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Smithsonian Castle Tips (54)

Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden

Happened upon this really pretty rose garden.This garden is located just east of the Smithsonian castle, and in front of and behind the Arts and Industries building. When walking on the Mall in the summer, you've probably stopped to smell the beautiful roses that grace the front of the building, but if you haven't explored what's to the sides and behind you are really missing out on one of DC's most gorgeous and peaceful places.

This is a perfect place to take some great pictures, read a book, or, ah, you know, make out. Not that I've done that before, I'm just saying . . .

After what can be the chaos of battling school groups through museums, this is the perfect place to relax and regroup

chattygirl7491's Profile Photo
Feb 05, 2016

The SI Castle

This building is used as the main information center for all the Smithsonian Institute activities and museums. You can stop by and pick up information about anything that is happening in DC as well as museum information.

Gypsystravels's Profile Photo
May 08, 2015

Smithsonian Institute

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.

antistar's Profile Photo
Feb 18, 2014

A Red Brick Castle

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

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

DEBBBEDB's Profile Photo
Aug 12, 2013
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The Castle on the Mall

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.

GentleSpirit's Profile Photo
Jul 15, 2013

Smithsonian Castle & Information Center

This is the Smithsonian central point for information on all things Smithsonian. This historic castle is the oldest of the seventeen Smithsonian Museums in Washington. It houses the crypt of the founding father of the Smithsonian James Smithson. Inside also are exhibitions, orientation theater for visitors and some information volunteers who assist the many visitors going through its doors.

There is a Cafe and bookstore inside, but on this July day, it was really hot in Washington and the air conditioning in the Castle was either over worked or not working, but we could not stay even to get the information we needed. We left and headed over to the Museum of African Art within the same area where we bought an information guide for $2.00

Africancrab's Profile Photo
Aug 10, 2012

The Smithsonian Institution:Plan to spend a week

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.

etfromnc's Profile Photo
Jul 17, 2011

Smithsonian Castle

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.

Yaqui's Profile Photo
May 10, 2011

Top 5 Washington D.C. Writers

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Enid A. Haupt Garden

It opened in 1987 as part of the redesigned Castle quadrangle. It covers over 4 acres and there are three areas of the garden:
1. English parterre, in the center, patterned after a garden designed for Philadelphia's 1876 Centennial Exposition. At its South entrance the main entrance is occupied by the Renwick Gates, made of the same red sandstone as the Smithsonian Castle.

2. The Moongate Garden features 2 nine-feet tall pink granite "moon gates" using Oriental themes.

3. The Fountain Garden is near the National Museum of African Art.

These gardens are actually roof-top gardens, since below them are areas of the Sackler Galleries and the Museum of African Art.

In the garden you can also see the Downing Urn, was originally erected on the National Mall in 1856 in memory of landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing and who was instrumental in designing The Mall and its environs.

TexasDave's Profile Photo
Jul 30, 2010

Smithsonian Institute Castle

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.

richiecdisc's Profile Photo
Apr 25, 2010

A castle in the mall

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.

Herkbert's Profile Photo
Jul 26, 2009

Mr Smithson's 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.

BorneoGrrl's Profile Photo
Nov 30, 2007

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1000 Jefferson Drive S.W.


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