February 21, 2011
MOUNT VERNON, Va. – How does General George Washington celebrate his 279th birthday?
“I do have sources of intelligence that tell me there is a great ‘to do’ about to occur. Fife and drum and all manner of celebration,” said Washington.
That’s right, a surprise party with a crowd of hundreds at his beloved Mount Vernon.
George and Martha Washington are used to having company.
“We have so many visitors here to our home, [Martha] has recently said it is more like a well-resorted tavern than a home,” said Washington.
People who are visiting Mount Vernon now through May 19 are getting a special treat. It’s a chance to see something the experts say hasn’t been on display in a hundred years. It’s a Masonic apron, a gift to Washington.
“[It’s] believed to have been presented to George Washington by the Marquis de Lafayette in 1784, presented to Washington as a gift from the Grand Lodge of France,” said associate curator Laura Simo.
A treasured relic kept at a Masonic lodge in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
“It was worn by the Masonic grand master at the cornerstone laying ceremony of the Washington Monument on July 4th of 1848,” said Simo.
It’s silk on silk embroidery. Some of the threads are wrapped in gold. An American flag and what was then the French flag.
“I think it survives in really phenomenal condition. Some of the colors that you can still see on it. The greens are still quite good,” said Simo.
Thomas Hammonds, the husband of Washington’s niece, bought the apron at an estate sale for $6.
“Not bad. There were some items in that sale that went upwards of a hundred, two hundred dollars. Not a bad deal,” said Simo.