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Shops at Mount Vernon — History for the Holidays

Washington admirers will delight in gifts fashioned from the nation's first President's life.

The Shops at Mount Vernon hold some of the most wide ranging gift possibilities for anyone's holiday shopping list.

"We have a lot of new items for every price range and taste as well as many of our regular offerings such as the 2005 official ornament that is particularly spectacular this year," said Julia A. Mosley, director of retail, Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens.

From antique jewelry, art and historical literature, to gifts for children and tasty ingredients for seasonal meals — everything's there for the one-stop shopper.

Located directly in front of Mount Vernon Circle at the southern end of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, shoppers enjoy free parking in lots within walking distance of the shops.

Some of the new items featured at the shops this holiday season include: an almost life-size bust of Gen. George Washington for $365. It joins smaller busts of the first president in either white or bronze. The 5-inch sells for $8.50 and the 12-inch for $46.

Shoppers can partake in libations as the Washingtons did. Wine rinsers and glasses in either rich blue or clear glass. The rinser is a reproduction of an original piece used by the Washingtons. Rinsers were used on colonial tables to allow guests to rinse their glasses before trying a different wine. Tavern glasses, used for a variety of beverages, are hand blown. Each glass sells for $25, while the rinser is $24.

AS MOUNT VERNON ESTATE ATTESTS, Washington was an avid gardener who delighted in nurturing the many exotic plants sent to him from admirers worldwide. To do that, he needed a substantial watering can and that is exactly what is available in hammered copper for $86. It was adapted from a pair of copper "watering pots" originally used at Mount Vernon during the 18th century. This two and a half gallon vessel is attractive enough to be used as a planter rather than being used for its intended purpose.

One of the most versatile and eye catching potential gifts is the new Centerpiece Keepsake Box. A multi-purpose box shaped like the Mansion sells for $46.

For those with an eye for art there is the latest Washington print titled "Virginia Colonel." This gilt-framed reproduction is a superb copy of a portrait of America's first commander-in-chief done by Charles William Peale. There is also an early copy in the West Parlor of the Mansion. At 15 inches by 17 inches, including the frame, it is priced at $95.

Joining the wide array of historical literature available at the shops is the latest treatise by Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough titled "1776." At $32, this hardcover, 386 page account details how Washington set the stage for the beginning of the end of America as a colony of Great Britain.

For those that have been accumulating various items of the Washington spy collection, there is the new book "George Washington, Spymaster." Readers will discover how the Americans spied on the British to win the Revolutionary War. For $16.95, the world of double agents and Washington's emphasis on espionage are outlined in this 184-page book by Thomas B. Allen.

For the budding military tactician there is the Wooden Soldier play set. The set comes in a decorated tin fashioned like a Revolutionary War drum. The base of the tin contains a small history lesson on what Washington faced in preparing unseasoned colonists to face the world's greatest army of the time. It is priced at $20.50.

THE 2005 MOUNT VERNON ORNAMENT is $18. A 1792 painting of the Mansion done by Edward Savage is on one side and a sculpture profile of Washington on the other. The 4-inch collector's item is framed with a 24K gold finish.

Other items available include, Grandmother's Tea Set at $42.50 and historically accurate hand-made wooden or china dolls at $49.95, a George Washington cherry afghan bearing the famous quote, "I cannot tell a lie," and an authentic Washington signature in the border for $58.

A series of 10 presidential ornaments depicting the nation's chief executives who have demonstrated exceptional strength of character, leadership and vision for America's future. They are $16 each or $140 for the full set.

One of the most intriguing offerings are the miniature plate ornaments that can be used either as an ornament or as an addition to a package destined for someone special. There are three versions — Mount Vernon Mansion, the National Capital Building and a Blue Canton Plate. Each sells for $6.50 and includes a description on the rear of the packaging.

Not to be outdone in the food category the shops offer a wide range of palette pleasantries coupled with Virginia wines and cider. This year there's a very new invitation to the taste bids — a whole new "cherry" line of foods.

Included are Cherry Mustard Balsamic vinaigrette, dubbed "a perfect salad dressing" for $9.50; Cherries Foster, a brandied cherry desert topping at $7.50; and all natural Cherry & Peach Salsa for $6. For the less adventurous, there is the regular array of Christmas jams. An eight ounce jar goes for $4.75.

For antique jewelry lovers, "We have a phenomenal collection of antique jewelry. And, it's getting harder and harder to find elsewhere," Mosley said. "We also stand behind our sales so that it can be returned and people like that."

Pieces range from $100 to a $5,800 sapphire and diamond ring. One of the most unusual elements within this offering is a collection of engagement rings from the 1920s through the 1940s.

"The bulk of the antique jewelry sells for between $500 and $3,000. But, we also have pieces under $100," Mosley said.

The shops are open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On remaining days of Mansion Candlelight Tours and special events they will remain open into the evening.

THIS SEASON'S SPECIAL EVENTS at the shops include a visit by Artist Paul McGehee on Dec. 10 from 5-9 p.m. McGehee will autograph prints of his new limited edition print "Autumn at Mount Vernon." This 17 inch by 27 inch print is one of 1,800 signed and numbered pieces priced at $200. Another 200 versions with an original hand drawing by the artist in the lower left border can be acquired for $800.

The Mansion will host a visit by acclaimed artist Janice Morgan from Halcyon Days Enamels on Dec. 11, from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. She will be available to hand paint a personal message inside any enamel box purchased at that event as well as demonstrating the extraordinary craft of decorating miniature enamel boxes. Halcyon Days Enamels are handcrafted in Bilston, England using 18th century techniques. The 2-inch long, 1 and 3/4 inch wide boxes, vary in price depending on design.

Mansion Candlelight Tours are scheduled for Dec. 9, 10 and 11 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Mosley said on tour nights, the shops will remain open until 9 p.m. allowing people time to enjoy the full tour.