For a number of years I have always wondered why the West-front windows of Mount Vernon were off-set. I found a “Ask Mount Vernon” link at George Washington’s Mount Vernon
I sent the following note:
I’ve wondered, for several years, why the windows on the right side of the Western entrance are off-set. During the phases of remodeling was the staircase relocated to its present location thus forcing a shift in the window placements?
Thank you for your time in response!
This morning I received the following note:
“Ask Mount Vernon”
Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens
Thank you for contacting us with your question re: the irregular spacing of the windows on the west front of the Mansion.
You have accurately deduced the reason why the windows to the south of the front door are off-set. The windows originally aligned with those in the basement when the house was built in 1735. When George Washington raised the building from 1.5 to 2.5 stories in 1758-59, he also changed out and enlarged the staircase in the hall. That meant that the window there was captured entirely within the stair landing — not a very good situation. So Washington elected to shift both first floor windows so that they would be within the Small Dining Room — and aligned the new second floor windows to match. The resulting assymetry became a more significant concern later on when Washington expanded the house again in 1774-1776, when he added the cupola and roof pediment partly in an attempt to distract the eye from the messy details down below. If you are interested in learning more about the architecture/building of the house, the best book on the topic is Geroge Washington’s Mount Vernon: At Home in Revolutionary America, by R. and L. Dalzell, Oxford, 1998.
I hope that this is the information that you were looking for, and thanks again for your interest in Mount Vernon.
Vice President for Preservation
I so appreciate the countless individuals, and organizations that help to keep history alive!