Time from DC: 2hrs
Allow 3-4 hours to explore
After reading, The Unexpected George Washington, I was feeling inspired to learn more about George Washington. I’d been to Mount Vernon but wasn’t familiar with his birthplace, so I set out one Saturday morning to find it and as it turns out it was pretty easy to find. Driving South on Rt. 3 from MD, there were signs about 10 miles from the Potomac River Bridge. It’s maybe about 2 hours from D.C. and is close to Colonial Beach, VA.
The site isn’t much to write home about. The land has been preserved since 1858 when the Commonwealth of VA purchased it, but they later sold it to the Federal Government after running out of money because of The Civil War.
The property was settled by George Washington’s great-grandfather, John Washington in 1657. Washington’s boyhood home, which was known as “Wakefield”, was destroyed by a fire and flood on Christmas day in 1779, but the exact site of it is marked out with oyster shells. There is a visitor center on the property with information and artifacts that survived the fire, a mock-up colonial farm with some animals, and various outbuildings with reproduction farm equipment.
Oddly enough, although Washington’s boyhood home is gone there is a house on the
property! The “Memorial House” was constructed in 1931, on what they thought was the approximate site, with handmade local bricks and furnished with 18th-century furniture. The house is supposed to resemble a typical upper-class house of the period, but it isn’t a model of Washington’s boyhood home. His home had 10 rooms, whereas the Memorial House only has 8, and it was laid out differently. Along with the visitor center, Memorial House, and gardens, there is also a family plot where many of George Washington’s ancestors have been re-entombed and they lay out his family history.
Washington’s birthplace isn’t massive, or hard to find. If you’re looking for a nice day trip from D.C. or Southern MD and have an interest in Washington it is worth the drive down. The park is immaculately clean and very well kept up. There were also two-three park ranger tours running for free on Saturday. And lastly, it’s much quieter than Mount Vernon, free, and boasts excellent views of Pope’s Creek and the Potomac. I even saw some jellyfish in the river! If you like early American history, make sure you stop by.