October 4 2013
President Obama maddeningly and repeatedly referred to the White House as “my house" during the early days of his tenure. Nope, it’s ours.
But his administration is also apparently confused as to the ownership of another presidential residence: Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon belongs to all of us but it is also privately-owned property which has never taken federal funds.
But, always looking for ways to make the shutdown more inconvenient for regular citizens—or worse, even more lacking in an understanding of the concept of private property than we knew—the administration had the National Park Service impede visits to the historic house. The National Park Service blocked the public parking lots adjacent to Mount Vernon.
But the feds can't put a "Keep Out" sign up at Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon’s website carried this message: “NO SHUTDOWN HERE.” It explained:
“George Washington's Mount Vernon is privately owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association and will remain open despite the threat of a shutdown of the federal government. Despite some reports to the contrary, our parking lots are open and available. We stand ready to welcome all visitors to the home of our founding father and first president. Mount Vernon has never accepted any government funds throughout its long history.”
The Washington Free Beacon—which makes no reference to any attempt to barricade Mount Vernon parking—also touts the privately-owned historic house as a good place to visit during the shutdown. And former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is quoted tweeting that Mount Vernon is a good option for those “frustrated by the shutdown of the Smithsonian.”
Mount Vernon is also an example of what private groups can achieve without federal money. A number of historic properties are successfully--and lovingly--administered by private groups. This is something worth thinking about, perhaps now more than ever.
And it’s good at this moment in our history to visit the residence of the president who fought to create the United States rather than one who believes we are in such desperate need of change that petty measures are in order.