The heart of D.C.'s museum history
This building is the first endowment of the Smithsonian Institution, established in 1846 by British scientist James “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge” - despite never having visited the United States! Since it’s inception, the Smithsonian Institute has expanded to 19 museums, 9 research centers, and zoos and holds ownership over 138 million items! Fittingly, the institute is nicknamed “the nation’s attic”.
When the Smithsonian Institution Building, more commonly known as “The Castle” was completed in 1855, the building was isolated from the rest of downtown Washington, DC by a canal, which is ironic as it is now considered the anchor of the National Mall. Flanked by important museums and monuments on all sides, this red sandstone building was built in Norman style, a combination of late Romanesque and early Gothic motifs, and the stone itself was taken from excavations of the nearby Seneca Quarry in Maryland. Until 1881, The Castle housed all aspects of Smithsonian operations including research and administrative offices, lecture halls, exhibit halls, library, reading room, chemical labs, and living quarters for the Secretary and his family. IN 1901 the first children’s museum in Washington was opened in the South Tower Room. Today, The Castles houses administrative offices and the Smithsonian Information Center.
This building symbolizes the effort to restore and cultivate the history of the United States. We make a stop here on our National Mall Segway Tour where your guide will fill you in on more of the fascinating history of the building and the many museums it manages.
8:30 am until 5:30 pm daily
Closed December 25
The Smithsonian (Blue, Silver, Orange Lines)
Public Entrance Fees