Mount Vernon, George Washington's Virginia estate, has received a record gift of $38 million to construct a research library on its grounds.
The donation comes from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, a group based in Las Vegas that has given generously to the historic estate in the past. In 2001, it bought Gilbert Stuart's "Lansdowne" portrait of the first president for the Smithsonian Institution.
The library, which is expected to open in 2011, will cover 45,000 square feet and be within walking distance of the mansion. The library, officials said, initially will house 45 books from Washington's library, 450 letters and manuscripts written by Washington and a collection of 1,500 18th-century books and documents. In the future, the library also will be the home for the digital record of Washington's correspondence, a project that scholars at the University of Virginia have been editing for the past 40 years.
The gift from the Reynolds Foundation is the largest single donation in Mount Vernon's history and marks the start of an $80 million capital campaign. The library will be called the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, after the foundation's chairman.
Mount Vernon, which has an annual budget of $40 million, is financed through admissions, retail sales and contributions. The estate is owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association and has been open to the public since 1860.
In recent years, administrators have mounted campaigns to improve the estate and expand the visitors' experience. In 2006, an orientation center and full-fledged museum opened, supported by the Reynolds Foundation. The two linked buildings cost $60 million, part of a $112 million fundraising drive.
Source: The Columbus Dispatch.