Mount Vernon Estate just garnered a major financial boost from the most generous donor in its history. The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation increased their pledge from $15 million to $24 million.
In 2001, the Las Vegas-based foundation agreed to sponsor the construction of the new education center on the estate. Now they have also embraced the building of an adjacent museum facility, according to Emily Coleman, assistant director, Marketing at the estate.
"We are convinced more than ever that George Washington can and should be a role model for future generations," noted Fred W. Smith, chairman of the board for the foundation. "And no place can tell George Washington's story in a more complete and compelling way than Mount Vernon."
The entire structure of approximately 35,000 square feet will be named the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer and be completed by the end of 2006.
Both the museum and education center will be tucked under the pasture just inside Mount Vernon's main gate, where they will be convenient to visitors yet virtually invisible. They are part of a total $85 million expansion program to make a visit to Mount Vernon a more comprehensive educational experience. Reynolds' latest gift brings the total raised thus far to $70 million, Coleman confirmed.
WASHINGTON'S LIFE story — from his crisis-ridden childhood to his death and legacies — will be told in 15 galleries and theaters of the new education center. Although designs are still on the drawing board, these spaces will blend period objects, ranging from swords and firearms to Washington's world famous dentures, with state-of-the-art technologies, including life-like holograms and surround sound audio systems.
"All of our surveys reveal that our visitors really want to know more about the real George Washington," said Ellen Walton of Pittsburgh, current Regent, Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.
"These facilities will enable us to tell so many interesting stories about George Washington that remain untold."
The Ladies Association, the oldest national preservation organization in the nation, has owned and managed the Estate for the past 150 years. Not only will the new museum feature 18th century objects directly related to Washington and his family, but it will also be able to accept traveling exhibits from around the nation.
A national philanthropic organization, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation was founded in 1954 by the late entrepreneur for whom it is named. Reynolds was the founder and principal owner of the Donrey Media Group which included more than 70 businesses at the time of his death in 1993. The majority were in the field of communications. It is one of the largest private foundations in America.