battles of Lexington and Concord. As a result, the Congress soon began to exercise control over the colonial military, starting with the creation of the Continental Army on June 14 and the appointment of George Washington as its commanding officer. Washington, who was part of the Virginia delegation here in Congress, was nominated for the position by John Adams, and Washington subsequently left for Boston to assume command of the army.

Another important congressional action occurred less than a month later, on July 8, when the delegates approved the Olive Branch Petition. Intended as a peace overture to Britain, in order to appease the more conservative members, this petition was summarily rejected by the British government. However, it proved significant in highlighting the fact that Britain was not receptive to compromises, which gave the more radical members a stronger case in favor of declaring independence.

Even so, it would take nearly another year before the Continental Congress finally declared independence. The resolution, known as the Lee Resolution after its sponsor, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, was introduced here on June 7, 1776. In the ensuing weeks, the idea of independence was debated, a draft declaration was written, and the resolution finally passed on July 2, after last-minute actions to secure yes votes from South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

John Adams, who was among the delegates in attendance, believed that this day would be celebrated by future generations as Independence Day. As it turned out, though, it ended up being July 4 – the day when Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence – that would be remembered as such. However, despite popular images of the Founding Fathers lining up here to sign the document, no such scene actually occurred on that day. Instead, historians generally identify August 2 as the date when most delegates signed, although some signatures would be added as late as November.

Following the Declaration of Independence, Congress continued to meet here throughout most of the war, with two interruptions during British occupations of Philadelphia. The first occurred from December 1776 through March 1777, when Congress met in Baltimore, and the second lasted from September 1777 to July 1778, with Congress meeting in Lancaster for one day and then York, Pennsylvania for the duration. The Articles of Confederation, the nation’s first constitution, was written while Congress was in York, but it did not go into effect until 1781, when Maryland signed it here in the Assembly Room of Independence Hall.

Under the Articles of Confederation, the Continental Congress did not see significant change. It remained a unicameral legislature, with each state having one vote regardless of population, and it continued to meet here in Independence Hall for several years, making this the de facto national capitol building. However, Congress’s time here was cut short by a dispute between it and the state government of Pennsylvania, which also occupied this building. In June 1783, a mob of about 400 American soldiers descended upon Independence Hall, demanding payment for their wartime service. Congress asked the state’s Supreme Executive Council to call in the militia to suppress the riot, but the state declined, and Congress left the city on June 21.

When Congress reconvened nine days later, it was at Nassau Hall in Princeton, New Jersey. Over the next few years, Congress would also meet in Annapolis, Trenton, and then in New York City, which became the national capital until 1790. Congress would never return here to Independence Hall, but this room would play one more important role in the national government in 1787, when the Constitutional Convention met here from May 25 through September 17, 1787. Although officially intended to “revise” the heavily flawed Articles of Confederation, this convention ultimately created a completely new blueprint for the national government, and the current United States Constitution was signed here on September 17, by delegates from 12 of the 13 states.

The Constitutional Convention became famous for its many compromises, with delegates seeking to strike a balance between the large states and small states, and between the north and the south. Perhaps the most important was the Connecticut Compromise, which established a bicameral legislature, with equal representation in the Senate and proportional representation in the House. The proportional representation caused another controversy, though, with regards to how slaves should be counted for representation purposes. This was resolved by the Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted three-fifths of the slave population toward Congressional representation, thus preventing southern states from becoming too dominant in national politics.

The end of the Constitutional Convention also marked the end of this room’s use for national political gatherings. The new Constitution went into effect in 1789, and a year later the national government returned to Philadelphia for a ten-year period, while Washington, D.C. was being developed. However, during this time period Congress met next door in Congress Hall, while the Supreme Court met in a matching building on the other side of Independence Hall. In the meantime, the Assembly Room here in Independence Hall would continue to be used by the state legislature, but in 1799 the state capital was moved to Lancaster, leaving this building largely vacant.

During the early 19th century, parts of Independence Hall were used by artist Charles Willson Peale, who established a natural history museum and portrait gallery here. The building was nearly demolished in the 1810s, but it was instead purchased by the city of Philadelphia. Early in the city’s ownership, the original paneling here in the Assembly Room was removed, but the room was subsequently restored by noted architect John Haviland in 1833. However, this restoration, which is shown in the first photo some 70 years later, was not entirely accurate, and was largely based on the appearance of the adjacent Supreme Court Room.

