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Smithsonian Institution Building

  • Sobriquet: The Castle

  • Travel Genus: Sight
  • Sight Category: Building

The Smithsonian Institution Building, a National Historic Landmark, was designed by the prominent New York architect, James Renwick Jr, who would later design the Renwick Gallery (originally the Corcoran Gallery of Art ) in Washington, and erected on the Mall between 1847 and 1855. Chartered by Congress in 1846, the Smithsonian was established due to the generous bequest of approximately $500000 by James Smithson, an English scientist and illegitimate son of the Duke of Northumberland. Its Congressional charter established a Board of Regents who were directed to construct a "suitable building of plain and durable materials and structure, without unnecessary ornament, and of a sufficient size, and with suitable rooms or halls, for the reception and arrangement, upon a liberal scale of objects...." The items to be exhibited were specifically confined to the fields of natural history, art and objects of "foreign and curious research." - NPS



Y/M/D Person Association Description Composition Food Event
Y/M/D Person Association Description Composition Food Event
1836/00/00 Richard Rush US Diplomat President Andrew Jackson dispatches Commissioner Richard Rush to England to secure the legacy left the United States by James Smithson. Successful, Rush will return to America with the $508,318.46 donation.
1846/00/00 James Smithson Benefactor Smithsonian is chartered by Congress due to the generous bequest of approximately $500000 by James Smithson.
1847/00/00 James Renwick Jr Architect Construction begins on the Smithsonian Institution Building.
1855/00/00 Smithsonian Institution Owner The Smithsonian castle is completed.
1904/01/20 Alexander Graham Bell Escort Alexander Graham Bell and his wife, Mabel, escorting Smithson's remains, arrived in Washington, DC.
1904/01/25 James Smithson In Memoriam Smithson's body is place in the Smithsonian Institution Building. Alexander Graham Bell and his wife, Mabel, had departed Genoa on 7 January 1904 and escorted Smithson's remains to DC, arriving on 20 January.
1909/03/23 Theodore Roosevelt Visitor Roosevelt and his expeditionary party leave New York for Africa outfitted by the Smithsonian Institution to collect specimens for the Smithsonian's new Natural History museum, now known as the National Museum of Natural History. Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition

Data »

Particulars for Smithsonian Institution Building:
Area of Significance Architecture
Criteria Architecture-Engineering
Sight Category Building
Owner Federal
Criteria Historic Event
Area of Significance Invention
Museum Type Museum
Level of Significance National
Architectural Style Norman Revival
Historic Use Organizational
Area of Significance Science
Building Material Seneca Stone

US National Registry of Historic Places Data »

Accurate at time of registration:

Registry Name:
Registry Address:
Registry Number: 66000867
Resource Type:
Owner: Federal
Architect: Renwick,James
Architectural Style: Other
Attribute: Norman Revival
Other Certification: Designated National Landmark
Nominator Name: National Historic Landmark
Level of Significance: National
Area of Significance: Science, Architecture, Invention
Applicable Criteria: Event, Architecture-Engineering
Period of Significance: 1875-1899, 1850-1874
Significant Year: 1855
Historic Function: Recreation and Culture, Commerce, Trade
Historic Sub-Function: Museum, Organizational
Current Function: Recreation and Culture, Commerce, Trade
Current Sub-Function: Museum Organizational

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