George Washington to Anthony Whitting

One of the most interesting documents in volume 11 of the Presidential Series is “Washington’s Plan for a Barn,” which was enclosed in this 28 October 1792 letter to his farm manager Anthony Whitting. “I have resolved to build a Barn & treading floor at Dogue Run Plantation, & to do it as soon as other more pressing work will permit; at any rate for the Wheat of next harvest,” wrote Washington.

Washington’s sixteen-sided barn (from Some Old Historic Landmarks of Virginia & Maryland by W. H. Snowden, 1901)

This was not to be just an ordinary barn but a sixteen-sided barn with an innovative treading floor on the second level. Washington carefully calculated the supplies required for the construction of the barn, including the 30,820 “hard and good” bricks that would be used in the building. He delineated the specific size and amount of lumber required: 88 fourteen-feet, 9×3-inch boards for the lower floor; 2,000 feet of 1-1/2-inch plank; 16 sills, 16 tops, and “Bars” for the windows; 420 pieces of white oak, in lengths varying from 12 to 20 feet long, for the treading floor; 86 rafters, twenty-feet long; and 7,000 three-feet shingles were among the items listed. Fifty-two feet in diameter, the barn took two years to complete and stood until the last quarter of the nineteenth century. A reconstructed replica of GW’s barn was completed on Mount Vernon’s grounds in September 1996.

Original manuscript images at the Library of Congress: Page 1 | Pages 2 & 3 | Pages 4 & 5 | Pages 6 & 7 | Page 8

Digital version of the enclosure and sketch: Washington’s Plan for a Barn, [28 October 1792] and sketch.

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