Woodlawn Mansion is a 126-acre estate that was originally part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The main Federal-style house was designed by the architect of the U.S. Capitol, Dr. William Thornton, and constructed between 1800 and 1805 for Washington’s nephew, Major Lawrence Lewis, and his wife, Eleanor “Nelly” Custis Lewis.
By the turn of the 20th century, Woodlawn was sadly deteriorated and only saved through the efforts of Elizabeth Sharpe, a Pennsylvania coal heiress. In 1952, Woodlawn became the first historic site owned by the National Trust. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House, scheduled for demolition due to the widening of Interstate 66, was donated to the National Trust in 1964 and relocated to the grounds of Woodlawn.
The house is a designated National Historic Landmark, primarily for its association with the Washington family, but also for the role it played in the historic preservation movement. It is now a museum property owned and managed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Operated as a historic house museum since 1949, Woodlawn is an interesting case-study of the cultural relevance of the house museum. Woodlawn relies on local support and engagement to succeed.
Woodlawn Mansion and the adjacent Pope-Leighey House are open to the public (admission charged) Friday through Monday from April until mid-December. The property name is Woodlawn & Pope-Leighey House. It also hosts special events, particularly weddings and an annual Needlework Show, and hosts museum tours.