Throughout the 19th century, the Assembly Room was used for a wide variety of purposes. Many patriotic events were held here, with distinguished visitors such as Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln. The bodies of both Clay and Lincoln would later lay in state here in this room, as did the body of John Quincy Adams following his death in 1848. In addition, this room was also used as a museum, displaying a number of objects relating to American Revolution. During the second half of the 19th century, the Liberty Bell was on display here, before being moved to the base of the tower, and the room also housed a large collection of Charles Willson Peale’s portraits. Some of these are visible in the first photo, including his famous George Washington at Princeton, which stands in the corner on the left side of the scene.

The Assembly Room later underwent a second major renovation in the mid-20th century, restoring it to its presumed 18th century appearance. The room was also furnished during this time, although almost none of the objects are original to the room. Today, there are only two artifacts that survive from the Revolutionary period. The oldest of these is the Syng inkstand, which sits on the table at the front of the room in the present-day scene. Made in 1752, this inkstand was used in the signing of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and it is visible in the first photo, in a small display case in front of the fireplace on the left side.

The other object, and the only surviving piece of furniture from the 18th century, is the chair in the center of the room, which is visible in both photos. This was made in 1779, and it was the seat where George Washington sat while presiding over the Constitutional Convention. It is often known as the Rising Sun Armchair, because of the carved sun on the top of it. This decoration caught the attention of Benjamin Franklin during the Constitutional Convention, and he remarked on it as the delegates were signing the document. His words, which were recorded in James Madison’s notes, provided a fitting conclusion to the convention that marked a new beginning for the United States:

Whilst the last members were signing it Doctr. Franklin looking towards the Presidents Chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that Painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising from a setting sun. I have said he, often and often in the course of the Session, and the vicisitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting: But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting Sun.

Supreme Court Room, Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Supreme Court Room at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The room in 2018:

The ground floor of Independence Hall – originally known as the Pennsylvania State House – consists of two large rooms. On the east side is the more famous Assembly Room, where the colonial legislature and Continental Congress met, and where the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution were signed. On the opposite side of the building is this room, which was originally built as the courtroom for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The two rooms are separated by a central hall, but, unlike the Assembly Room, the courtroom does not have any doors separating it from the hall. Instead, there are three large arches between the hall and courtroom, highlighting the importance of public judicial proceedings.

The Supreme Court met here throughout the 1700s. It originally consisted of three justices, although in 1767 its size was increased to four. During this time, probably its most prominent jurist was Thomas McKean, who served as Chief Justice from 1777 until 1799, when he was elected governor. Prior to his time on the bench, he represented Delaware in the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1776, and 1777 to 1783, serving as the president of Congress in 1783. He was also a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, and he briefly served as president of Delaware in 1777. Another important member of the Supreme Court was John Morton, who served as an associate justice from 1774 until his death in 1777. He was simultaneously a delegate to the Continental Congress, where he signed the Declaration of Independence, and he was also the chairman of the committee that drafted the Articles of Confederation.

This building would continue to be used by the state government until 1799, when Philadelphia lost its status as the capital city to Lancaster. The Supreme Court subsequently relocated there, vacating its old quarters here in Independence Hall. The building was nearly demolished in the early 19th century, but it was instead purchased by the city of Philadelphia and preserved. By the 1870s, the Supreme Court room was in use as a museum, housing paintings and relics from the American Revolution. The room itself had also undergone some changes, including the arches, which had been closed since 1789 and separated from the central hall by a set of double doors.

The Supreme Court room was ultimately restored in the late 1890s, as shown by the first photo. However, the room was not furnished at the time, and its sparse decorations consisted of just a statue and several paintings. The paintings appear to all depict former justices, including William Bradford on the far left, Thomas Smith third to the right, and Thomas McKean on the wall in the center. The room would later undergo another major renovation in the 1960s, bringing it to its present-day appearance. As a result, it looks far more like a courtroom today than it did when the first photo was taken more than a century ago, and the room is, along with the Assembly Room, one of the two major stops on the public tours of Independence Hall.

