George Washington library to open in September


WASHINGTON — A 45,000-square foot library that will safeguard books and manuscripts that originally lined George Washington’s shelves more than two centuries ago is on schedule to open in September, caretakers of his estate said Thursday.

“This is the equivalent of a presidential library and quite frankly no one deserves one more,” said Ann Bookout, chairwoman of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.

At a press conference, leaders of the nation’s oldest preservation society announced they have exceeded their fundraising goals, and have closed a three-year capital campaign that raised more than $100 million for the library that is set on 15 acres just outside the main entrance of the Mount Vernon estate about 15 miles south of Washington D.C.

Some 7,000 contributors have donated more than $106 million to help realize the dream that the nation’s first president expressed in a 1797 letter to friend James McHenry.

“I have not houses to build, except one, which I must erect for the accommodation and security of my military, civil and private papers, which are voluminous and may be interesting,” Washington wrote.

Curt Viebranz, the president of the Mount Vernon association, singled out the Las Vegas-based Donald W. Reynolds Foundation for its support — a $38 million gift that kicked off the drive in 2010. The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington is named after the chairman of the foundation.

In all, the Reynolds foundation has contributed $69 million to Mount Vernon for a variety of preservation projects.

“We are grateful for all the patriots who have supported us,” Viebranz said.