MOUNT VERNON, Va. (AP) — George Washington never had air conditioning, but he knew how to keep cool: a mansion with lots of windows elevated on the banks of a wide, rolling river and lots of ice cream, maybe with a little brandy.
It was a little like the old days without electricity Wednesday, as the nation's capital region celebrated Independence Day the better part of a week into a widespread blackout that left millions of residents sweltering in 90-plus degree heat without air conditioning. Utilities have slowly been restoring service knocked out by a freak storm Friday from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic, and at least 26 people have died in the storm or its aftermath.
At George Washington's Mount Vernon estate, one of the most popular Fourth of July attractions was a demonstration of 18th-century ice cream making, one of Washington's favorite desserts. Historical interpreters Gail Cassidy and Anette Ahrens showed the crowds how cocoa beans were roasted and ground into a paste for chocolate ice cream, made using ice hauled up in massive blocks from the Potomac River and stored underground to last as long into the summer as possible.
As for beverages, Washington was no stranger to alcohol, enjoying imported Madeira wine from Portugal, distilling his own whiskey and enjoying a fruity brandy cocktail called Cherry Bounce.
Washington was his own architect at Mount Vernon, "and he was very good at it," said Dennis Pogue, associate director for preservation at Mount Vernon. The piazza, which runs the length of the mansion, is "kind of California living in the 18th century," Pogue said.
The location, atop a sloping hill along the Potomac, catches cool breezes. Lots of windows and shutters allow for the regulation of sun and wind. And the distinctive cupola on the mansion roof serves as the mansion's air conditioning unit, funneling hot air out the top and drawing cooler air in at the ground level.
Visitors on Wednesday gathered on the mansion's back porch, a piazza overlooking the Potomac where breezes rolled through.
"It feels good out here. It's the same thing we do in Texas," said Chris Moore of Austin, Texas, sitting with his wife, Dina. The two had come to Virginia to see their son graduate from officer training at The Basic School at Quantico Marine Corps Base.
Moore said he opted for the smaller crowds at Mount Vernon as opposed to the massive Fourth of July Celebration on the National Mall because it afforded a better place to relax and contemplate the founding of the nation, especially since Mount Vernon on Wednesday hosted a naturalization ceremony for 100 new citizens from 47 different countries.
"This place is incredible. It's just the kind of place that people need to see," he said, noting the divided nature of the country's current politics. "We all need to step back and look at where we started."
Up the river in Washington, President Barack Obama also attended a naturalization ceremony at the White House, this one for active service members from 17 countries. Military families were invited for a barbecue and to watch fireworks on the South Lawn.
Obama said the varied backgrounds of those taking the oath typified America's long tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world to its shores.
"Unless you are one of the first Americans, a native American, we are all descended from folks who came from somewhere else," he said. "The story of immigrants in America isn't a story of them. It's a story of us."
Presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has spent most of the week off the campaign trail with his family in in Wolfeboro, N.H., but took time Wednesday to march in the town's Fourth of July parade.
In New York, about a dozen disabled soldiers — most triple or quadruple amputees — visited ground zero ahead of the usual throng of tourists. The visit was intended to salute service members who survived the post-9/11 wars to become miracles of modern medicine, and to promote two charities raising money for homes custom-built to ease their burdens.
On Coney Island, Joey Chestnut ate his way to a sixth straight win at the Fourth of July hot dog eating contest, tying his personal best in a sweaty, gag-inducing spectacle. The 28-year-old nicknamed "Jaws" scarfed down 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes in the sweltering summer heat to take home $10,000 and the mustard-yellow belt.
The city's celebration was expected to capped with the Macy's 4th of July Fireworks show off Manhattan later in the night, with 40,000 aerial shells will be launched from five barges.
Many Americans abandoned their holiday plans after going without power from violent storms that hit Friday across the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest.
Jeanette Oliver had planned to have her relatives over to her Vineland, N.J., home, but the ongoing power outage forced her to change those plans on the fly this week.
"They had been saying most people would have (electrical) service back by Wednesday, but we didn't want to risk having a big party in a home where you couldn't turn on the air conditioning, you couldn't turn on a TV or a computer," Oliver said outside a supermarket early Wednesday. "Several people in our family are elderly, and you don't want them suffering with the heat and being uncomfortable."
Sarah Lenkay and her roommates, who lost power in Columbus, Ohio, Friday evening, didn't have power back until around midnight Wednesday. They weren't too excited about the holiday, because the last few days have been so miserable.
"I'm just enjoying the comfort of my home right now, and cleaning and getting things in order," she said. "So I'm not really doing much. It feels great."
Associated Press Writers Tom Hays and Colleen Long in New York, Bruce Shipkowski in Toms River, N.J., Julie Pace in Washington, Kasie Hunt in Wolfeboro, N.H., and Barbara Rodriguez in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.
