The Dining Room

Overmantle with Aesop's FablePerhaps the most important public room in the house, and certainly the largest, is the dining room. This room features an elaborate plasterwork ceiling and carved overmantel. Tradition tells us that George Washington suggested the design of the overmantel, which includes Aesop's Fables of "The Fox and The Crow." On the tree branch at the center of the overmantel sits a crow with a piece of cheese in its mouth. Below, the hungry fox is circling the tree, eyeing the cheese. The clever fox calls up to the crow, “You have such a beautiful singing-voice, won’t you please sing me a song!” Falling for the flattery, the crow begins to sing and drops the cheese. The moral depicted in the overmantel for the Lewis children to learn was "beware of false flattery."

Dining room plasterwork ceilingThe decorative ceiling is one of three at Kenmore. Each of these ceilings contains plaster ornaments cast in molds or carved in place. The "stucco man" who created Kenmore's ceilings also decorated the small dining room ceiling at Mount Vernon. A series of letters written to George Washington by his farm manager in 1775 speak of the stucco man finishing work at Mount Vernon and returning to Colonel Lewis'.

According to the probate inventory of 1782, the dining room had a large oval table, a square table, fifteen chairs, china, silver, and glassware. The Lewises could dine with their large family and guests at the tables or use the space for other purposes after taking down the tables and clearing the floor.

The Lewises set their table for meals with the china, silver, and glassware stored in the closet to the right of the fireplace. The door to the left opens to a narrow passage that leads to the chamber and to an exterior door facing the kitchen. Through this door the servants and slaves brought the food from the kitchen hearth to the dining room table. Billy, one of the slaves who worked in the house, used this door as he set and cleared the table.

A set of double doors in the dining room face the Rappahannock River. When the Lewises walked through these doors, they surveyed a terraced garden, an extension of the formal space of the dining room.

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