Liberty Bell, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Liberty Bell, at the base of the tower in Independence Hall, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018, without the Liberty Bell:

Today, the Liberty Bell is one of the most recognizable symbols of American independence and freedom, perhaps only matched by the American flag and the bald eagle. However, this would have seemed a rather implausible outcome for mid-18th century observers, who would have seen it as a poorly-made English import that barely served its purpose as a bell. The original bell arrived in Philadelphia in 1752, and it was to be installed in the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall), which was then under construction. The first time that it was rung, though, the bell cracked, and in 1753 it was melted down and re-cast by local foundry owners John Pass and John Stow. However, this second bell had a poor sound, so Pass and Stowe again re-cast it, and in 1753 it was hung in the steeple of the State House.

In the early years of the Liberty Bell’s history, Pennsylvania was still a British colony, and the Declaration of Independence was still several decades away. As such, Philadelphians would not have associated the bell with the concept of liberty, although it bore a rather prophetic inscription taken from Leviticus 25:10, which reads, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” Instead, the fame of the Liberty Bell comes from the fact that it sat in the steeple of the State House when the Second Continental Congress declared independence in 1776. Despite popular belief,though, this bell did not ring on July 4 to mark the occasion, as the Declaration of Independence was not made public for another four days. The bell likely would have been one of many that were rung in Philadelphia on July 8 in order to celebrate the Declaration, although there is no direct evidence of this.

The Liberty Bell remained in its perch above the building until 1777, when retreating American forces took it down and removed it from the city, in order to prevent the British from seizing it and melting it down for munitions. The bell returned to Philadelphia a year later, although it was not re-installed in the steeple because of the deteriorated condition of the structure. It was put into storage for the next few years, and in 1781 the old steeple was demolished. Then, in 1785, the bell was installed in the truncated brick tower, beneath where the steeple had been.

It was at some point in the early 19th century, probably between 1817 and 1846, that the Liberty Bell cracked again, giving the bell its distinctive present-day appearance. Also during this time, Independence Hall underwent a renovation, with a new steeple built atop the tower in 1828. As part of this project, the city of Philadelphia also ordered a new bell to replace the old Liberty Bell. John Wilbank received the contract to make the new one, and part of his payment was the Liberty Bell itself, which had a scrap value of $400. However, the cost of removing it would have exceeded this amount, so he let the city keep the bell, thus preventing the historic relic from being melted down for scrap.

By the middle of the 19th century, the Liberty Bell was becoming widely recognized for its historic significance. In 1848, it was moved to the Assembly Room of Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution had been signed, and it would remain on display there for the next 50 years. Then, in 1898, it was moved to a new location in the building, at the base of the tower, as shown in the first photo. However, during this time the Liberty Bell also went on tour, traveling by rail to various locations around the country. The last of these occurred in 1915, and the practice was subsequently ended, in part because of the many souvenir hunters who chipped off pieces of the bell during these traveling exhibitions.

Aside from these trips, the Liberty Bell was on display here in the tower hall throughout much of the 20th century. As the bell’s fame continued to grow, though, this space became inadequate for the increasing number of visitors who came here. In 1976, in anticipation of the crowds that would come to celebrate America’s bicentennial, it was relocated to the Liberty Bell Pavilion, which was constructed on the Independence Mall on the other side of Chestnut Street, opposite Independence Hall. It remained there for the next 27 years, but in 2003 it moved again, to the new, larger Liberty Bell Center. The bell is still on display there now, with the view of Independence Hall as its backdrop, and it draws an estimated one million visitors each year.

Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Independence Hall, seen from the north side across Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Independence Hall in 2019:

Independence Hall is one of the most important historic sites in the country, having been the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and signed. It served as the de facto capitol building of the United States from 1775 until 1783, but the building predates the American Revolution by several decades. Construction had begun in 1732, coincidentally the same year as George Washington’s birth, although it would be another 21 years before it was finally completed in 1753 as Pennsylvania’s first state house. It was built of brick, with Georgian-style architecture, and it featured the main building in the center, with a clock tower on the south side of it and wings to the east and west.

