Smithsonian Institute Castle, Washington D.C.

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1000 Jefferson Drive S.W. (202) 357-2700

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  • antistar's Profile Photo

    Smithsonian Institute

    by antistar Updated Feb 18, 2014

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    Smithsonian Institute Castle, Washington D.C.

    The Smithsonian Institute is unique. Its name has become synonymous with recognizing greatness. To be put in the Smithsonian is one of the most important indicators of one person's contribution to mankind. They have built up perhaps the finest collection of Museums in the world, almost all of which are in Washington D.C. and all of which are absolutely free.

    It all started when a British scientist bequeathed his entire fortune to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge in the United States. The money became a trust fund which grew to become 137 million items displayed on twelve miles of cabinets viewed by thirty million people a year. It has 19 museums in Washington D.C. alone, most of them on or around the National Mall.

    The castle, situated prominently about half way down the Mall, is the headquarters of the institute.

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    A Red Brick Castle

    by DEBBBEDB Written Aug 12, 2013
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    I remember going to the Smithsonian Castle when I was a kid and looking at the trains. My mother remembers that working models of patents were also here. Apparently in the beginning all the exhibits (Natural History, American History and Art) were all housed in this building and then were moved to other buildings as they were built. When I asked, I was told that there was nothing to see here. Apparently this isn't completely true as they have a scale model of the city.

    Admission is FREE

    Hours
    8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. daily
    Closed December 25

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    The Castle on the Mall

    by GentleSpirit Updated Jul 15, 2013

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    When you get out at Smithsonian Metro or have just finished your trek through the Natural History Museum you will look across the Mall and you will see this red sandstone building that looks sort of like a Castle. Designed by James Renwick, it uses materials from just up the road at the Seneca Quarry in Montgomery County, Maryland.

    This was actually the first Smithsonian building, completed around 1855. I remember back in my younger days this used to house the Air and Space museum long before it had gigantic exhibits and large groups of people waiting to come in and see it. Even though we were not supposed to, I think my brother and I did climb into the space capsule exhibit (nothing happened).

    Today the Castle serves as the main administrative offices for the Smithsonian. There is an interactive visitor center and last I remember there was also an active academic group in there.

    By the way, if you are wondering who that statue is of as you are coming from the Mall side to the Castle...its Joseph Henry (1797-1878) who was a pioneer in electro magnetics and was the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He invented the precursor to the electric doorbell among his other contributions to science.

    If you go in from the independence avenue side it is much more impressive, you can see the full castle and it has a very relaxing garden with some sculptures (and shade!!!)

    Visiting Hours
    830-53- pm daily
    except December 25.

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  • etfromnc's Profile Photo

    The Smithsonian Institution:Plan to spend a week

    by etfromnc Updated Jul 17, 2011

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    The Smithsonian Castle

    The Smithsonian Castle opened its doors to the public in 1855. Though the world’s largest museum and research complex, the Smithsonian offers attractions like the Air and Space Museum, the American History Museum, the Natural History Museum and the National Zoological Park. The Smithsonian quickly outgrew its castle and has expanded to several other buildings on our National Mall as well as several other locations around the District and in neighboring Virginia. At various Smithsonian venues, you can see--spaceships and airplanes -- panda cubs -- the Star Spangled Banner -- artworks -- pieces of American history.
    AND, IT IS ALL FREE.

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    Smithsonian Castle

    by Yaqui Updated May 10, 2011

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    This building is the oldest of the 17 Smithsonian museums in DC. The castle houses the crypt of founder James Smithson, visitor orientation theater, scale models of exhibitions, and helpful information volunteers to assit you. It even has a cafe & store. Open daily 8:30 am - 5:30pm except Dec 25. Its Free. I've seen it so many times in the distance so it was nice to actually see it upclose. What a lovely building.

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    Smithsonian Institute Castle

    by richiecdisc Written Apr 25, 2010

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    With little doubt, what sets Washington, DC apart as a country capitol is The Smithsonian Institute. The breadth of the complex is without parallel with 16 museums, a zoo and numerous research facilities to its credit. Few major world metropolises have as many museums scattered about let alone clustered all within a few city blocks and none can offer such a plethora for free. Ironically, a man who had never been to the United States is responsible for this disproportion. The illegitimate son of an English Duke, scientist James Smithson, was perhaps lashing out at his country's rigid class system or was enamored by the idealism of universal education but his decision to leave the entirety of his estate to his nephew and later if he remained heir-less to the United States of America was to have great consequences for its ultimate beneficiary. The eventual $500,000 contribution was a lofty sum when it was donated 1835 and led the US Congress to charter The Smithsonian Institute in 1846. This led to the building of The Castle as it is refered to today though at the time it was the Smithsonian Institute in its entirety. It has grown considerably since and now encompasses over 140 millions artifacts!

    The Castle today is the Institutes administration building and also serves the appropriate function as the Visitor Information Center and is thus most people's first introduction to the wonders of the Smithsonian Institute.

