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)
I truly believe that what George Washington was for his time in history (and for all time), Sarah Palin will be for our time, and that history will credit both for their vision, loyalty, stamina, and leadership.
Minnie Pearl aint fit to be mentioned in the same breath. As an admirer of the man, I don't know whether to be insulted or amused by your comment.
They represent the birth, and rebirth, of our nation.
The Fatherhood and Motherhood, symbolically.
I haven’t been since they finished the new Visitor’s Center. I need to go back. The annual February festivities were snowed out this year.
It’s an absolutely wonderful place. The employees are extremely dedicated and the place is in picture perfect condition with wonderful views of the Potomac.
Here’s a link to the history of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union:
With the purchase of Mount Vernon behind them, Cunningham and the Vice Regents of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association began the challenging task of restoration. Fortunately, Ann Pamela Cunningham possessed the sensibilities of a true preservationist. She immediately dismissed all proposals to tear down Washingtons outbuildings or to transform the landscape. The words of her farewell address to her fellow board members would establish a concise and eloquent mission statement that would serve as a guide for future historic preservation sites and which continues to be followed at Mount Vernon today:
Ladies, the Home of Washington is in your charge. See to it that you keep it the Home of Washington! Let no irreverent hand change it; no vandal hands desecrate it with the fingers of progress! Those who go to the Home in which he lived and died, wish to see in what he lived and died! Let one spot in this grand country of ours be saved from change! Upon you rests this duty.
The Washington Family Coat of Arms (the Capitol District's license plate design comes from)
This is a terrific development for Mount Vernon...The Mount Vernon Ladies Association has done a magnificent job since they took over the estate 150 or so years ago.
The RevWar/Colonial History/General Washington ping list...
And for those of you in the DC area, a Christmas morning visit to Mount Vernon is something I would highly recommend. They do some special things that day...we did it several years ago and it was our family and a family from Georgia and that was it until around 9:30 (we got there at 9).
Tomorrow is Washington’s (real) Birthday (none of that ‘Presidents Day’ nonsense. When I was a kid we celebrated both Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays, and each was quite special.
Rather pathetically, I was recently having an online chat with my nephew’s 12 year old daughter, and mentioned we live near Mt. Vernon. She’s in upstate NY. She had absolutely NO CLUE what I was talking about! So I am inviting her down for a visit and will get her educated.
Trivia: young George carved his initials in rock (which are still visible) while visiting here:
Let's hope they forget this idea.
Thanks for this...I will visit someday.
Good Grief. Our nation does not need a mother.
Personally, I would love to see more documentaries or movies. There are so many books! Also, to speak to the younger generation, a General or President, are more foreign than space aliens, and may need a little graphic entertainment.. Come to think of it, not going to happen since we fought the Native Americans first. :)
Respectfully, I disagree.
Palin is a perfect Mother-symbol for the rebirth of our nation, just as George Washington is the symbolic Father of our Country.
This is awesome news.
It’s an exciting project.
This is good news, HokieMom, thank you.
God bless them!!
A ping, on Washington's birthday!
When I visited the tour guide said he was nineteen years old when he did the carving.
Excellent! Thank you...
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