2020 Annual Report


The mission of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association is to preserve, restore, and manage the estate of George Washington to the highest standards and to educate visitors and people throughout the world about the life and legacies of George Washington, so that his example of character and leadership will continue to inform and inspire future generations.

Regent Sarah Miller Coulson

Letter from the Regent

In the 160 years since the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association (MVLA) purchased Mount Vernon from the Washington family, the Association, along with our great nation, has experienced many challenging times. Our steadfast leadership, combined with a strong sense of mission, has allowed Mount Vernon to not only endure, but to emerge stronger, more insightful, and more purposeful in each era. 

One of the earliest challenges the MVLA faced was during the Civil War. Mount Vernon was physically within miles of both the Union and Confederate fronts, and steamboat travel all along the Potomac was blocked. The Ladies were undaunted, and in recognition that George Washington was the father of the entire Union, they secured guarantees from both armies that Mount Vernon and Washington’s Tomb were hallowed ground and neutral territory. They adjusted budgets and adapted to years of financial hardship in the war’s aftermath. During both World Wars and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, this resiliency and conservative financial stewardship, as well as the MVLA’s ability to adapt to change, have always ensured that Mount Vernon will remain for future generations.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been no different. Mount Vernon responsibly closed its doors to the public when the first cases were reported in our area. In our busiest season, when Mount Vernon normally would see 75 percent of our operating revenue from ticket sales, food, and retail, the MVLA, in concert with Doug Bradburn and Mount Vernon staff, smartly restructured our operations.

Expenses were reduced and projects deferred, and a Mount Vernon revenue working group was established to help innovate and adapt to the pandemic. Perhaps of even greater impact has been the level of support from our donors and fellow Americans. We have seen record giving, memberships have increased, and we have received countless letters of support from individuals across the country. We have steadied our finances and prudently borrowed funds in the short term with a sound repayment plan, and throughout the pandemic, continued our long-standing practice of not seeking government funds.
The availability of widespread vaccinations is a hopeful harbinger of better days for Mount Vernon, as it is for all of America. Since reopening our doors last June, we have seen a steady increase in visitors. The beauty and tranquility of the expansive estate, gardens, and the Mansion have allowed for a safe and delightful excursion for many families. We are very optimistic that our visitation will return to pre-pandemic levels during 2022, and we expect Mount Vernon to have a sound financial operating plan and be in a position to continue with so many important and mission-driven projects.

As you read of the truly wonderful activities and accomplishments in this year’s annual report, I want to share my profound thanks for your unwavering support and simple friendship. Regardless of the times, our nation has always looked to George Washington’s utterly unique example of leadership and humility, and his example of the finest presidential comportment. Thanks to your generous support, the MVLA will continue throughout the coming decades to further its abiding mission of preservation and education and to protect Mount Vernon as a special place for generations to come.

Sarah Miller Coulson signature

Sarah Miller Coulson

Letter from the President

At a time of crisis in the United States and the world, the mission of Mount Vernon is as important as it has ever been. The stories of our nation’s ability to persevere under the most severe tests are all a part of this place, from the Revolutionary War, to the constitutional crisis, the Civil War, two World Wars, the Great Depression, global pandemics, and the many political storms of our wild democracy. Mount Vernon stands as an icon and a touchstone of American identity. We are the lighthouse in the storm, as the home of the father our country, the first leader of our great experiment in self-government, always reminding the nation where we came from and who we can be together. 

We are in an age in which information is in everyone’s hands, yet it has never been more vital for organizations like the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association to be a trusted, authoritative voice the public can rely on. The Covid-19 pandemic caused Mount Vernon to close its gates to the public for a period of 99 days. This is the longest Mount Vernon was closed since the Civil War. Yet daily, we welcomed thousands of guests virtually. They came seeking answers, facts, and our nation’s history and found the digital resources we have been developing aggressively since the opening of the Washington Library in 2013.

We responded to the needs of teachers and parents struggling for things to do in their living room classrooms. Within three days after closure, Mount Vernon hosted daily virtual events on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, where our visitors could ask our staff questions on everything regarding George Washington, his estate, and our nation’s founding. The George Washington Teacher Institute expanded professional development to teachers nationwide and adapted lesson plans and resources to accommodate remote learning. Thousands of teachers received direct help from staff members of Mount Vernon, and tens of thousands more accessed our resources. 

Simultaneously, Mount Vernon adapted to the changing world. We developed a reopening plan that allowed visitors to return to the estate in time for our nation’s 244th birthday. We found a way to have a safe fireworks display with hundreds of guests to celebrate our hard-won independence. We adapted our events schedule to safely host our fall and winter events, and we developed members-only virtual events. The Mount Vernon Inn launched online ordering and meals to go. And the MVLA donated personal protective equipment, snacks, meals, and produce from the gardens to first responders and families in need.

Throughout all the struggles this year, our nation has endured. George Washington and the founders sought to form a “more perfect union,” but they always knew it would be in future generations’ hands to ensure it thrived. As Washington noted in one of my favorite letters, which he sent at the close of the Revolutionary War, our foundation as a nation was “not laid in the gloomy age of Ignorance and Superstition, but at an epoch when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period.” And so, he noted, if our “citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own.” The point of our independence was the ability to choose our future, and we still, thanks to his life’s work, are part of that great experiment. To make sure we do not take our freedom for granted, we need to educate citizens. The leadership of George Washington is more important than ever. Mount Vernon’s adaptation during the pandemic only serves to strengthen us as an institution and makes our obligation to the nation to teach about George Washington ever more impactful. 

