News & Politics

A First Look Inside the Newest Presidential Library—for the Oldest President (Photos)

George Washington now has a library of his own, basically across the street from Mount Vernon.

Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

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.