The Smithsonian Castle is the oldest building on the Mall and the most recognizable. Completed in 1856, it is now going to close for five years for repairs and refurbishing.
The budget for the building didn’t afford granite or marble, so red sandstone from the nearby quarry at Seneca, Maryland was used for both the Castle and the later Arts and Industries building next to it.
The building looks wonderful at all times of day and year:
The Castle is a great contrast to the buildings nearby, especially when viewed from the Brutalism of L’Enfant Plaza across the street.
The Castle was designed to be the headquarters of the Smithsonian and a center for research – unlike the other Smithsonian buildings which were designed to be museums.
In recent years, the Castle has been used as a Visitor’s Center, with a large main room with information on the Smithsonian museums.
There’s a corridor off the main room that has photos and information about the early years of the Smithsonian:
At the end of this corridor, there’s a magnificent large room with light pouring in:
This room has display cases along the walls, filled with items that represent the range of the Smithsonian’s holdings. You’ll find items like Gordie Howe’s hockey skates and Lena Horne’s rhinestone earrings.
The packing has begun, but the building will remain open until February 1st if you want to see it one last time.
The Haupt Garden
One thing we will still be able to enjoy is the Haupt Garden, directly behind the Castle – plans are to keep it open during the renovation.
One last sad fact about the Castle closing – the Washington Post once ranked 59 bathrooms on the Mall, and the Castle’s bathrooms came in first place!