George Washington created a formal courtyard on the west side of the Mansion. At its center is a large ellipse, its precise layout reflective of his surveying skill. By circling the ellipse, carriages could bring visitors directly to the door, and then easily continue around towards the stable. At one point this broad circle was paved in cobblestones.
Sitting to the north of the circle is the Servants’ Hall and to the south the Kitchen. The buildings form an open forecourt that frames the house. In the middle of the Mansion Circle sits a sundial. This was the most accurate timepiece available to 18th-century Americans. Mounted atop a white painted wood post, the sundial was a visual reminder of the hour to all who passed it.