For the first time, Mount Vernon’s vast collection of books, manuscripts and archival materials will be organized, conserved and made available to researchers in a building reflecting the highest level of security, climate control and architectural design. Mount Vernon broke ground on the National Library on April 14, 2011. It is expected to open in 2013.
"I have not houses to build, except one, which I must erect for the accommodation and security of my military, civil and private papers, which are voluminous and may be interesting."
To his friend James McHenry, April 3, 1797
The 45,000-square-foot library will occupy a 15-acre site to the west of George Washington’s historic home on the banks of the Potomac River. A drive winding through a woodland of native trees and plantings will lead to the building’s entrance court and visitor parking area. A 6,000-square-foot Scholars’ Residence adjacent to the library will provide living quarters for up to eight resident scholars.
Visitors to the National Library will enter a two-story hall where sunlight will flood the beech-paneled space through a skylight in the roof. They will be helped to their destinations by library staff at the information desk recessed into one side of the lobby. Glass doors are designed to provide views of the adjacent reading room and its surrounding garden. The bridge above the doors will connect the offices on the second level to bring together education and curatorial staff.
The heart of the National Library will be devoted to the main reading room, rare books and manuscript rooms, and stacks for modern volumes. The larger wing on the east side will provide spaces for seminars, lectures and training programs on George Washington’s life, times and remarkable leadership. Offices in the west wing and on the second floor will supply work spaces for visiting scholars and 30 staff members.
Adjoining this space, the rare books and manuscripts room will center on a table and chairs to provide a place for teachers, researchers and participants in leadership programs to review historic documents in a secure environment. Letters written by George and Martha Washington as well as other treasures from the 1700s will be preserved within archival storage lining the walls.
Located just 150 feet west of the library, the Scholars’ Residence will enable out-of-town historians, authors, and fellows to reside as close as possible to their work, in a retreat-like environment. The modest building consists of six guest rooms, two guest apartments, a small kitchen, and a combination living/dining area.
A charming garden outside the education wing will center on an informal lawn surrounded by native deciduous and evergreen plantings. Flowering shrubs and woodland species will frame the lawn to define an intimate space within the larger landscape. A drift of Washington favorites like dogwood and redbud trees will add spring and fall interest. A large sandstone terrace at one end of the lawn will extend the conference and training wing of the library. Glass doors in the gathering area will open directly to accommodate outdoor events.