The Pennsylvania State House, as it was then known, was used by the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly in the years leading up to the American Revolution, but starting in 1775 it was also put to use as the meeting place of the Second Continental Congress, which convened here on May 10 of that year. The war had begun less than a month earlier, with the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts, and one of the early actions taken by the Congress was to create a Continental Army and appoint one of its own members, George Washington, to become commander. However, the Congress also attempted to bring about a reconciliation with Britain, sending the Olive Branch Petition to King George III in July.

Support for independence was by no means universal among the delegates of the Second Continental Congress, and it would take more than a year of war, along with the crown’s rejection of their peace overtures, before they finally agreed to declare independence. The vote on the resolution occurred here on July 2, 1776, and it passed without opposition. Writing to his wife Abigail a day later, John Adams predicted:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Adams would prove correct about everything except for the date. Although the resolution passed on July 2, the actual text of the Declaration was not approved until two days later, so July 4 was ultimately recognized as Independence Day. However, John Trumbull’s famous painting notwithstanding, the document does not appear to have been actually signed on July 4. Historians generally identify August 2 as the date when most delegates signed, although others would add their signatures in the subsequent months, including New Hampshire’s Matthew Thornton, who did not arrive in Philadelphia until November.

The Declaration of Independence asserted the new country’s sovereignty, although it would take another seven years of war before this fact was recognized by the British. Throughout this time, the Continental Congress continued to meet here in Independence Hall, although its stay was interrupted by two British occupations of Philadelphia. Congress evacuated the city in December 1776, returned in March 1777, and left again in September. It would not return here again until July 1778, and during these interim periods it met in Baltimore, Lancaster, and York. It was during its stay in York that the Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation, which would become the first national constitution. However, the Articles required unanimous support, and it did not go into effect until the last state, Maryland, signed the document here in Independence Hall in 1781.

Under the Articles of Confederation, the national government consisted of a unicameral legislature that is now usually referred to as the Congress of the Confederation. It was the successor to the Continental Congress, and it met here for the next two years. However, in June 1783 Congress was again compelled to evacuate Philadelphia. This time, though, it was not in the face of an invading British army, but rather an angry mob of about 400 American soldiers who were demanding payment for their wartime service. Congress had asked for assistance from the Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which also met here in this building, but the council refused to call the state’s militia to suppress the riot. As a result, Congress left here on June 21, and reconvened nine days later at Nassau Hall in Princeton.

The Congress of the Confederation would never return to Philadelphia, and instead it met variously in Princeton, Annapolis, Trenton, and New York City over the next six years. However, Independence Hall did play one more important role in American government in 1787, when it became the meeting place for the Constitutional Convention. By this point, it had become clear that the Articles of Confederation were inadequate for effectively governing the country, so delegates from 12 states gathered here starting on May 25, with the stated purpose of “revising” the Articles.

It did not take the convention delegates long to realize that they needed to write a new constitution, as opposed to simply revising the existing one, although this prompted significant debate on issues such as how states should be represented in the legislature, and whether slaves should be counted toward a state’s population. The result was a constitution that was filled with compromises, creating a national government that was much stronger than the one under the Articles of Confederation, while at the same time reserving a significant amount of authority to the states. In all, the convention lasted just under four months, and the final document was signed here on September 17, 1787.

The Constitution went into effect in 1789, and a year later the new federal government returned to Philadelphia, where it would remain for the next 10 years before permanently relocating to Washington, D.C. However, instead of using Independence Hall, Congress met in a new building located immediately to the west of here, at the corner of Chestnut and 6th Streets. Around the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court moved into a matching building on the other side of Independence Hall, at the corner of 5th Street.

Philadelphia lost its role as the national capital in 1800, but a year earlier it had also lost the state capital, when the state government moved to Lancaster. This left Independence Hall without any governmental use, although during the early 19th century the second floor housed a natural history museum and portrait gallery that was run by artist Charles Willson Peale. The building’s exterior also changed during this time, starting with the removal of the original wooden steeple in 1781. It had become badly deteriorated by that point, and it was not immediately replaced; instead, the brick tower was topped with a low roof. Another major change came in 1812, when the original wings were demolished and replaced by new buildings along Chestnut Street.

