On the 222nd anniversary of George Washington being elected the first President of the United States, the Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens broke ground today on the new Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington.
The five-acre, $47 million facility will house Mount Vernon’s collection of more than 15,000 items including George Washington’s books, manuscripts, and archival materials. Not only will the library safeguard these historical documents, it will also serve as a scholarly retreat and provide seminars and training programs focusing on Washington’s leadership. The library is expected to be completed and open in 2013.
“We expect to create the world’s intellectual headquarters for everything to do with George Washington,” said Mount Vernon Estate President James Rees in a statement. “By encouraging new research, aggressively reaching out to families across the nation, and hosting conferences that stress Washington’s leadership as the gold standard, we hope to touch the hearts and minds of each new generation.”
The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, which purchased the estate from the Washingtons in 1858, is not receiving funding for the project from the local, state, or federal governments. The project will be able to move forward thanks to a $38 million gift from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation; this gift is the largest in the history of Mount Vernon. Founded in 1954, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation has supported numerous educational projects including the construction of the Donald W. Reynolds museum and education center at Mount Vernon.
“We are pleased to be assisting the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association in building this important project to facilitate research, outreach, and the dissemination of knowledge about George Washington,” said Donald W. Reynolds Foundation Chairman Fred W. Smith in a statement. “I very much appreciate the tribute that my fellow Trustees and the Ladies’ Association have bestowed upon me in naming the new library in my honor.”
The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association is sponsoring a capital campaign to raise additional funds, setting a goal of $100 million for future library programs.
Members and benefactors of the Friends of Mount Vernon attended today’s ceremony. Also in attendance were Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland, Virginia State Senator Toddy Puller, and former U.S. Senator John Warner.
Keynote speaker Secretary of Defense Dr. Robert M. Gates remarked, “We are not coming here today to extol Washington and past leaders. The construction of the library continues the relevance of George Washington in the future. What Washington taught us from our earliest days is that leaders struggle with realistic and idealistic challenges with international issues.”