Gunston Hall: Its History and Importance
Gunston Hall is located in Virginia. It is a stately mansion that stands in a 5500 acre land inherited by George Mason, regarded as America’s founding father, from his father in the year 1935 (Broadwater, 2009). The mansion is located in Fairfax County along the Potomac River. The construction of Gunston hall commenced in the year 1754 and took five years as it was completed in the year 1759 (Broadwater, 2009). The house is considered to be the one of the most elegant homes in USA during the colonial era. Since its completion, only a few changes have been effected, hence showing that most of the building has remained as it was when it was completed in the year 1959 (Broadwater, 2009). Gunston Hall was designed by two English craftsmen, William Sears and William Buckland in exchange for a free passage to Virginia. The two utilized various architectural designs that were popular in London, with Buckland using his knowledge in designs obtained from various source books, while Sears brought in his expertise in curving (Kornwolf, & Georgianna, 2002).
When George Mason IV constructed Gunston Hall, he intended the building to be retained within the family ranks as a symbol of family leadership. Despite this, the house was later sold to William Dawson and William Merrill in the year 1867 (Broadwater, 2009). Upon the death of George Mason in the year 1792, his son George Mason V inherited the property but unfortunately passed on four years later, in the year 1796 upon which the property was passed on to the grandson, George Mason VI. In the year 1834, George Mason VI passed on leaving the property to his second wife Eleanor Mason, who together with Mason Graham who owned part of the property sold the house to William Dawson and William Merrill (Kornwolf, & Georgianna, 2002). The two deeded the mansion to Edward Daniels in the years 1868 and later in the 1880’s the property was leased to Frank Smith, who used the house for boarding the residents in summer. In the year 1891, Edward Daniels sold the house to Joseph and Emma Specht who later handed over the property to their daughter Adelaide who sold it to Vaughn and Paul Kester in the year 1907 (Broadwater, 2009). Following the death of his brother, Paul Kester sold the mansion to Louis Hertle in the year 1912. In the year 1949, the house was handed over to the Commonwealth of Virginia, thus making the Hertle’s the last private owners of the Gunston Hall Mansion (Broadwater, 2009).
As indicated above, the house has a rich history, more so having existed in the colonial era and having housed the statesman, George Mason. This is an indicator that Gunston Hall is of significance not only to the state of Virginia, and the Fairfax County residents, but it is of essence to the American nation as a whole because it plays a large part in the country’s historical endowment. Gunston Mansion was erected in the middle of a 5500 acre plantation in which more than 500 people were housed. The census conducted in the year 1782 indicated that there were 30 other outbuildings in the plantation including a smokehouse, a schoolhouse and a kitchen (Broadwater, 2009). Among the five hundred people living in the plantation there were paid laborers, slaves, and indentured servants who worked on the Mason’s Tobacco farms. The slave community known as the Log Town lived a short distance away from the plantation building as indicated in the entity’s journals (http://www.gunstonhall.org/georgemason/slavery/slaves.html)
Therefore, according to the mansion’s building, it is evident that slavery was a major issue in the colonial period. It is eminent that the people in power such as George Mason supported slavery as he had dozens of them within his plantation despite having criticized it publicly (http://www.gunstonhall.org/georgemason/slavery/views_on_slavery.html paragraph 5)
The fact that slavery was excercised within the ranks of government resulted to increased slave trade within the American nation during the colonial era (Broadwater, 2009). Further, the two architects who designed the house, William Sears and William Buckland who came from Europe designed the house in exchange for free passage to Virginia. This shows the difficulty with which immigrants from other nations were given passage to live in America during the colonial era. Hence, this is an indication that during the colonial period there were various bureaucracy was rule of law in America, as well as other nations of that time.
Additionally, the Gunston Mansion has a great significance to the American nation by the mare fact that it housed one of the country’s founding father, George Mason (Kornwolf, & Georgianna, 2002). This fact has made the house an attractive phenomenon within and without the American boundaries. The house is of great social-economic value to the American nation. The house has social and cultural significance to the current and future American generations as they the history of the man regarded as the nation’s founding father, and since the mansion has been converted into a public museum, it offers an opportunity to the public to visit it and witness for themselves the splendor which stood as the monumental building in Virginia in the mid-1750s (Virginia Historical Society., 2011). The mansion also contributes to the economic well-being of USA because it is a tourism attraction site (Virginia Historical Society, 2011). Since the mansion was converted to a public museum, both domestic and foreign tourists flock the property to have a glimpse of the magnificence associated with the building and also to be part of the monumental building the American political arena as it housed one of the founding fathers of America, George Mason.
In Virginia, the premise is of no less social-economic importance. The building has put Virginia on the country’s political map by the mare fact that it housed America’s founding father George Mason. This fact has made Virginia to be regarded as the home of one of America’s founding father, an aspect that stirred more political enlightenment within the state. Together With Ohio, Virginia has been home to most American presidents including the first president George Washington, who was George Mason’s neighbor, living less than 8 miles apart. John Taylor and Thomas Jefferson among others also emanated from Virginia. Additionally, the fact that the building was converted to a public museum, this has been of immense economic benefit to Virginia as a state. Gunston Hall is a tourist attraction site that fetches revenue for the government of Virginia offering tourism services to people from America and outside the country (Virginia Historical Society., 2011). The mansion remains to be an architectural landmark in Virginia, with most buildings in the state after 1960s and in the post-colonial era seeking to emulate its design (Kornwolf, & Georgianna, 2002). The house stood as a magnificent architectural masterpiece of its time with many powerful people of the time travelling from far to have a glimpse of its magnificence. Thus it acted as a benchmark for architectural designs within and without Virginia after its completion in the year 1759.
In addition to the economic benefit derived by the Virginia government from the tourism services offered by the mansion, the house also acts as a form of heritage for the state of Virginia, and also contributes to the state’s historical milestones (Virginia Historical Society, 2011). The building is an artifact providing evidence of slavery within Virginia in the colonial era and also highlighting the plight of immigrants such as Sears and Backland who had to design the house and complete it in a bid to be grated pass to Virginia. After, the visit it is quite clear that the house is an architectural masterpiece that is rivaled by none of its time with eclectic interiors that illustrate the English Rococo comprising a central passage with neoclassical elements and a French touch. Elegant is just an understatement to the interior design of the hall, more so bearing in mind it is an ancient architectural structure. Thus, it can be deduced that Gunston Hall has immensely contributed the social, political and economic development of Virginia.
Broadwater J. (2009). George Mason, Forgotten Founder. North Carolina: University of North Carolina.
Kornwolf, J. D. & Georgianna W. K. (2002). Architecture, as well as Town Planning in Colonial America. The Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore.
Virginia Historical Society. (2011). The Garden Society of Virginia: Historic Restorations Gunston Hall. Retrieved on 19th April, 2014 from http://www.vahistorical.org/gardenclub/gunstonhall.htm
Gunston Hall. George Mason’s Slaves. Retrieved on 20th April, 2013 from <http://www.gunstonhall.org/georgemason/slavery/slaves.html>
Gunston Hall. George Mason & Slavery. Retrieved on 20th April, 2013 from <http://www.gunstonhall.org/georgemason/slavery.html>
Gunston Hall. George Mason’s Views on Slavery. Retrieved on 20th April, 2013 from <http://www.gunstonhall.org/georgemason/slavery/views_on_slavery.html>