Independence Hall itself also faced potential demolition, but this threat was averted when the city of Philadelphia purchased the property from the state in 1816. Over time, the building came to be known as Independence Hall, rather than the State House, and in 1825 the square on the south side was named Independence Square. Then, in 1828, the exterior was restored with the addition of a new steeple, which was designed by architect William Strickland. It was based on the design of the original one, but it had some differences, including the addition of a clock. Unlike its predecessor, which lasted less than 30 years before rotting away, Strickland’s steeple is still standing atop the tower nearly two centuries later.

During the 19th century, the building came to be recognized as a major symbol of the American Revolution, and over the years both it and the surrounding grounds were the site of countless patriotic events and public demonstrations. Perhaps the first came in 1824, when the Marquis de Lafayette was received here during his farewell tour of America, but subsequent speakers and demonstrators included Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, and various labor unions, all of whom sought to connect their connect their causes to the ideals that the Founding Fathers had expressed here.

By the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century, the exterior of the building had undergone another change. The 1812 wings were demolished in 1898, and were replaced with replicas of the originals, including the arched brick arcades that connected the wings to the main building. Another change to this scene came in 1869, when a marble statue of George Washington was installed here in front of Independence Hall. It was the work of sculptor Joseph A. Bailly, and it appears in the first photo. However, by the early 20th century it had begun to deteriorate, and in 1910 it was replaced with a bronze copy, which still stands here today.

More than a century after the first photo was taken, the statue remains the only significant change to this scene. Independence Hall remains well-preserved, and it stands as the focal point of the Independence National Historical Park, which was established in 1948. It has also been designated as a National Historic Landmark, and it is one of only 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States. The building is open to the public for guided tours, and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the northeast, with over 4 million visitors to the park each year.

Mount Vernon, Virginia (2)

Another view of the Mount Vernon mansion, seen from the bowling green on the west side of the house, around the 1860s or 1870s. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The mansion in 2018:

As discussed in the previous post, the Mount Vernon estate had been in the Washington family since 1674, when John Washington acquired the land. However, it was his grandson, Augustine Washington – the father of the future president – who constructed the original section of the mansion here on this site, in 1734. At the time, it was only one story, with a garret for the second floor, and it was comprised of what is now the four windows in the middle of the house.

George Washington’s older half brother, Lawrence Washington, later received the property from their father, and he lived here until his death in 1752. His widow, Anne, subsequently leased Mount Vernon to George Washington, starting in 1754. Four years later, he began the first expansion of the house, adding a full second floor with a garret above it. He gained ownership of the estate when Anne died in 1761, and in 1774 he embarked on an even more ambitious project, with two-story additions on both sides of the house.

The mid-1770s renovations also included two new outbuildings, which were connected to the house by colonnades, as shown in these photos. The building on the right was the kitchen, and it had three rooms on the first floor, along with a loft on the second floor. Like many kitchens of this period, it was separated from the main house as a fire safety measure. The building on the left was known as Servants Hall, and it had a design that matched that of the kitchen.. Although Washington did have slave quarters nearby, none of his slaves lived here. Instead, this building was used to house the servants – both black and white – of visitors to Mount Vernon.

George Washington lived here until his death in 1799, and Martha Washington died in 1802. They had no biological children together, so the estate went to his nephew, Bushrod Washington, who served for many years as a justice on the U. S. Supreme Court. The property was later inherited by Bushrod’s nephew, John Augustine Washington II, and then by John’s son, John Augustine Washington III.

Over the years, these later generations of the Washington family struggled to maintain the expensive estate, and in 1858 John Augustine Washington III sold it to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. Under their ownership, the mansion was restored, and in 1860 it was opened to the public as one of the nation’s first historic tourist destinations. The first photo was probably taken within a decade or two after this, and it shows the house as it would have appeared to a Victorian-era visitor.

Today, some 150 years after this photo was taken, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association continues to operate the property as a museum. The mansion and the two outbuildings that are shown here have been well-maintained throughout this time, and there is hardly any difference between these two photos. Mount Vernon was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960, becoming one of the first places to be recognized as such, and it remains a popular tourist attraction, drawing around a million visitors each year.