More than 200 years later, George Washington will get his library

(CBS News) MOUNT VERNON, Va. -- If you want to separate fact from fiction about George Washington, just ask Curt Viebranz.

Curt Viebranz
Curt Viebranz CBS News

Viebranz is president of Mount Vernon, Washington's home on the Potomac River, where his presidential library will open this fall.

Washington, Viebranz says, foresaw the need for a library for his papers and books, even way back then.

"I think he thought for the public good that they should be available," Viebranz says.

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The inner sanctum, the library's vault, will be open only to researchers. It will hold Washington's own original books.

"We're trying to do as much as we can to re-create his original library," Viebranz says.

Washington's library will be located at his home on the Potomac River.
Washington's library will be located at Mount Vernon on the Potomac River. CBS News

Washington had no formal education. Even still, Viebranz says, he spent every waking moment trying to better himself. He read voraciously.

The library's collection spans a range of topics, from the principles of taxation to flower gardening.

"I think it's really an example of the Yin and the Yang of Washington," says Viebranz.

Thousands of books have been written about Washington, but Viebranz says there's still much to learn. For example: how his early acceptance of slavery changed over time.

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"You couldn't be a signatory of the Declaration of Independence and believe that that goes hand in glove with continuing to have slavery, which is why he ended up actually freeing his slaves in his will," says Viebranz.

The library, Viebranz predicts, will reveal new surprises about Washington, to go along with those already uncovered. For example: he owned the largest distillery in America. Mount Vernon makes and sells his potent brand of whiskey.

The George Washington we know, and the one we don't, will soon be open to inspection at the library he's been waiting for -- for more than 200 years.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.