Washington’s birthday bash back to Feb. 22?

Posted: July 17, 2014

The Winchester Star

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf

WINCHESTER — U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, is trying to restore the observance of George Washington’s birthday to the actual date.

His resolution for the observance to be held on Feb. 22 was given the thumbs up in a voice vote by the House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

Of the dozens of committee members, only one voted against the measure, Wolf said Wednesday. It’s part of an amendment to the annual Interior Department budget.

“It was treated as a non-controversial bill,” Wolf said. “Every major historian supports the bill.”

Washington’s birthday was first recognized on Feb. 22 in 1885, but was moved to the third Monday in February in 1971 and eventually became known as Presidents Day, according to a press release from Wolf’s office.

Wolf has numerous letters of support from university professors and historians, as well as Curtis Viebranz, president of Washington’s home at Mount Vernon.

“We strongly believe that a true patriotic celebration of Washington’s birthday would help return [him] to a place of prominence in our national consciousness — a goal for which we have been striving for many years,” Viebranz states in a June 2 letter.

Like Viebranz, Wolf lamented that Presidents Day has relegated the Founding Father to a caricature for sale ads.

Famed historical author David McCullough sent Wolf a letter two years ago arguing the importance of celebrating Washington’s birthday.

“The place of George Washington in the American story, his all-important example of courage and integrity in leadership, can hardly be overstated and must never be taken lightly,” the letter states. “Nor should we celebrate his birthday on any day but February 22, any more than we would wish to move July 4 about to suit some convenience of the moment.”

The Winchester-Clarke-Frederick area is “the Washington center of the Shenandoah Valley,” Wolf noted.

Wolf referred to a small log building known as George Washington’s Office Museum — near the intersection of Cork and Braddock streets — which according to the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society’s website at winchesterhistory.org, he used as a military office in the mid-1750s while Fort Loudoun was being built on the north side of the city.

Washington represented Frederick County in the House of Burgesses from 1758-1765, according to the site.

He had an outlot located off what is now National Avenue.

“He has surveyed most of that area,” Wolf said. “He surveyed Lord Fairfax’s property in Clarke County.”

Wolf noted that the third Monday in February always falls between the 15th and 21st.

“It can never be on his birthday,” he said.

Washington’s birthday wasn’t always Feb. 22, according to Pam McFarland, a docent at George Washington’s Office.

“Well, George Washington was born actually on Feb. 11 under an old calendar,” McFarland said Wednesday. “During his lifetime, before the Revolution, the calendar changed, and it moved his birthdate to the 22nd of February. Throughout the rest of his life, George Washington celebrated both dates.”

Like Wolf, she is a great admirer of Washington.

“I always have felt bad that George was not properly honored,” McFarland said. “I think he should be. He was a remarkable man.”

Wolf said Washington was “indispensable.”

“[With the birthday holiday], we can honor the greatest president ever and remember his values of honesty and integrity and courage,” he said.

— Contact Sally Voth at svoth@winchesterstar.com