George Washington’s Coffin
Oct 30,2007

The following is one of a series of excerpts we’re featuring from Robert Madison’s book, “Walking with Washington”.

112 South Royal Street

George Washington’s 1799 funeral accounts list $99.25 paid to Joseph and Henry Ingle for a mahogany coffin, with “silver plate engraved, furnished with lace.”  Joseph Ingle acquired the house at 112 South Royal Street in 1795 for an annual rent of $50 and announced that he continued to carry on the “Cabinet and Chair-Making Business” at his shop on Royal.  Washington’s original coffin was probably made here.  His brother Henry was a merchant on the southeast corner of King and Royal Streets (where the CVS Drug Store is today). 

Prince and South Fairfax Streets

This condominium on the southeast corner of Prince and South Fairfax Streets originally was James Green’s “extensive Cabinet Manufactory,” which was completed in 1836.   The building combined a three-story brick warehouse fronting over 98 feet on Fairfax and an adjoining brick building fronting 16 feet on Fairfax.  The metal initials “JG,” used to terminate an interior supporting rod, can still be seen on the south wall.  In 1837, when George Washington’s body was moved from the old tomb at Mount Vernon to the new tomb where he is today, James Green was hired to make a new coffin.  “In those days, to make a coffin it was necessary for a workman to lie inside the coffin, holding the sides together while the work of joining was going on...  This part of the work fell to Mr. Mark L. Penn who for hours lay in what shortly enveloped and has ever since hid from mortal view the remains of the immortal Washington... .  After the body had been transferred to the new coffin and placed in the present sarcophagus, the old casket was brought to Mr. Green’s factory to be made up into snuff boxes and other mementos.  It was soon discovered, however, that the wood was spongy, rotten and unfit for any such purpose as intended ... and portions of it gradually became distributed around.”  The building was used as a military prison during the Civil War.  The surrender documents ending the Civil War in Virginia were signed on a table manufactured by Green.  Likewise, the chairs for the old Supreme Court chamber in the basement of the U.S. Capitol were made here.

The metal initials “JG” can still be seen on the south wall.

(Adapted from Walking with Washington, available in Alexandria museum gift shops)

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