George Washington’s Distillery at Mount Vernon, which opened to the public in the spring of 2007, recently received several important awards for architectural excellence and historic preservation from The Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects, The Northern Virginia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and Wood Design &Building Magazine.
“After almost a decade of painstaking research, careful planning and devoted attention to the minutest detail of historical accuracy, it is gratifying to know that our efforts have been appreciated by our colleagues in the preservation, design and construction fields,” said Dennis Pogue, Mount Vernon’s chief historian and director of preservation. “George Washington’s record of achievement in all of his many pursuits is a remarkable chapter in American history, and these awards confirm that we have created an equally remarkable building where part of that story can be told.”
The Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects presented the distillery with the 2007 “Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation” for excellence in preservation strategies and technology. Builders employed late-18th century building techniques to authentically reconstruct the distillery.  The renovation project was celebrated not only for design and execution, but for the extraordinary academic effort in archaeology, documentation and research.
The Northern Virginia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects honored the distillery with its “Craftsman Award,” which honors the renovation project for the highest standards of craftsmanship in new construction. The distillery received this award over all newly constructed projects in the region and it was the first time in five years the award was given at all.
Additionally, Wood Design & Building Magazine recognized the distillery as a Merit Award winner in the 2007 Wood Design Awards. The distillery was one of 15 projects selected from more than 200 entries. The Wood Design Awards program is the only North American wide program that fosters growth in the quality of architectural practices by recognizing achievements in wood architecture. Nearly a dozen different species of wood were used in the construction to recreate the structural and aesthetic qualities of the original 18th century distillery.
Mount Vernon began the excavation and restoration of the $2.1 million distillery project in 2001 with a grant from the distillery spirits industry. The distillery was dedicated on September 27, 2006, and officially opened to the public in March 2007.
“Mount Vernon’s expert team of builders and historians resurrected the distillery with the highest degree of authenticity,” said Distilled Spirits Council President Peter Cressy. “We are very pleased that the craftsmanship and detail that went into the reconstruction of this unique building has been acknowledged, and George Washington’s role as a distiller restored to American history”
Washington erected the 2,250 square foot distillery in 1797, making it among the largest whiskey distilleries in early America. In 1799, Washington produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey, worth the then-substantial sum of $7,500.
The reconstructed distillery marks the only historic site in the country capable of showing the early American distilling process from seed to barrel. George Washington’s Distillery & Gristmill is open for tours March 15 through October 31 daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.