Near River Village in Fairfax County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Welcome to George Washington's Distillery & Gristmill at Mount Vernon
"I hope someday or another, we shall become a store house and granary for the world."
—George Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette, June 19, 1788
While known best as the successful commander of the American Revolution and as the first President of the United States, George Washington also proved to be a skilled entrepreneur and a man of innovation. This achievement, crucial to the success of his Mount Vernon plantation, is embodied today by working reconstructions of the structures essential to his Dogue Run Farm industrial complex.
"At present my Mill has the reputation of turning out superfine flour of the first quality: it commands a higher price in this country and the West Indies, than any other . . ."
—George Washington to Robert Lewis and Sons, April 12, 1785
For many years, tobacco was the cash crop of Washington's five farms at Mount Vernon. Tobacco cultivation was profitable, but also depleted nutrients from the soil. By the mid-1760s, the soil on Washington's farms was exhausted and the quality of tobacco he
In 1770-1771, Washington constructed a new merchant gristmill on Dogue Run Farm, which included a mill dam and pond, and a mill race to bring water to the gristmill, as well as a cooperage to produce the barrels needed for shopping. Washington knew he could sell his superfine and fine flour in markets in the West Indies and Europe. In addition to the milling of wheat flour, cornmeal was also ground as a diet stable for all who lived and labored at Mount Vernon—the enslaved workers, indentured servants, paid staff, and the Washington family.
In 1791, Washington upgraded his gristmill by installing the patented Oliver Evans automated flour milling system. This unique and efficient system used grain elevators and chutes to move grain and flour through all milling processes without manual labor. A believer in innovations and improvements, Washington was one of the first men in the country to install this system.
In 1793-1794, Washington designed and constructed a 16-sided treading barn on Dogue Run Farm. The original barn was located about 1.5 miles north of the gristmill. Today, a reconstruction of the treading barn is located at the Pioneer Farm on the main estate.
—George Washington to Robert Lewis, January 26, 1798
At the suggestion of James Anderson, his new farm manager, George Washington began distilling whiskey at Dogue Run Farm in 1797. The success in the first year's efforts, using two stills set up in the cooperage, led to the construction of a large dedicated whiskey distillery. Constructed over the winter of 1797-1798, the distillery employed five copper pot stills and produced large amounts of rye whiskey in 1798 and 1799, making it Washington's most profitable enterprise.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Agriculture • Colonial Era • Industry & Commerce. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #01 George Washington series list. A significant historical date for this entry is January 26, 1798.
Location. 38° 42.815′ N, 77° 7.815′ W. Marker is near River Village, Virginia, in Fairfax County. Marker can be reached from Mount Vernon Memorial Highway (Virginia Route 235) 0.1 miles south of Grist Mill Woods Way, on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 5429 Grist Mill Woods Way, Alexandria VA 22309, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. George Washington's Distillery and Gristmill in 1799 (within shouting distance of this marker); Woodlawn Cultural Landscape Historic District (within shouting distance of this marker); Woodlawn (within shouting distance of this marker); George Washington's Gristmill (within shouting distance of this marker); Doeg Indians (within shouting distance of this marker); Woodlawn Historic Landscapes (approx. 0.3 miles away); Dairy (approx. half a mile away); Necessary (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in River Village.
Additional keywords. alcohol, spirits
Credits. This page was last revised on March 19, 2021. It was originally submitted on October 11, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 111 times since then and 29 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on October 11, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. 3. submitted on March 19, 2021, by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland.