Smithsonian Institution Building

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For similar uses and terms, see Smithsonian (disambiguation).
Smithsonian Institution Building
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The Castle
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Location Washington, D.C.
Coordinates 38°53′19.49″N77°1′33.59″W / 38.8887472°N 77.0259972°W / 38.8887472; -77.0259972 Coordinates: 38°53′19.49″N77°1′33.59″W / 38.8887472°N 77.0259972°W / 38.8887472; -77.0259972
Built1849–1855
Architect James Renwick, Jr.
NRHP reference # 66000867
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 15, 1966 [1]
Designated NHLJanuary 12, 1965 [2]

The Smithsonian Institution Building, located near the National Mall in Washington, D.C. behind the National Museum of African Art and the Sackler Gallery, houses the Smithsonian Institution's administrative offices and information center. The building is constructed of Seneca red sandstone in the faux Norman style (a 12th-century combination of late Romanesque and early Gothic motifs; built in the Gothic and Romanesque revival styles) and is nicknamed The Castle. It was completed in 1855 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965. [2]

National Mall national park in Washington, D.C.

The National Mall is a landscaped park within the National Mall and Memorial Parks, an official unit of the United States National Park System. It is located near the downtown area of Washington, D.C., the capital city of the United States, and is administered by the National Park Service (NPS) of the United States Department of the Interior.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, first President of the United States and Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

National Museum of African Art museum about African Art located in Washington, D.C.

The National Museum of African Art is the Smithsonian Institution's African art museum, located on the National Mall of the United States capital. Its collections include 9,000 works of traditional and contemporary African art from both Sub-Saharan and Arab North Africa, 300,000 photographs, and 50,000 library volumes. It was the first institution dedicated to African art in the United States, and remains the largest collection. The Washington Post called the museum a mainstay in the international art world and the main venue for contemporary African art in the United States.

Contents

History

The Castle was the first Smithsonian building, designed by architect James Renwick, Jr., whose other works include St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery, also in Washington D.C. The building committee held a nationwide design competition in 1846 and selected Renwick's design by a unanimous vote. A cardboard model of Renwick's winning design survives and is on display in the Castle. Renwick was assisted by Robert Mills, [3] particularly in the internal arrangement of the building. [4]

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, often called New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in both the state of New York and the United States. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Renwick Gallery art museum in Washington, D.C.

The Renwick Gallery is a branch of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, located in Washington, D.C., and focuses on American craft and decorative arts from the 19th to the 21st century. It is housed in a National Historic Landmark building that was begun in 1859 on Pennsylvania Avenue and originally housed the Corcoran Gallery of Art. When it was built in 1859, it was known as "the American Louvre".

Robert Mills, a South Carolina architect known for designing both the first Washington Monument, located in Baltimore, Maryland, as well as the better known monument to the first president in the nation's capital, Washington, DC. He is sometimes said to be the first native-born American to be professionally trained as an architect.{by whom|date=August 2013}} Charles Bulfinch of Boston perhaps has a clearer claim to this honor.

A statue of Joseph Henry is displayed in front of the building. JosephHenry-SmithsonianCastle-20050517.jpg
A statue of Joseph Henry is displayed in front of the building.

Initially intended to be built in white marble, then in yellow sandstone, [4] the architect and building committee finally settled on Seneca red sandstone from the Seneca Quarry in Montgomery County, Maryland. The redstone was substantially less expensive than granite or marble, and while initially easy to work, was found to harden to a satisfactory degree on exposure to the elements. [5] Scholarly evidence indicates it is likely that slaves were employed at Seneca in quarrying stone for the Castle, though no evidence has surfaced that slaves were involved in the actual Castle construction. [6]

Seneca Quarry

Seneca Quarry is a historic site located at Seneca, Montgomery County, Maryland. It is located along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal on the north bank of the Potomac River, just west of Seneca Creek. The quarry was the source of stone for two Potomac River canals: the Potowmack Canal on the Virginia side of Great Falls; and the C&O Canal, having supplied red sandstone for the latter for locks 9, 11, 15 - 27, and 30, the accompanying lock houses, and Aqueduct No. 1, better known as Seneca Aqueduct, constructed from 1828 to 1833.

Montgomery County, Maryland County in Maryland

Montgomery County is the most populous county in the U.S. state of Maryland, located adjacent to Washington, D.C. As of the 2010 census, the county's population was 971,777, increasing by 9.0% to an estimated 1,058,810 in 2017. The county seat and largest municipality is Rockville, although the census-designated place of Germantown is the most populous place. Montgomery County is included in the Washington–Arlington–Alexandria, DC–VA–MD–WV Metropolitan Statistical Area, which in turn forms part of the Baltimore–Washington Combined Statistical Area. Most of the county's residents live in unincorporated locales, of which the most built up are Silver Spring and Bethesda, although the incorporated cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg are also large population centers, as are many smaller but significant places.

The building committee selected Gilbert Cameron as the general contractor, and construction began in 1847. The East Wing was completed in 1849 and occupied by Secretary Joseph Henry and his family. The West Wing was completed later the same year. A structural collapse in 1850 of partly completed work raised questions of workmanship and resulted in a change to fireproof construction. The Castle's exterior was completed in 1852; Renwick's work was completed and he withdrew from further participation. Cameron continued the interior work, which he completed in 1855. [3] Construction funds came from "accrued interest on the Smithson bequest." [7]

Joseph Henry American scientist

Joseph Henry was an American scientist who served as the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He was the secretary for the National Institute for the Promotion of Science, a precursor of the Smithsonian Institution. He was highly regarded during his lifetime. While building electromagnets, Henry discovered the electromagnetic phenomenon of self-inductance. He also discovered mutual inductance independently of Michael Faraday, though Faraday was the first to make the discovery and publish his results. Henry developed the electromagnet into a practical device. He invented a precursor to the electric doorbell and electric relay (1835). The SI unit of inductance, the henry, is named in his honor. Henry's work on the electromagnetic relay was the basis of the practical electrical telegraph, invented by Samuel F. B. Morse and Sir Charles Wheatstone, separately.

Despite the upgraded fireproof construction, a fire in 1865 caused extensive damage to the upper floor of the building, destroying the correspondence of James Smithson, Henry's papers, two hundred oil paintings of American Indians by John Mix Stanley, the Regent's Room and the lecture hall, and the contents of the public libraries of Alexandria, Virginia and Beaufort, South Carolina, confiscated by Union forces during the American Civil War. The ensuing renovation was undertaken by local Washington architect Adolf Cluss in 1865-67. Further fireproofing work ensued in 1883, also by Cluss, who by this time had designed the neighboring Arts and Industries Building. A third and fourth floor were added to the East Wing, and a third floor to the West Wing. Electric lighting was installed in 1895. [3]

James Smithson British chemist

James Smithson, MA, FRS was an English chemist and mineralogist. He published numerous scientific papers for the Royal Society during the late 1700s as well as assisted in the development of calamine, which would eventually be renamed after him as "smithsonite". He was the founding donor of the Smithsonian Institution, which also bears his name.

John Mix Stanley 19th-century American artist

John Mix Stanley was an artist-explorer, an American painter of landscapes, and Native American portraits and tribal life. Born in the Finger Lakes region of New York, he started painting signs and portraits as a young man. In 1842 he traveled to the American West to paint Native American life. In 1846 he exhibited a gallery of 85 of his paintings in Cincinnati and Louisville. During the Mexican–American War, he joined Colonel Stephen Watts Kearney's expedition to California and painted accounts of the campaign, as well as aspects of the Oregon Territory.

Alexandria, Virginia Independent city in Virginia, United States

Alexandria is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 139,966, and in 2016, the population was estimated to be 155,810. Located along the western bank of the Potomac River, Alexandria is approximately 7 miles (11 km) south of downtown Washington, D.C.

Around 1900 the wooden floor of the Great Hall was replaced with terrazzo and a Children's Museum was installed near the south entrance. A tunnel connected to the Arts and Industries Building. A general renovation took place in 1968-70 to install modern electrical systems, elevators and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. [3] The Enid A. Haupt Garden was dedicated in 1987, along with the Renwick Gate facing Independence Avenue, built from Seneca redstone retrieved from the demolished D.C. Jail. [8]

Terrazzo cementitious composite material, usually used in flooring

Terrazzo is a composite material, poured in place or precast, which is used for floor and wall treatments. It consists of chips of marble, quartz, granite, glass, or other suitable material, poured with a cementitious binder, polymeric, or a combination of both. Metal strips often divide sections, or changes in color or material in a pattern. Additional chips may be sprinkled atop the mix before it sets. After it is cured it is ground and polished smooth or otherwise finished to produce a uniformly textured surface.

Enid A. Haupt Garden

The Enid A. Haupt Garden is a 4.2 acre public garden in the Smithsonian complex, adjacent to the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It was designed to be a modern representation of American Victorian gardens as they appeared in the mid to late 19th century. It replaced an existing Victorian Garden which had been built to celebrate the nation's Bicentennial in 1976.

Description

East entrance to the Smithsonian Institution Building East entrance - Smithsonian Institution Building.JPG
East entrance to the Smithsonian Institution Building

James Renwick designed the Castle as the focal point of a picturesque landscape on the Mall, using elements from Georg Moller's Denkmäler der deutschen Baukunst. Renwick originally intended to detail the building with entirely American sculptural flora in the manner of Benjamin Henry Latrobe's work at the United States Capitol, but the final work used conventional pattern-book designs. [4]

The building is completed in the Gothic Revival style with Romanesque motifs. This style was chosen to evoke the Collegiate Gothic in England and the ideas of knowledge and wisdom. The façade is built with red sandstone from the Seneca quarry in Seneca, Maryland in contrast to the granite, marble and yellow sandstone from the other major buildings in Washington, D.C. [5]

The Castle c. 1870 Smithsonian Institution Castle.jpg
The Castle c. 1870

The building comprises a central section, two extensions or ranges, and two wings. Four towers contain occupiable space, while five smaller towers are primarily decorative, although some contain stairs. As constructed, the central section contained the main entry and museum space (now the Great Hall), with a basement beneath and a large lecture room above. Two galleries on the second floor were used to display artifacts and art. This area is now the Visitor's Information and Associates' Reception area. The East Range contained laboratory space on the first floor and research space on the second. The East Wing contained storage space on the first floor and a suite of rooms on the second as an apartment for the Secretary of the Smithsonian. This space is currently used as administrative offices and archives. The West Range was one story and used as a reading room. The West Wing, known as the chapel, was used as a library. [3] The West Wing and Range are now used as a quiet room for visitors to go.

On the exterior, the principal tower on the south side is 91 feet (28 m) high and 37 feet (11 m) square. On the north side there are two towers, the taller on 145 feet (44 m) tall. A campanile at the northeast corner is 17 feet (5.2 m) square and 117 feet (36 m) tall. [3]

The plan allowed for expansion at either end, a major reason for the informal medievally-inspired design, which would not suffer if asymmetrically developed. [4]

Current use

The Smithsonian Castle houses the administrative offices of the Smithsonian. The main Smithsonian visitor center is also located here, with interactive displays and maps. Computers electronically answer most common questions. A crypt just inside the north entrance houses the tomb of James Smithson. [9]

See also

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References

  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. January 23, 2007.
  2. 1 2 "Smithsonian Institution Building". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved May 10, 2009.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Morton, W. Brown III (February 8, 1971). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination: Smithsonian Institution Building". National Park Service. Retrieved May 11, 2009.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Scott, Pamela; Lee, Antoinette J. (1993). "The Mall". Buildings of the District of Columbia. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 94–96. ISBN   0-19-509389-5.
  5. 1 2 Peck, Garrett (2013). The Smithsonian Castle and the Seneca Quarry. Charleston, SC: The History Press. pp. 42–56. ISBN   978-1609499297.
  6. Auslander, Mark (December 12, 2012). "Enslaved Labor and Building the Smithsonian: Reading the Stones". Southern Spaces.
  7. "SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION POLICIES GOVERNING THE USE OF FEDERALLY APPROPRIATED FUNDS; FEDERALLY AND PRIVATELY FINANCED CONTRACTS AND GRANTS; AND TRUST FUNDS", PROCEEDINGS OF THE MEETING OF THE BOARD OF REGENTS, Smithsonian Institution, May 13, 1977, p. 49, The construction of the original Smithsonian Building in 1847-1855 was funded from the accrued interest on the Smithson bequest.
  8. Peck, Garrett (2013). The Smithsonian Castle and the Seneca Quarry. Charleston, SC: The History Press. pp. 122–126. ISBN   978-1609499297.
  9. "Smithsonian Institution Building". Histories of the Smithsonian Institution's Museums and Research Centers. Smithsonian Institution. Archived from the original on February 13, 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2009.

Further reading