When in 1930 the United States decided to participate in the International Colonial Exhibition, they looked for a way to evoke the memory of France's cooperation in the founding of their Republic. They thought that the Washington House was more appropriate than any other building to express this thought.
Thus, after the preliminary visit of the Commissioner General, Mr. C. Bascom Slemp, and the Commissioner, Mr. Charles H. Burke, it was seen that the house in Washington, D.C., was the most appropriate place to express this thought. Burke, an exact replica of George Washington's cottage at Mojmt Vernon was erected at Vincennes.
The estate of Mount Vernon, situated on the western bank of the Potomac, 17 miles south of the present city of Washington, belonged to Lawrence Washington, half-brother of the Liberator, who in 1843 had a new dwelling built there, the style of which is reminiscent of the colonial period of the United States, that is to say, of the English occupation.
It was to Mount Vernon that Washington returned after dismissing his victorious army, which claimed to remain under his command after the surrender of Yorktown, and after divesting himself of all his powers before Congress.
It was at Mount Vernon that Washington died in 1799.
In America, this house is not a national property, but a private one, and all the maintenance costs are covered by a Society: Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union. This intervention has made it possible to preserve and restore Washington's house.
In Vincennes, Washington's house is as it remains in Mount Vernon, with faithful copies of the furniture, its gardens adorned with flowers brought from America, the hangings, woodwork and historical souvenirs carefully reproduced. There is a copy of Lawrence Washington's clock, the clock and the pink vases in the grand salon sent by La Fayette to Mrs. Washington. Copies of Franklin's cane, Rochambeau's sword, General Washington's field canteen, portraits, miniatures, books.
It is interesting to note that, like the house, the furniture was made in a very short time by American furniture factories. Some of the pieces are old, such as a harpsichord.
One can admire the delicately carved fireplaces, the staircases of the period and, apart from the charming architectural motifs, a number of objects, some of which are contemplated with particular emotion by the French, as they represent cherished relics evocative of a vanished past.
On the second floor, with all its furniture, the room which is still called, across the Atlantic, "La Fayette's room", in which the French marquis, who became Washington's chief of staff, stayed for quite some time.
In the west-facing salon, the colour reproduction of the carpet woven by order of Louis XVI and sent as a gift to Washington. On one of the walls of the central hall, suspended in a glass sheath, is the bronze key to the Bastille which was given by the general of the revolutionary armies to his great American friend. There is also an armchair given by La Fayette to Martha Washington.
In the wing opposite the kitchen, the Alaska Territory exhibition has been placed. Behind the kitchen is the United States Government's own exhibition, which shows the work done in the tropics (road building, farming methods, hygiene).
Then, in separate buildings, there are exhibits from Puerto Rico (with embroidery, grapefruit); the Philippines (remarkable woodwork, manufactured shells, orchids in bloom); and the Hawaiian Islands.
Two large halls, in the centre, contain, in addition to the history of civilisation and expansion of the 48 States united under the star-spangled banner, that of Panama, Alaska, Samoa, Guam (an island in the Marianas archipelago), the Virgin Islands and the Canal Zone.
This historical exhibition aims to illustrate the memories of the War of Independence and the Franco-American cooperation in the creation of the United States. It also includes, prior to the War of Independence, the French explorations and settlements in the West and in the Mississippi Valley in the 17th and 18th centuries.
This house is for us a delicate symbol of the enduring friendship between France and the United States.
©Livre D'Or - Exposition Coloniale Internationale - Paris 1931