So a decision was made to launch a $100- million campaign to build an orientation and educational center for the million visitors who come to Mount Vernon every year. No historical residence in the United States receives more visitors, not even Thomas Jefferson's Monticello or Elvis Presley's Graceland. [James C. Rees] hoped that the new center might even serve as Washington's presidential library, like the John F. Kennedy library in Boston.
AFTER a tour of the home, visitors will descend into the Reynolds Museum and Education Center. The museum is small, comprising seven galleries, mainly filled with pieces of decorative art. Its most- prized feature is a clay bust of Washington by French sculptor Jean- Antoine Houdon. After the end of the Revolutionary War, the Virginia legislature decided to honor Washington with a marble statue. Both Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin recommended Houdon, who regarded the commission as the most important of his career. Houdon and three assistants spent almost three weeks at Mount Vernon in 1785 when Washington was 53. Houdon placed Washington under a sheet on a long table to make a life mask in plaster. He also modeled a bust of the future president in clay and took measurements of his girth and height.
KEY PROFILE: The clay bust of Washington by Jean- Antoine Houdon.; PHOTOGRAPHER: Mount Vernon Ladies' Association; ON-SCREEN: [Sebastian Roche] stars in an introductory film.; PHOTOGRAPHER: Greystone Films; SLIPPING AWAY: James C. Rees, Mount Vernon's executive director, says he finds today's visitors often don't know very much about [George Washington].; PHOTOGRAPHER: Joshua Roberts For The Times; VERY FIRST FAMILY: Statues of George, Martha and grandchildren hold court in the new orientation- museum-education complex.; PHOTOGRAPHER: Joshua Roberts For The Times; A MODEL LANDMARK: A fully furnished cross-section display reveals the inner workings of the Virginia mansion where Washington spent most of his life.; PHOTOGRAPHER: Joshua Roberts For The Times; E33Sure, he's supposed to be first in our hearts, but it turns out he's not so fresh in our minds. A new visitors center at George Washington's landmark estate is out to change that. Page 41; PHOTOGRAPHER: Portrait by Charles Willson Peale from the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association; E3ALL THINGS GEORGE: Mount Vernon's original weathervane can be seen in the new museum.; PHOTOGRAPHER: Joshua Roberts For The Times