Skip to comments.Geo. Washington Presidential Library: $38 million gift to build library at Mount Vernon
Posted on 02/20/2010 7:57:16 PM PST by HokieMom
MOUNT VERNON, VA. There were no presidential libraries in the days of George Washington, so his papers and writings are scattered around the world. Some are lost forever Martha Washington, for instance, burned nearly all of her personal letters from her husband shortly before she died.
But an unprecedented $38 million donation will allow George Washington's Mount Vernon estate to establish a library dedicated to scholarship on the nation's first president, in many ways filling the role of the modern presidential library.
The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington is expected to open in 2012 on the grounds of Washington's estate off the banks of the Potomac River, the estate announced Friday.
Mount Vernon Director James Rees said they don't want to call it a "presidential library," though, for several reasons. First, Mount Vernon has long prided itself on eschewing all forms of government funding, a contrast with modern presidential libraries that are part of the national Archives.
Rees also said a library focused only on Washington's presidency would be too limiting, ignoring his significant contributions as a military general and as an 18th century entrepreneur.
The library will not only serve leading scholars and historians, but is designed to reach out to the general public. It will help train teachers and can host conferences and seminars for corporate boards to learn about Washington's leadership skills.
The estate also wants to create a Mount Vernon Press that will publish new research on Washington.
Rees said he wants to engage the public in new ways. As an example, he suggested developing a George Washington video game, highlighting Washington as an 18th-century action hero.
"Mount Vernon has to reach beyond these gates," Rees said. "We have to get involved with what's called pop culture."
Several years ago, concerned that the public viewed Washington as a stodgy, irrelevant figure, the estate built a new museum and orientation center that highlighted Washington's vigorous youth and his military exploits, using interactive exhibits and even a 4-D theater. The new exhibits spurred a 20 percent increase in attendance that has not abated.
The $38 million donation, the largest in the estate's history, comes from the Las Vegas-based Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, a longtime supporter of Mount Vernon.
Fred W. Smith, the foundation's chairman, said his organization does not typically get involved in historical preservation efforts, but he was spurred to action in 2001 after learning that the Smithsonian Institution might lose possession of a famed Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington. He learned from Rees that history textbooks in recent years have devoted less and less attention to Washington. Since then, he has been a staunch supporter of Mount Vernon.
"When I was in school, every schoolhouse had a picture of George Washington," Smith said.
The estate also announced a partnership Friday with the University of Virginia, in which the new library will serve as the home for The Papers of George Washington, a 90-volume edition being compiled by the university consisting of copies all the known letters and documents written and received by Washington.
Mount Vernon plans to break ground on the library only after it raises $20 million in matching funds.
Fred W Smith = Fed Ex
Ah, thanks. I couldn’t remember why that name sounded familiar. I was wondering if the Reynolds donor was of the family who donated a similar amount to the Smithsonian then reclaimed their gift when the lefty columnist in the WP, Richard Cohen, ranted for weeks on end that an exhibit at the Smithsonian as a tribute to the “American Spirit” was outrageous.
Great news. We visited Mount Vernon when our younger son was 6. He learned about President Washington and really wanted to visit Mount Vernon. Until that visit, I hadn’t realized that it was maintained by a private organization. It’s a site well worth visiting.
Probably could have done the job for a couple grand if they’d got right on it back in the day...
Hm...not sure I like this idea. The original grounds should be left as is. Build it somewhere else.
Martha Washington, for instance, burned nearly all of her personal letters from her husband shortly before she died.
Though I would dearly love to read them, Martha was a smart woman.
Beautiful home. Visited there many times while stationed in D.C. in the 60s.
So sad that so much of Washington’s papers and other items may be lost forever due to the delay while klintoon’s things are... never mind.
no child in America should grow up without knowing the entire history of this remarkable man...and how, but for him and his indomitable spirit, faith and fortitude, we very likely would never have known the freedoms we have...
People should contemplate on the many instances when all seemed irretrievably lost and when most men would have folded in the face of what seemed insurmountable odds.
He's a great example for all ages - none more so than today.
We need to remember who we are. We need to turn the tide on our present day “enemies within.”
Hopefully, this will be such a a success that others will follow -
According to the Mount Vernon website:
“Construction of the 45,000 square foot facility, which will be named the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, is expected to begin in early 2011, with a completion date in 2012. The facility will be tucked into the woods across from Mount Vernons conservation complex and within walking distance of the Mansion itself.”
Are these really conservators or are they just building Mt. Vernonland?
On a similar note, the Rutherford B. Hayes home (Spiegel Grove) and library in Fremont, Ohio is privately funded. They are an agressive group. A great visit for people in the Ohio area.
I treated my total family's visit Mt. Vernon in 2008. I had not realized that the grounds had never received government funds - the building was maintained impeccably!
To me it sounds wonderful to include an outbuilding for his memorabilia, maybe as part of the sprawling visitors center.
Why do we need a ‘presidential library’ for every president?
Why not have just one huge library that honors all presidents.
I’m going to guess you’ve never visited Mt. Vernon. The people who work there consider it sacred ground. Most are volunteers, with some paid staff.
The estate was forsaken and gone to seed before a group of women in the area bought it and began the slow process of restoration that’s gone on now for over 100 years. To fund its operation, there’s an admission charge, and there is a gift shop at the entrance, but it is no “Mt. Vernonland.”
I am delighted!
Yes, Fred Smith of FedEx! God Bless him!
Thank you, Coldwater Creek!
(also please check out my recent posts -we have much prayer needed tonight - glad you are awake....LOL)
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