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At Last, George Washington Gets Presidential Library

The first president has gotten a lot of honors, but one thing he hasn’t gotten is a library dedicated to his memory. Following a large gift, that’s about to change.

The Las Vegas-based Donald W. Reynolds Foundation has pledged $38 million to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, the nonprofit that owns and operates Mount Vernon, to kick off an $80 million capital campaign. The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, named after the chairman of the Reynolds Foundation, is expected to open in 2012.

The new library will turn Mount Vernon from a tranquil tourist attraction to a bustling research center. Built in the woods at Mount Vernon, it will be walking distance from the mansion, take up 45,000 square feet and cover about 5 acres of the property. The new library will store books from Washington’s original library as well as digital copies of letters he wrote.

The opening of the library will jump-start a number of other projects the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has had in mind, including Mount Vernon Press, a publisher dedicated to research on Washington, and a better Web site. It will also expand the staff at Mount Vernon and offer more conferences and symposiums on leadership training.

In addition to the library itself, a new 3,500-square-foot guesthouse will be available for visiting scholars, and about 50 parking spaces will be added.

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