As you look through this year’s report, you will see an organization that gained ground—a chronicle of success, impact, relevance, and strength, and a tale that would not be possible without the generosity of supporters like you. I thank you for helping us preserve this place to continue to tell the stories of Washington so that he will forever remain first in the hearts of Americans.

Douglas Bradburn signature

Douglas Bradburn, Ph.D.
President & CEO

Doug Bradburn, President and CEO

Preserving the Mansion & Historic Area

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Thumbnail of the neo-classical wallpaper in the Mansion's Central Passage.

The autumn of 2020 saw Mount Vernon’s Central Passage dramatically transformed by an elegant neoclassical wallpaper, with medallion portraits, graceful female statuettes, and flower-filled vases.

A view of the reinterpreted yellow reoom

In 2020, the closure of the estate for several months and limited reopening of the Mansion provided an unexpected opportunity for Mount Vernon’s preservation and curatorial staff to advance the refurbishment of the second-floor bedroom known to the Washingtons as the Yellow Room.

The north garden house sits restored in the garden

In mid-summer 2020, work was completed on the North Garden House. Located in the upper garden, this small octagonal structure was built right after the Revolutionary War. Its primary function was to store tools and seeds, but it also briefly served as a schoolhouse for Washington’s step-grandchildren, Nelly and Washy Custis.

textile conservation storage

A new home for the Washington Textile Collection.

Teaching America’s Story

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For more than 20 years, the George Washington Teacher Institute has provided teachers the resources and materials they need to educate their students about George Washington’s legacy, the founding era, and the nation’s struggles with slavery. 

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As the country grappled with the Covid-19 pandemic, cultural institutions worldwide saw their doors close to the public. Institutions scrambled to create digital offerings to remain relevant and continue their mission.

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As a leading national historic site, Mount Vernon ensures that guests connect to quality and inspiring scholarship about George Washington and the world in which he lived.

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Mount Vernon’s Research Fellowship Program offers long and short-term fellowships for trained scholars interested in producing scholarly work about the founding era.

Securing Our Future

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Two guests at the Mount Vernon Birthnight Ball

Birthnight Ball

This special black-tie event celebrates the birth of our founding father, George Washington.

A group of guests are the Mount Vernon Homecoming event

Mount Vernon Homecoming

Mount Vernon’s donor groups joined together for a single fundraiser in support of Mount Vernon’s education and preservation mission.

President Douglas Bradburn speaking at Spirit of Mount Vernon

Spirit of Mount Vernon

This signature event—in its 19th year—brought together representatives from the Washington, DC corporate, association, and government affairs communities, along with guests from Capitol Hill and the administration.

Connoisseur Society

The Connoisseur Society is a group of George Washington enthusiasts who are dedicated to supporting the acquisition, preservation, and conservation of Mount Vernon’s rich and diverse collections.

The Founders, Washington Committee is a group of patriotic women from the Washington, DC area. Their fundraising enriches the Mount Vernon experience.

The Life Guard Society

The Life Guard Society is named after the elite group of soldiers responsible for ensuring the safety of George Washington. The group’s fundraising supports Mount Vernon’s mission and special projects.

Washington Cabinet

Members of the Washington Cabinet serve as ambassadors for Mount Vernon and contribute toward the mission of education and preservation.

Business Sponsors

Patriotic businesses provide crucial support for Mount Vernon’s mission of education, preservation, and preserving the legacy of George Washington.


Special Collections Highlights

The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington continued to expand its resources for researchers and scholars. This year’s acquisitions include rare manuscripts from the Washington family, and new rare books.

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In 2020 Mount Vernon had the opportunity to expand it’s collection of art and artifacts.

Thank you.

Our 2020 accomplishments were made possible by generous contributions from patriotic individuals, corporations, and foundations representing all 50 states. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association relies on this support and does not accept government funding. We are grateful for this commitment to Mount Vernon’s mission of education and preservation, especially during times of great challenge like 2020.

All contributions to Mount Vernon are tax-deductible under the limits of the law. The support of the many generous donors listed on these pages is deeply appreciated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, as is the support of the thousands more who made gifts of less than $250. Please note that these lists represent a donor’s total giving in 2020 and do not include purchases of tickets or event donations. Although every effort has been made to include all donors who support Mount Vernon with gifts of $250 or more, omissions and errors occasionally occur. We reserve the right to edit listings in order to comply with our organizational style guide. We would appreciate corrections and additions forwarded to the Senior Vice President for Development, Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, P.O. Box 110, Mount Vernon, VA 22121.

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Extraordinary annual contributions of $25,000 and above

Annual Supporters


Annual Supporters


Annual Supporters


Cumulative Lifetime Giving

Cumulative contributions to Mount Vernon of $250,000 and above since our modern record keeping began in 1986

Multi-Year Supporters

Extraordinary pledge payments of $25,000 or above

Ann Pamela Cunningham Society

Individuals who have remembered Mount Vernon in their estate plans or have provided for a planned gift

Memorial Gifts

Special gifts made in memory of these individuals

Matching Gifts

Corporations and foundations that match gifts from their employees and board members


Volunteers contribute their time and expertise to all departments

Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association Records

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