Smithsonian Castle

The Smitsonian Castle:

The Smithsonian castle in Washington, D.C., is open every day of the year except December 25. Open from 8:30am-5:30pm. Summer hours are determined annually. See www.alerts.si.edu for museum closings due to inclement weather. Admission is Free!

"The Smithsonian Institution Building, known to many as the Smithsonian Castle, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. behind the National Museum of African Art, houses the Smithsonian Institution's administrative offices and information center. The building is constructed of red sandstone in the faux Norman style (a 12th-century combination of late Romanesque and early Gothic motifs) and is appropriately nicknamed The Castle.

It was the first Smithsonian building, begun in 1847 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. In August 1853, the Smithsonian's Board of Regents declared that the work of the original architect, James Renwick, Jr., was done. Lieutenant Barton S. Alexander of the U.S. Army Topographic Engineers was asked to take up the architect's responsibilities for the slowly progressing Smithsonian Building. Under his supervision, the building was finished in 1855.[2]


Smithsonian Castle at day-breakOver the years, several reconstructions have taken place. The first followed a disastrous fire on January 24, 1865, which destroyed most of the upper story of the main segment and the north and south towers. In 1884, the east wing was fireproofed and enlarged to accommodate more offices. Remodeling from 1968 to 1969 restored the building to the Victorian atmosphere reminiscent of the era during which it was first inhabited.


A statue of Joseph Henry is displayed in front of the building.This building served as a home for the first Secretary of the Smithsonian, Joseph Henry, and his family and for many years housed all aspects of Smithsonian operations, including an exhibit hall from 1858 until the 1960s. In 1901, Washington's first children's room was installed in the Castle's South Tower Room where the original decorated ceiling and wall stencils were restored in 1987. Located inside near the north entrance is the crypt of James Smithson, benefactor of the Institution, while outside on the Mall, a bronze statue of Joseph Henry, executed by William Wetmore Story, honors the scientist who was the Institution's first secretary. In 1996, as the Smithsonian celebrated its 150th anniversary, a bell was added. Although Renwick had intended for a bell in his original plan, there was not enough money to add it to the Castle. It now chimes hourly."
the visitor center

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