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The Memorial House

A short distance from the early 18th century Washington birth home location is the Memorial House. Its location may have been determined in June 1815 by George Washington Park Custis. He visited the abandoned Popes Creek Plantation as an adult to find only the kitchen chimney standing. Amid fig bushes and wild vegetation, Custis found a rectangular foundation and ruins which he would mark as the birthsite of George Washington.

The U.S. Fine Arts Commission and the Secretary of War approved a design in 1927 based on architect Edward Donn's interpretation of the rectangular foundation discovered by Custis, and the "house of ten or twelve rooms, of two stories in height, with an ell, and probably, not much dissimilar or smaller than Gunston Hall...." The Memorial House was finished in time for George Washington's 200th birthday celebration in 1932.

The Memorial House foundation was later revealed to be the foundation of a large rectangular outbuilding - perhaps a barn. By 1934, the National Park Service conducted an extensive archeological survey of Popes Creek. Archeologists uncovered the ruins of George Washington's birth home site yielding 16,000 artifacts, many of which had been heated by fire (perhaps the fire that destroyed the house on Christmas Day, 1779).

Frederick Law Olmstead visited this site in the 1920s and argued against the construction of any type of house on the location because it would lead to confusion among visitors who may conclude that the reconstructed house is the originial birth home of George Washington. In some instances this has been the case, and the reconstructed house has led to controversy and condemnation.

Freeman Tilden noted that the Memorial House is "not the house where George Washington was born, but the spirit of our great whole man is there; and in these lovely surroundings, the staunch character of our hero comes to the imagination."

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