Adam T. Erby, George Washington's Mount Vernon
Gothic-back side chairs, similar to those likely used by the Washingtons in the Blue Bedchamber
Blue bedchamber after 2017 restoration (Photo by Gavin Ashworth, courtesy Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association)
Newly recreated mirror and bracket in Mount Vernon’s Front Parlor, 2019 Photo by Gavin Ashworth, courtesy Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association
Newly recreated looking glass in Mount Vernon’s Front Parlor, 2019 Photo by Gavin Ashworth, courtesy Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association
The present Mount Vernon mansion was built in phases from approximately 1734, under the supervision of George Washington’s father Augustine Washington. The mansion evolved during George Washington’s lifetime and continued to evolve following his death in 1799.
Since its founding as the first national historic preservation association in 1853, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has worked to restore Mount Vernon to its 1799 appearance. The project has set the standard in the United States for preservation and restoration. Mount Vernon’s authenticity is assisted by the painstaking research and acquisition of furnishings related to George and Martha Washingtons’ occupation of the plantation home, forensic analysis of interiors, and archaeological investigation of outbuildings and landscapes. Each generation of preservationists has re-interpreted the mansion and its surroundings according to the most up-to-date methodologies.
Adam Erby is very much a part of that ongoing research and restoration. Beginning in 2013 with the restoration of the “new room” (traditionally considered the formal dining room), Mount Vernon’s curators and architectural historians embarked on a restoration campaign grounded in cutting-edge research on the material culture of the Washingtons and their enslaved work force. This lecture will highlight the work accomplished since 2013 — the restoration of the chintz bedchamber, the blue bedchamber, and the front parlor, as well as ongoing projects, including the yellow bedchamber and the central passage.
Adam T. Erby is Curator of Fine and Decorative Arts at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, where he oversees the institution’s fine and decorative arts collections, historic interiors and special exhibitions. He led the curatorial restoration of George and Martha Washington’s front parlor, a five-year process of research and reconstruction that culminated in the space’s February 2019 reopening. Mr. Erby has been a major contributor to the reinterpretation of the new room, chintz chamber and blue chamber.
Adam Erby holds a bachelor’s degree in American studies from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture. He is also an alumnus of the Attingham Summer School.
Adam Erby has contributed essays to The General in the Garden: George Washington’s Landscape at Mount Vernon, edited by Susan Schoelwer (2014) and he co-authored “ ‘The one Mrs. Trist shall chuse’: Thomas Jefferson, the Trist Family, and the Monticello Campeachy Chair” with Sumpter T. Priddy III and Jenna Huffman for the Chipstone Foundation’s American Furniture (2012). He also contributed “George Washington’s New Room: An American Vision” to Antiques & Fine Art (2014). Mr. Erby co-authored “Leaving Home: Butler Greenwood’s Parlor” for The Magazine Antiques (March-April 2014) with Matthew Thurlow and and Alice Dickinson. Susan Schoelwer and Messrs. Priddy and Thurlow have previously spoken to the Forum.
Adam Erby last spoke to Forum in November 2017 when he presented an earlier phase of Mount Vernon’s reinterpretation of the front room. The reinterpretation was based on recently discovered documentation of Washington’s acquisition of English-made furniture from his Loyalist friend and neighbor, George William Fairfax. This presentation will update the ongoing restoration program.