Fanfare is not too big a word to describe the way Mount Vernon is rolling out its newest feature—the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington. There was a gala dinner Thursday evening, and Friday is the formal dedication of the 45,000-square-foot library, which sits on 15 acres across the GW Parkway from the main gate of Mount Vernon. In an era when it is de rigeur for presidents to have a library named after them, the first President is at long last getting his. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, which manages the estate and oversees its preservation, spearheaded the efforts to fund the library; complemented by a $38 million donation from Fred W. Smith, chairman of the Reynolds Foundation, the association raised more than $106 million in contributions.
Its core users will be scholars and historians, as well as government officials, corporate executives, nonprofit organizations, and university presidents, according to Mount Vernon. A week before its official opening, Washingtonian got a private tour of the facility. Note the stunning materials—the American sycamore, the stone, stucco, metal, and glass. The building was designed by Baltimore-based Ayers Saint Gross Architects and Planners. The interior design was done by MFM Design of Bethesda. Sunshine floods the rooms, halls, and meeting spaces. The inner sanctum, which holds George and Martha Washington’s personal papers and letters and Washington’s collection of favorite books, is awe-inspiring.