For Immediate Release
July 11, 2013
Digital images available
Melissa Wood: 703.799.5203
The Library marks the realization of an aspiration put forth by General Washington himself; in a 1797 letter to a friend, James McHenry, he expressed a desire to someday build a library in which to house his books and papers. Washington did not live to see that dream become a reality, but thanks to an outpouring of support from patriotic citizens, foundations, and corporations, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association will open a magnificent new building to serve that very purpose—and a much broader one—on September 27, 2013. Located on a fifteen-acre site just outside the main entrance to the Mount Vernon estate, the 45,000-square-foot Library will safeguard original Washington books and manuscripts. It will also serve as a center for new and ongoing scholarly research, educational outreach, and leadership training inspired by Washington’s example.
“This new Library will help us to maintain and advance George Washington’s timeless relevance in our fast-changing world,” said Ann Bookout, the Regent, or chair, of the Association, which owns and operates the Mount Vernon estate. “We are grateful to the thousands of supporters who answered our appeal, and who share our belief that Washington’s example of strong character and effective leadership remains more important than ever.”
Distinguishing it from other presidential libraries, Mount Vernon’s newest facility is fully funded by private contributions and will receive no government support. A private, not-for-profit organization, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association faced the daunting task of seeking contributions for this landmark project during tough economic times. One of the Association’s most generous and visionary supporters, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, emerged as a lead donor in early 2010, jump-starting Mount Vernon’s bold capital campaign with a lead gift of $38 million. Under the leadership of its chairman, Fred W. Smith, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation was a major contributor to Mount Vernon’s museum and education center, which opened in 2006.
The Reynolds Foundation’s generous pledge was quickly bolstered by two other major gifts, each secured in early 2010. Richard and Helen DeVos’ $10 million donation supported the construction of a 7,300-square-foot scholars’ residence on the Library grounds. John and Adrienne Mars designated a $10 million gift to design and outfit the rare books vault, in which original Washington books and objects will be kept. In February 2013, notable Washington, D.C. philanthropist David Rubenstein pushed the campaign past its goal with a $10 million gift, which establishes an endowment to grow and sustain the Library’s collection of rare books and manuscripts. The Rubenstein gift also provides the seed funding for a new fellowship program for college students.
When the capital campaign officially closed on June 30, 2013, more than seven thousand individuals, foundations, and corporations had pledged contributions totaling $106.4 million to support the effort. “This Library is filled with extraordinary stories of philanthropy,” said Mount Vernon’s president, Curt Viebranz. “We are humbled and honored that so many people responded to this appeal, which only further validates the work that the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has taken on board to give George Washington the library he himself never had a chance to build.”
While much of the money raised has been directed to construction costs, the funds will also endow Library outreach programs, including residential fellowships for scholars, teacher and educator training and support, distance learning programs, and will enable further preservation and conservation of books and manuscripts. The funds will also support the Library building’s maintenance, ensuring that no additional financial commitments hinder the estate’s ongoing operations.
For more information, visit mountvernon.org/library.
Public Information: 703.780.2000; 703.799.8697 (TDD); mountvernon.org
Since 1860, more than 85 million visitors have made George Washington’s Mount Vernon the most popular historic home in America. A privately-owned national treasure, Mount Vernon is maintained and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. Since purchasing the estate from the Washington family and assuming stewardship in 1858, the Association has embraced a heroic mission to preserve, protect, and maintain the estate for the American people, relying exclusively on private donations, admission fees, and restaurant and retail proceeds. Through robust education and outreach programs, the Association expands awareness about the exceptional life and character of George Washington, sustaining his legacy through research, interpretation, and public education. In experiences on the estate and through its digital outreach platforms, Mount Vernon strives to preserve George Washington’s place in history as “First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen.”
With its latest initiative, The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, Mount Vernon is affirming its status as the preeminent center of learning about George Washington, his life, character of leadership, and legacy. In addition to safeguarding original books and manuscripts, the Library serves as a center for leadership, where scholars, influencers, and other luminaries come together to talk about the past as well as the future, inspired by Washington’s extraordinary life, achievements, and character.