Smithsonian Institute Castle, Washington D.C.
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.
The Smithsonian's first building, popularly known as the Castle, houses the Institution’s administrative offices and the Smithsonian Information Center. It's located on the Capital Mall surrounded by many of its famous museums. Completed in 1855, the original Smithsonian Institution Building was designed by architect James Renwick Jr., whose other works include St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. 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). Definite stop-off point for information about the Smithsonian and its many museums. Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
This ornate, red-brick "castle" was built in 1855 by James Renwick. It houses the Visitors Center, a small cafe, and exhibits on James Smithson. He was a wealthy Englishman who left a vast endowment to create this magnificent collection of museums.
The first Smithsonian Museum building we saw was The Castle. This was the museum's first building, built in 1855. It's made of red sandstone in Norman style which is a 12th cen. combination of late Romanesque and early Gothic. Now it houses the administrative offices and the information center. The Arts and Industries Building was built between 1879-1881 and is Victorian. We headed to the Natural History Museum. We only saw the fossil/dinosaur area and the mineral/gem display which included the Hope Diamond. It is so well done and there is so much to learn. You could spend weeks in just this one museum and there are many others. And they are all free. It was very interesting.
When we think of the Smithsonian we think of "the castle". But the Smithsonian Institution includes a wide range of museums. Among my favorites are the Freer & Sackler Galleries of Asian Art.
This picture was taken from behind the famous castle.
Some of the component museums, including the Sackler and the African ones are underground, leaving land for gardens, fountains and sculpture.
The Smithsonian's first building, known as the Castle, houses the Institution’s administrative offices and the Smithsonian Information Center. The original Smithsonian Institution Building was designed by the same guy who designed St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and finished in the mid 1850s. It's old-world architectural style stands out like a watermelon in a bowl full of chick peas amid more modern buildings of the Smithsonian and the monuments on the edges of the mall.
When visiting DC, every tourst should visit the Smithsonian's Visitor Center prior to touring the museums. It is open daily 8:30-5:30. The building, built to look like a castle, is made of red sandstone. It is centetrally located on the National Mall and has entrances on Jefferson Drive and through the Enid A. Haupt Garden. The castle is the focal point for the Smithsonian's 16 museums in DC, the National Zoo in DC and it's 2 musueums in NYC.
There are several information options to choose from. Volunteer Information Specialists are on hand to answer questions and provide directions. You can even see a free 24-minute video orientation at various times throughout the day. My one complaint is that I couldn't find the pamphlets I wanted and it was so crowded the day I stopped in that I couldn't be bothered waiting around. Luckily there are maps every block or so to view.
The Smithsonian Castle is a good place to start experiencing the marvels of this great institution. It is the original home of the Smithsonian built in 1865. Interestingly, the funds to found the Institution came from and Englishman, James Smithson for the purpose of “increasing and diffusing knowledge among men.” I love the old building although not much of the collection can be seen here as the Smithsonian comprises 18 museums and galleries. However, there are interesting displays and information on Smithson and the early construction as well as the Crypt Room where the tomb of Mr. Smithson is housed. The old castle with its irregular shape and series of towers, turrets and spires of red stone make it stand out and, in my opinion, very attractive. Just behind the castle is a lovely 4 acre garden. We got coffee from the little cafe and coffee bar inside and enjoyed sitting on a little terrace overlooking the garden.
The distinctive red, sandstone building called usually the Castle is the easiest to recognize edifice along the National Mall because of its different exterior design. It's also a landmark of Washington, D.C. Well, it does not look like charming and mysterious European castles, I have already visited, rather like a mixture of a palace and church for wealthy and religious people.
I've got to know that it was built in the Norman style (a 12th-century combination of late Romanesque and early Gothic motifs) and completed in 1855. Being the Smithsonian's first building it's officially called the Smithsonian Institution Building. If you want, go to see the crypt of James Smithson, benefactor of the Institution near the north entrance and a bronze statue of Joseph Henry, the eminent scientist who was the Institution's first Secretary, outside on the Mall.
