A dream of President George Washington’s is about to be realized: a library to house his hundreds of manuscripts, books and other papers. The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington is slated to open at the end of September on a 15-acre site adjacent to Mount Vernon estate. On Wednesday the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, which made the project possible through a capital campaign, announced it has raised $106.4 million in just over three years. All the funds are private—the library receives no government funding—beginning with a $38 million gift from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. Gifts of $10 million each were given by Richard and Helen DeVos, John and Adrienne Mars, and David Rubenstein. In all, 7,000 individuals, foundations, and corporations made contributions to the capital campaign, which ended on June 30.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Mount Vernon released information about the 45,000-square-foot facility, noting that most of the money raised has been used for construction. But it also endows outreach programs, fellowships for scholars, teacher and educator training, learning programs, and conservation and preservation of books and manuscripts.
“This new library will help us to maintain and advance George Washington’s timeless relevance in our fast-changing world,” said Ann Bookout, chair of the Ladies’ Association, in a statement. “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.”
The library will include a rare-book vault, which will house Washington’s original manuscripts, books, and objects.
Among the rare items in the collection will be President Washington’s own copy of the Constitution—with his handwritten notes and family bookplate—which the Ladies’ Association bought at auction for close to $10 million last June. The library will be the first and only center for amassing and disseminating knowledge about Washington, according to Mount Vernon.
Fred W. Smith is the longtime chairman of the Reynolds Foundation, where he has focused on a range of projects related to Washington. Mount Vernon spokesperson Melissa Wood earlier noted, “The complete array of Washington’s written works, which number in the tens of thousands, are spread among collectors” across America and are being assembled by scholars at the University of Virginia. She said that when that project is done the digital record will be moved to the new library.
The Smith National Library will open on September 27.