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18th-Century Cherries Found Preserved in Bottles Discovered in Cellar of George Washington's Mount Vernon Home

18th Century Cherries Discovered at George Washington's Mount Vernon
Source: Mount Vernon Ladies' Association

Researchers will take a closer look at the jar of cherries uncovered at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Apr. 26 2024, Published 9:02 a.m. ET

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During an ongoing revitalization project at George Washington's Mount Vernon home, archeologists discovered two sealed glass bottles of cherries dating back to the 18th century.

The historic Mount Vernon estate in Virginia, which was home to the first U.S. president, is owned and maintained by the non-profit Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union. The site is in the midst of a three-year Mansion Revitalization Project, set to be completed in 2026, aimed at ensuring the original building's structural integrity for future generations.

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Archeologists working in the mansion's cellar as part of the project "unexpectedly" discovered two dark green glass bottles, upright and with liquid still inside. They were found in a pit beneath a floor that was laid in the 1770s, and the bottle shapes are "characteristic of styles from the 1740s–1750s."

“As we conduct a historic preservation effort at the iconic home of America’s first President and revolutionary hero, we have been deliberate and intentional about carefully excavating areas of potential disruption,” Mount Vernon President and CEO Doug Bradburn said in a statement. “Consequently, we have made a number of useful discoveries including this blockbuster find of two fully intact glass bottles containing liquid that have not been seen since before the war for American independence."

The bottles were sent to the Mount Vernon archaeology lab, where conservators determined the best way to preserve the glass, which had been protected from the atmosphere for nearly 200 years, would be to remove the liquid contents.

The liquid contained preserved cherries, including stems and pits, and "still bore the characteristic scent of cherry blossoms familiar to residents of the region during the spring season," the estate said.

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The bottles will be prepared for conservation, while the liquid contents will be sent to a laboratory for scientific analysis in a controlled environment.

“This incredible discovery at Mount Vernon is a significant archaeological find. Not only did we recover intact, sealed bottles, but they contained organic material that can provide us with valuable insight and perspective into 18th-century lives at Mount Vernon. These bottles have the potential to enrich the historic narrative, and we’re excited to have the contents analyzed so we can share this discovery with fellow researchers and the visiting public," said Mount Vernon Principal Archaeologist Jason Boroughs.

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The cellar at the Mount Vernon Mansion was built and expanded over the course of several decades from around 1734 to 1787. The property was originally inherited by George Washington's grandfather, Lawrence Washington, and an early house was constructed by his father, Augustine Washington. George Washington took up residence at the property in 1754.

As George Washington expanded the mansion, he also expanded the cellar, which now features a passage flanked by several storage vaults.

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The massive revitalization project is timed to be completed for the 250th anniversary of the founding of the U.S. in 2026.

"As the bottles are shipped off for a complete scientific analysis, we want to share our findings and next steps for this historic archaeological and preservation initiative at Mount Vernon," Bradburn said. "This discovery comes at the beginning of an exciting and transformational project to strengthen and restore the home of the nation’s first president so that it will be stronger than ever when we celebrate America’s 250th birthday in 2026. This historic preservation project is our birthday gift to America."


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