The Castle is also a very important buiding for every visitor to Washington, DC as it houses Smithsonian Information Center, the most valuable source of information on numerous Smithsonian museums. They offer free brochures in various languages but not in Polish, yet! Could I become a Smithsonian volunteer and translate a few their leaflets into Polish, please? There are helpful interactive touch-screens, scale models and electronic wall maps of the city of Washington. Although the information center is the second largest I have ever seen (after that one in Grand Canyon, Arisona) there are lines to information desks. Skip them unless you need up-to-date information not easy to find in other way. If you know English enough watch 24-minute video orientation.
Hmm... I had to enter the Castle because of the most trivial human need. Well, when the nature calls while you are at the National Mall keep in mind that you usually must go through hand-check of all bags and sometimes metal detectors to reach a toilet in any museum. They really care you to do these things in peace and quite. Maybe it explains why they call casual toilets restrooms.
My mother, who grew up in Washington DC (yes, she pronounces it WaRshington), recounts a story of walking into the Smithsonian Castle, the Spirit of St. Louis hanging from the ceiling. You see, the Smithsonian Castle was once the main building housing the collection, until a building boom in the 1970's added the magnificent structures that line the National Mall we know today.
Now, the Smithsonian Castle houses administrative buildings, tour guides, maps, and some interesting history of a Mr. Smithson who donated cash to found an institution for the "increase and diffusion of knowledge."
THe Smithsonian Castle, yeah, that red brick building surrounded by beautiful gardens, is the icon of the museum and research division that to this day draws 30 some-odd million visitors a year. You should be one of them.
Sit in the shady garden behind the building. Gaze into the statue, or the funerary tomb of America's great benefactor. Go in and look around, and wonder what it looked like when the airplanes hung from the ceiling.
Constructed in 1855 and houses the tomb of James Smithson. Smithson never once visited the United States yet left his entire fortune (half a million dollars) to "found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men."
The building is so beautiful, I would walk around for hours! And flowers complement the whole ensemble. By the way, there is a wonderful little garden at the left of the building... See my other tip about it.
But not for a king! This castle belongs to the Smithsonian Institute and was in fact it's very first building before any of its modern museums were built. Today the Castle houses the Institute's offices as well as its Visitor Information Center, which is a good place to go if you need information or want to know which museums you would be most interested in seeing.
If there is a castle, I'm always sure to see it! ;-) This one is nothing old according to European standards, it is just a Norman-castle-style building completed in 1885.
It was the original Smithsonian Institution Building designed by James Renwick Jr. (the one who also designed St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC). Today it houses the Institution’s administrative offices and the Smithsonian Information Center. In fact the Smithsonian Institution is the world's largest museum and research complex - it runs, among others, the museums located along the National Mall (see the tip above). So it is the place to start your tour of those museums and galleries, be sure to get there for brochures and information.
And if you're tired of walking around, sit down to rest and relax in one of those beautiful quiet gardens surrounding the Smithsonian Castle.
Opened daily from 8:30am to 5:30pm, may be entered from Jefferson Drive in the Mall or from Independence Ave.
The Smithsonian Castle, if you will, is actually the tourist information center for all the Smithsonian Institution Museums in Washington DC. This was the first building in the family of Smithsonian buildings. Built in 1855, it is constructed of red sandstone from Seneca Creek, Maryland. It's architecture is of the Norman style (which is a combination of late Romanesque and early Gothic). It had several reconstructions throughout its history, one which was after a fire in 1865. From 1968-1969 it was renovated.
In the castle, you can find all kinds of maps. There is a handy-dandy one of the downtown surrounding areas that you can purchase for $2.25. There is also a Smithsonian visitors guide that is free and lists the museums and includes a small map of the area so that you know where the museums are in relation to each other. You can also download a copy of the visitor guide from their website (or use this address: www.si.edu/pdf/SIVisitorGuide.pdf ) It's kind of handy. There are also interactive touch-screens inside the visitor's center that go through information on the Smithsonian and other capital attractions. Also available is a video orientation, electronic wall maps, and scale models of Washington DC.
HOURS: 8:30am to 5:30pm daily except for Christmas.