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    A castle in the mall

    by Herkbert Written Jul 26, 2009

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    The Smithsonian was established as the result of a generous donation by James Smithson, an English scientist. The Castle, as it is known, was built between 1847 and 1855. It is used today as administrative offices and the Smithsonian information Center.

    The statue out front is of James Henry, the first secretary of the Smithsonian.

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    Air & Space Museum

    by apbeaches Written Jul 15, 2008
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    The Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum maintains the largest collection of historic air and spacecraft in the world. It is also a vital center for research into the history, science, and technology of aviation and space flight, as well as planetary science and terrestrial geology and geophysics. The Smithsonian has hundreds of artifacts on display including the original Wright 1903 Flyer, the Spirit of St. Louis, the Apollo 11 command module, and a lunar rock sample that visitors can touch.

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    Too much for even a week!

    by jbkac Updated Feb 28, 2008
    Spirit of St louis
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    This is a must see! A museum lovers dream. You can spend a week and not see it all. The Exhibits are all fascinating. You never know what you will find. Like T.V? How about Archie Bunkers chair? Or an egg from "ALIEN"? Like planes? How about the "Spirit of St. Louis" (hanging from the ceiling)? There is no question something there will spark your intrest or imagination!

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    Mr Smithson's Castle

    by BorneoGrrl Updated Nov 30, 2007

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    The Castle

    The Smithsonian Institution Building is also known as the Castle because the architect, James Renwick, Jr., designed it in such a style and built with money from James Smithson, an English scientist and illegitimate son of the Duke of Northumberland, from who the institute got its name.

    The Castle used to be the residence of Joseph Henry, the first Secretary of the Smithsonian, and currently the Institution's administrative offices and the Smithsonian Information Center. The late Mr James Smithson, the benefactor of the Institution, lies inside the north entrance and who made it possible for all visitors to come to the museums for free.

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    smithsonian

    by doug48 Written Sep 16, 2007

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    smithsonian castle

    the smithsonian is a huge complex of museums founded by james smithson. james smithson was an english scientist and philanthropist who donated $ 500,000 in 1836 to found a place of knowledge in washington. it is interesting to note that smithson never visited the united states. pictured is the smithsonian castle designed by james renwick and built in 1855. this building housed the original smithsonian collections. today this building is just one of many smithsonian museums located on washington's mall. it would take at least a week to view all of the collections of the smithsonian.

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    Information Desk

    by mangpor Updated Sep 11, 2007
    The Institute Castle
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    When I was in the institute castle, I was really impress with the information desk's officials here. Imagine of the hot sexy girls??? Oh.. Wake Up! They were all senior citizen...like our grandma, grandpa. They were so kind and willing to help but I had to speak to them a little bit louder so that they could hear me. :-)

    After taking some maps from the information desk, the officials told me that there was a video brief in the virtual tour room. I have been watching the brief and start my trip with the National Air and Space Museum, one of the most 3 popular museums.

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    The Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle)

    by aero198 Written Sep 9, 2007

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    Smithsonian Institution Building
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    This is where the administrative offices of the Smithsonian Instution are. Also there's an information center with interactive touch-screen stations.

    One cool thing about Washington DC is that it's the city with most Smithsonian museums, and the best of all, they are all FREE!

    This castle, and generally all the Smithsonian Museums here are opened 8:30am to 5:30pm.

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    Smithsonian Castle

    by Pawtuxet Updated Aug 30, 2007

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    The Castle tower

    The Smithsonian consists of many buildings, but the centerpiece is the castle. Located about midway down the mall...it's towers can be seen from the distance...holding promise of wonderful things to see and learn about. There is an information center in the building and for members....there is a wonderful castle room restaurant with the best buffet in town. Served daily from 11 - 2 pm. Hope you get to enjoy it sometime.
    UPDATE: I'm told that the buffet is no longer being served. They have scaled down to a small sandwich cafe. Sad. The buffet was always very well attended when I was there.

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    The Smithsonian / Castle

    by jamiesno Updated Mar 24, 2007

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    James Smithson's Gift

    "I then bequeath the whole of my property...to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase & diffusion of knowledge..." James Smithson (1765-1829) From there a very impressive institute was created. You can read more about the mystery behind this on the web site.

    The Smithsonian's first building, popularly known as the Castle, houses the Institution’s administrative offices and the Smithsonian Information Center. I stopped in here because it was one of the most unique buildings in the National Mall and I did get information there on the rest of the buildings. I remember there was a small cafe there as well.

    It was Completed in 1855, the original Smithsonian Institution Building was designed by architect James Renwick Jr. This Washington landmark is constructed of red sandstone from Seneca Creek, Maryland, in the Norman style (a 12th-century combination of late Romanesque and early Gothic motifs).

    This building served as a home for the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Joseph Henry and his family. 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 eminent scientist who was the Institution’s first Secretary.

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