An American beech tree lies on Capitol Hill grounds in Washington, Saturday, June 30, 2012, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, background, after a powerful storms swept across the eastern U.S. Friday evening. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Frances Lukens looks at the tangle of boards and tree limbs piercing her living room ceiling in Lynchburg, Va. on Saturday, June 30, 2012 after a huge oak tree fell directly on the house during a storm the previous night. (AP Photo/The News & Advance, Parker Michels-Boyce)
In this Friday, June 29, 2012 photo, a car sits damaged from where a brick wall fell on it from the second story of a store in Columbus Grove, Ohio. The bricks fell on and crushed two vehicles as strong winds tore through the region Friday afternoon. (AP Photo/The Lima News, Jay Sowers)
A tree sitting atop a vehicle offers free firewood in Falls Church, Va., Monday, July, 2, 2012, as cleanup continued after Friday's storm, Around 2 million utility customers are without electricity across a swath of states along the East Coast and as far west as Illinois as the area recovers from a round of summer storms that has also caused at least 17 deaths. (AP Photo/Karen Mahabir)
A utility pole is cracked in half by a downed tree on a residential street in Arlington, Va., Sunday, July 1, 2012. Severe storms swept through the area leaving many homes and businesses without electricity. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Marcia McCloud (right) and her great-granddaughter Makayla Milton, find some comfort together at the Red Cross cooling shelter at Sandusky Middle School in Lynchburg, Va., July 1, 2012. Milton was visiting her great-grandmother Friday when the storm hit and the two were forced to find other shelter. McCloud explained, "It's like a vacation, vacation away from home!" (AP Photo/The News & Advance, Parker Michels-Boyce)
Joe Tiago takes pictures of a downed utility pole and electric transformer on Old Keene Mill Road, Sunday, July 1, 2012 in Springfield Va. A severe storm late Friday knocked out power to approximately one million residents, traffic signals and businesses in the region. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Residents of the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, navigate underneath a downed tree, Sunday, July 1, 2012. A severe storm late Friday, June 29th knocked out power to approximately one million residents, traffic signals and businesses in the region. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A worker uses a chainsaw to clear a tree that fell onto the 14th fairway at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., Saturday, June 30, 2012, after a strong storm blew through overnight. The AT&T National golf tournament was postponed to allow workers to clear the course. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
A van and boat sit crushed by fallen trees, as crews work to restore power Saturday, June, 30, 2012, in Northfield, N.J. Severe thunderstorms packing heavy rain, lightning and strong winds that gusted up to 70 mph hit the state Saturday, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands and killing at least two. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Using crutches, Cooper Scott talks about the car where he and his mother were trapped in Lynchburg, Va. Saturday, June 30, 2012 after a large oak tree fell on them during the storm the night before. Both spent most of the night in the hospital but were back at home by Saturday morning. (AP Photo/The News & Advance, Parker Michels-Boyce)
Marilyn Golias, right, looks at the remains of a utility pole which fell across the street from her house in Falls Church, Va., Saturday, June 30, 2012. Millions across the mid-Atlantic region sweltered Saturday in the aftermath of violent storms that pummeled the eastern U.S. with high winds and downed trees, killing at least 13 people and leaving 3 million without power during a triple-digit heat wave. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Lighting flashes Saturday morning, June, 30, 2012 in Hebron Md.. Violent storms swept across the eastern U.S., killing at least nine people and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands on a day that temperatures across the region are expected to reach triple-digits. (AP photo by Salisbury Daily Times, Kristin Roberts)
Cesar de Jesus,
Cesar de Jesus, 4, from Riverdale, Md., play peek-a-boo from under a Red Cross blanket at a Red Cross shelter at Northwestern High School gym Saturday, June 30, 2012 in Hyattsville, Md. near Washington. Violent evening storms following a day of triple-digit temperatures wiped out power to more than 2 million people across the eastern United States. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
In this photo taken Friday, June 29, 2012 shows a trampoline smashed into the side of the garage in Lima, Ohio. Violent storms swept across the eastern U.S., killing at least 10 people and knocking out power to millions of people on a day that temperatures across the region are expected to reach triple-digits. The storms were blamed for the deaths of six people in Virginia; two in New Jersey; one in Ohio; and another in Maryland. (AP Photo/The Lima News, Gretchen White)
Larry Pellino repairs the site of the AIDS Memorial Quilt display damaged by a powerful storm that swept across the Washington region Friday, at the National Mall in Washington Saturday, June 30, 2012. Organizers of the quilt display are planning to put the exhibit back on Sunday. Violent storms swept across the eastern U.S., killing at least nine people and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands on a day that temperatures across the region are expected to reach triple-digits. Officials said about 500,000 people were without power in West Virginia. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
A tree lies on top of a storage building at the home Saturday, June 30, 2012 in Charleston, W.Va. (AP Photo/Jeff Gentner)
A passing storm brought a halt to rides Friday, June 29, 2012 at the 26th annual Italian-American Festival being held this weekend at the Stark County Fairgrounds in Canton, Ohio. A wave of violent storms sweeping through the mid-Atlantic following a day of record-setting heat in Washington, D.C., has knocked out power to nearly 2 million people. The storms converged Friday night on Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency after more than 500,000 customers in 27 counties were left without electricity. (AP Photo/The Repository, Bob Rossiter)
A tree toppled by severe storms sits atop a car in Washington's Dupont Circle neighborhood on Saturday, June 30, 2012 in Washington. More than two million people across the eastern U.S. lost power after violent storms and two people died, including a 90-year-old woman asleep in bed when a tree slammed into her home, a police spokeswoman said Saturday. (AP Photo/Jessica Gresko)
Clouds roll over Mundelein, Ill., as a storm moves through the area Friday, June 29, 2012.(AP photo/Daily Herald, Steve Lundy)
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