Gunston Hall was the home of George Mason, a Virginia politician and US Founding Father. George Mason was one of the richest men in the colonies and owned 20,000 acres spread across Virginia and Maryland. Though wealthy and well-connected, counting George Washington among his friends, Mason had little interest in public office. When asked to take Washington’s seat in the Virginia legislature as Washington was named Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, Mason accepted with reluctance as he did not want to leave Gunston Hall.
In 1776, at the Virginia Convention, Virginia declared independence from Great Britain and called for the establishment of a declaration of rights and a constitution for Virginia as well as the establishment of a union of states. Mason was appointed to a committee to draft the Virginia Constitution and Declaration of Rights. Mason authored the first draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights which served as a model for the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution.
In 1787, at the US Constitutional Convention, state delegates gathered to discuss a new framework for governing the states. As a delegate from Virginia, Mason argued against the scope of power given to the federal government, the lack of protection for individual liberties, and the lack of a provision banning the import and trade of slaves. Mason ultimately refused to sign the Constitution due to these issues.
After Mason’s death in 1792, Gunston Hall passed through descendants until it was sold in 1867. From 1867 to 1912, Gunston Hall was sold to various owners. In 1912, Gunston Hall was gifted to the Commonwealth of Virginia which opened it to the public.
George Mason planted a double row of black heart cherry trees, on both sides of the avenue, in radial lines extending from the front door of the Mansion. But, much of George Mason’s landscaping features was destroyed or altered over time. Today, there is a double row of magnolia and cedar trees lining the avenue to the Mansion.
The foyer of the Mansion, echoing the Georgian architectural style of the house, was designed to have a symmetrical number of doors on both sides of the foyer as well as a front door that led to the avenue and a back door that led to the gardens and a view of the Potomac River (though much of the view is now obscured by trees).
The hall off the main foyer was used by servants and family members to exit the house. This hall separated a private chamber and a family parlor/dining room; it also has a spiral staircase for servants to access the second floor.
Visiting Gunston Hall
Hours: Sunday – Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Admission: Adults $10, Children $5
– Start at the Visitor’s Center which offers a short film on George Mason’s life and an exhibit of George Mason’s belongings.
– Take the guided tour of the Mansion.
– Explore the grounds.