Nothing Ostentatious or Unnecessary
The George C. Marshall Foundation recently hosted a teachers institute for history teachers from throughout Virginia, giving them opportunities to learn more about the life of Gen. George Marshall and the Marshall Plan. As a part of this initiative, the group visited the home of the Marshalls in Leesburg, Virginia, Dodona Manor. I was lucky to be invited on this trip as an intern at the Foundation and learned more about the Marshalls’ life at their beautiful Virginia home alongside the teachers.
Walking up to and inside the house, I was struck by how it balanced its size with a homey feel. I learned that the home was restored after it sat empty for many years, but with a careful level of detail, the home largely resembles its state under the Marshalls’ residence. One of the first things I noticed was the beautiful furniture. I can appreciate Mrs. Marshall’s eye for a work of art and a good deal.
We started our official tour in the living room and began uncovering the gifts given to the Marshalls by various leaders and spouses. A print of a painting by Winston Churchill hangs proudly where the original once stood.
I was surprised by the number of furnishings and paintings from General Marshall’s Mission to China. As a student who has learned the most about the general during WWII and the Marshall Plan, his work in China from 1945 to 1947 was something I overlooked. Dressers, screens, paintings, and rugs are displayed throughout the house and demonstrate how important and influential this period was to the Marshalls. Madame Chiang Kai-shek became a friend to the couple and is known to have visited Dodona and gifted them some furniture and paintings.
Getting a glimpse into the personal rooms of General and Mrs. Marshall was another highlight of the trip. We learned that they slept in separate rooms due to their different morning routines.
While the General woke early and stocked his room with only the necessities, Mrs. Marshall liked to sleep in, and enjoyed a few more decorations.
A common theme throughout the Marshall home, even in Mrs. Marshall’s bedroom, is that there is nothing ostentatious or unnecessary. You can tell that each piece in the space was mindfully chosen by the owners. With what I have learned about General Marshall as an intern at the foundation, this is very fitting to his character.
Near the end of our tour, we saw the library and our guide told us that this was the general’s favorite room in the house. Books are such an interesting way to learn more about someone and it was such an honor to see what books he chose for his personal collection. It ranged from history to romantic novels and, to me, showed me how people with Marshall’s stature in history have full lives outside their achievements.
I was very fortunate to have visited Dodona Manor and learn so much from the wonderful people who run the George C. Marshall International Center.
Clare O’Brien is serving as a summer intern at the George C. Marshall Foundation. She is a rising senior at W&L University, majoring in history. She’s from Pennsylvania, as is Gen. Marshall.