I am very fortunate to live within a close radius of many diverse historical places across the state of Virginia. On September 26th, I went for a long walk around the grounds of Gunston Hall, the former home of George Mason, one of the “founding fathers” of the United States of America. Many tend to underrate Mason; however, during his life he was committed to creating a government that avoided corruption and tyranny, one that would allow citizens to maintain safe and happy lives; and he even believed that owning slaves was a ‘slow poison.’ In addition to his political standing, Mason had an eye for refinement and understated beauty. The construction of Gunston Hall began around 1754 with Mason hiring a gem of an architect named William Buckland. Buckland used architectural ideas from “Gothic,” “French Modern,” “Chinese,” “Palladian,” and classical influences to create the manor’s stunning interior. However, while the main home is indeed gorgeous, the grounds and gardens are what truly make Gunston Hall stand apart from the other historical places.
During my walk I felt a sense of contentment; the grounds were such a peaceful and relaxing place. Upon arrival I heard the birds chirping and the bees and beetles buzzing as I strolled up the walkway to the manor. As I approached, there were rows of cherry trees arranged in an almost tunnel-like fashion to draw your attention to the house at the end of the bucolic passage. The coloring of the area was saturated; the sky an ever changing blue as the day progressed, dashes of white cotton candy clouds also littered the sky. The land smelled of freshly cut grass and an almost smoky-like smell from the burning of wood in the distance. The weather provided a cool breeze that flowed through the trees and embraced all living things in the area. Birds soared overhead along with the occasional airplane; but very few people were in attendance, and those who were seemed to be enjoying the spacious scenery far off in the distance.
I was accompanied by Odysseus, my little man and a white fluff ball of a golden retriever who gallivanted through the fields as we played fetch and took in the vast area of land with its sturdy trees and wide plains. At one point I almost broke an ankle trying to keep up with him while running down a hill, not necessarily my brightest move. After that moment I decided a rest might be in order and we lounged on a bench near the manor, gazing up at the sky as the clouds swirled by and the smell of fall came in on the passing breeze. George Mason took 550 acres and crafted it into a glorious plot of expertly utilized land. From its balanced design you can see how Mason interacted with the land and demonstrated his underlying skill of being one of the colony’s leading planters and thinkers. Mason carefully used European concepts of landscape, incorporating principles of perspective, symmetry, and grace to design his estate. All his careful placing of plants, fences, roads, etc. were arranged to dazzle visitors and subtly remind them of his education and standing in society. Overall, George Mason’s Gunston Hall is truly a remarkable place to witness.
By the end of my time there, I can say without a doubt that it was a distinct pleasure to be far removed from my ‘idiot box’, and to just get lost in nature. I am sad to say it is not something I do often, but even with this relatively brief hour, I was able to finally relax and just enjoy what was around me. It truly drove home the point that I need to spend more time away from my electronic devices. Soon I hope to enjoy another day like this, possibly with my entire family.
Bibliography: Guide to Visiting. (2020, August 27). Retrieved September 26, 2020, from https://gunstonhall.org/visit/guide/