For Immediate Release
September 27, 2013
Digital images available
Melissa Wood: 703.799.5203
MOUNT VERNON, VA ─ More than two hundred years after George Washington wrote about the need to build a library to house his books and papers, Mount Vernon took a critical step to advance scholarship about the Founding Era today with the grand opening of The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington. Located at Washington’s historic northern Virginia estate, sixteen miles south of Washington, D.C., the 45,000-square-foot facility is designed to safeguard original Washington-owned books and manuscripts, to serve as a center for scholarly research and educational outreach, and to host leadership training programs inspired by the first president’s sterling example.
United States Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Mark Warner (D-VA), Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian David McCullough, and Grammy Award-winning musicians Amy Grant and Vince Gill joined representatives of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association for today’s grand opening ceremony.
“There have been many truly defining moments in the more than 150-year history of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, and today ranks among the most significant,” said George Washington’s Mount Vernon president, Curt Viebranz. “We are embarking on a new era of research and scholarship, and we are poised to impart information about George Washington to millions around the world in dynamic and innovative ways.”
With the opening of the Library, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association is addressing a growing need for fresh approaches to educational outreach, as well as a need that Washington himself identified for the safeguarding of his books and manuscripts for future generations.
“After serving as Commander-in-Chief of our victorious army, presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention, and our very first President of the United States, Washington returned to Mount Vernon in 1797,” Mount Vernon’s Regent, Ann Bookout, explained. “In that year he wrote to his friend, James McHenry, ‘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.’ Today the General’s dream has come true.”
Books and manuscripts owned by Washington and duplicate editions of these original volumes are housed in the Library, along with other rare books and Washington letters and documents, in a stunning three-room suite that adjoins the Library’s main reading room. Mount Vernon currently owns 103 original volumes, representing 62 titles, of the more than 1,200 that comprised Washington’s library at Mount Vernon at the time of his death. With the support of generous donors, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association is actively seeking to acquire more originals and duplicate volumes for its collection.
The Library will also foster new scholarship about George Washington, historic preservation, and early American history by welcoming an esteemed class of scholars each year for short-term and long-term residential fellowships. While working with Mount Vernon’s staff experts and utilizing the Library’s resources and support, these scholars will reside in a 7,300-square-foot guesthouse located 150 yards west of the Library’s main entrance. In turn, the fellows will share the results of their work through lectures, publications, and participation in on-site programs.
To broaden Mount Vernon’s outreach mission, the Library boasts a state-of-the-art conference wing, which will offer immersive educational experiences and leadership training programs for government, military, academic, and non-profit leaders. These programs will incorporate the latest in leadership theory with practical applications from Washington’s remarkable example. Teachers from around the country will travel to the Library each year for on-site educational institutes to ensure that robust history curriculum continues to be an important part of the learning experience in classrooms across the country.
The Library and its inaugural slate of lectures, programs, and symposia are the end results of a $100 million capital campaign to build and endow a new facility to expand and enhance Mount Vernon’s educational mission, cementing the estate’s position as a center for scholarship about America’s founding. The campaign was launched in February 2010 with a $38 million lead gift from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. The Library bears the name of the Reynolds Foundation’s longtime chairman, Fred W. Smith. Unlike other presidential libraries, this privately-owned facility was built without any government funding.
In addition to the Reynolds Foundation’s lead gift, major contributions by the DeVos Family Foundation, John and Adrienne Mars, David M. Rubenstein, and Karen Wright propelled Mount Vernon past its $100 million capital campaign goal. When the campaign closed in June, Mount Vernon had raised $106.4 million to support the Library’s construction, endowment, and its inaugural slate of initiatives. Approximately 7,000 individuals and organizations contributed to the campaign.
The Library was designed by architectural firm Ayers Sant Gross of Baltimore, Maryland, with interior consultation by MFM Design of Bethesda, Maryland. Whiting Turner served as the general contractor. Landscape architecture firm Michael Vergason Associates provided guidance and direction for the fifteen acres of grounds. The Library is situated on a 65-acre section of land that has been owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association since it assumed stewardship of the estate from the Washington family.
The Library is open by appointment. For more information, call 703.780.3600 or 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.