The South Yard

The South Yard behind the Smithsonian Institution Building, the Castle, is bordered on the east by the Arts and Industries Building and west by the Freer Gallery of Art. In the late 19th century, it was the site of small buildings for the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Taxidermy Studio, National Zoological Park, and Aerodrome Studio. After World War I, a Quonset hut housed the National Air Museum (today, the National Air and Space Museum), next to the Radiation Biology Laboratory (today, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center) greenhouses. By the 1960s, “Rocket Row” along the Arts and Industries Building’s east side showcased the latest in space technology. In 1976, the South Yard was converted to a Victorian Garden to welcome visitors. In the 1980s, the area was excavated to create the Quadrangle Complex, with underground buildings for the National Museum of African Art, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and S. Dillon Ripley International Center. Pavilion entrances to these buildings are nestled within the Enid A. Haupt Garden.

Smithsonian Institution Building, Southeast View, by N. Orr & Co, 1857, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, SIA2011-2831 or 43804-N or MAH-43804N. South Façade of Castle and South Yard, 1857
Engraving of the Smithsonian Institution Building (SIB), or "Castle," south facade from the southeast with rich background of trees, shrubs and sky, with lots of activity as visitors travel to and from on foot and by horse and carriage. The engraving was published in the Guidebook of 1857.
South Shed of the Smithsonian Institution Building, by Unknown, c. 1900, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, SIA2011-2401 or 10039. The South Shed in the South Yard behind the Smithsonian Institution Building, early 1900's
South Shed (also referred to as the Annex), built in 1898, was used for the preparation of exhibition specimens, and later as the "Bug House." Demolished in the fall of 1975 in preparation for the Victorian Garden which opened in 1976. Part of the Smithsonian Institution Building is visible behind the Shed.
Model and Taxidermy Shop, by Unknown, c. 1880, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 6071and NHB-6071. The Model and Taxidermy Shop in the South Shed, 1880s
In the interior of the model and taxidermy shop, which was located in the South Yard behind the Smithsonian Institution Building, around 1880, William Temple Hornaday (center), taxidermist and zoo keeper, is working on a tiger mounted for exhibit and Andrew Forney is working on the tiger skin. On the far right is another man seated at a desk working on a specimen. Other mounted animals line the shelves. Skulls and animal skins are scattered throughout the room.
Buffalo Behind Smithsonian Institution Building, by Unknown, c. 1886-1889, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, MAH 9731. Two Buffalo in a Paddock in the South Yard, c. 1886-1889
Two buffalo are in a paddock in the South Yard behind the Smithsonian Institution Building. They were acquired in 1886 by the United States National Museum's Department of Living Animals, which eventually became the National Zoological Park. This photograph, taken sometime between 1886 and 1889, predates the founding of the NZP which was established by Act of Congress in 1889.
Langley's Aerodrome Shop, South Shed, by Unknown, 1900, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 92-3572. Langley Aerodrome Shop in the South Shed, 1900
Samuel P. Langley's Aerodrome Shop in South Shed built in 1898 and located in the South Yard behind the Smithsonian Institution Building. Samuel P. Langley (1834-1906) was an astrophysicist and third Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution (1887-1906). He was also founder of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. He did research in aeronautics and attempted to build the first manned flying machine.
Astrophysical Observatory in South Yard, by Unknown, 1909, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 78-6578 or SA-756. Astrophysical Observatory in South Yard, 1909
The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory located in the South Yard behind the south facade of the Smithsonian Institution Building. The Astrophysical Observatory is enclosed by a wooden fence. The Annex, also called the South Shed, is behind the Observatory. The Laboratory of Natural History, the old Agriculture Building, and the Washington Monument are visible in the background.
Tennis Courts Behind SI Building, by Unknown, 1920, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 15277-A or MAH-15277A. Tennis Courts in the South Yard, 1920
Loyal B. Aldrich of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (1908-1955) and Astrophysicist Charles Greeley Abbot (Fifth Secretary of the Smithsonian, 1928-1944) playing tennis behind the Smithsonian Institution Building, next to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, in the South Yard. The National Air Museum Quonset Hut is in the background.
Air and Space Building, South Yard, by Unknown, c. 1920s, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 2002-10653. National Air Museum Building, c. 1920s
Quonset Hut behind Smithsonian Institution Building, the "Castle," in the South Yard built in 1917 by the United States Signal Service for use during World War I. The shed was transferred to the Smithsonian in 1919 and served as the National Air Museum, now the National Air and Space Museum, for many years. It was demolished in 1975 in preparation for the Bicentennial of the American Revolution, Victorian Garden. In front of the Quonset Hut is a French made Renault tank and a German howitzer.
South Yard After Snowstorm, by Unknown, c. 1920, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, MAH 14914 or MAH14914. South Yard after a Snowstorm, 1920s
The Smithsonian Institution Building, Arts and Industries Building and the South Yard after a snowstorm. View is from the South Yard looking east. A Smithsonian employee is standing in snow that is chest high.
Interior View of the Aircraft Building, South Yard, by Unknown, 1950s, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 2002-10654. Interior of the National Air Museum, 1950s
A Lincoln Ellsworth's Northrop Gramma "Polar Star" and a Curtiss R 3C-2 racer, in foreground, exhibited in the Aircraft Building located in the South Yard as part of the National Air Museum, now the National Air and Space Museum. There is also exhibit cases with models of airplanes and part of airplanes.
Rocket Row on West Side of A&I Building, by Unknown, 1960s, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 2002-12168. Rocket Row along West Side of Arts and Industries Building in South Yard, 1960s
Rocket Row along the west side of the Arts and Industries Building before the National Air and Space Museum was built. The four missiles on exhibit are: From left to right, the Jupiter C, which launched Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite; the Vanguard; the Polaris, the first U.S. submarine-launched ICBM; and the Atlas, the famed Mercury launch vehicle.
Exterior of the South Shed, 1975, by Unknown, 1975, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 75-6938. South Shed Before Demolition, 1975
The South Shed in the South Yard, 1975. The South Shed, built in 1898, was used as Samuel P. Langley's Aerodrome Shop and later it was used for taxidermy. It has also been referred to as the Annex and later, as the "Bug House." It was demolished in 1975 in preparation for the Victorian Garden which opened in 1976.
View of the South Yard, 1974, by Unknown, 1974, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 74-6617. South Yard from the Roof of the Forrestal Building, 1974
View of the South Yard taken from the roof of Forrestal Building (Department of Energy) shows the skyline of downtown Washington, D.C. Smithsonian buildings visible include the Smithsonian Institution Building (SIB), and the Arts and Industries Building (A&I). In the South Yard are the National Air Museum, "Rocket Row" along the west side of the Arts and Industries Building, the South Shed, and various other sheds. The National Gallery of Art west building is also visible in the background.
Victorian Garden Behind the Smithsonian Institution Building, by Farrar, Richard, 1976, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 76-15440-2 or SIA76-15440-02. Victorian Garden in the South Yard, 1976
View of the Victorian Garden in the South Yard looking north towards the Smithsonian Institution Building, October 15, 1976. The design, developed by the Office of Horticulture, is based on the horticultural displays at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.
Quad Construction, by Tinsley, Jeff, 1985, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 85-6242-28 or SIA85-6242-28. Quadrangle Construction, 1985
Looking from the Independence Avenue side of the Quad construction. The floor will eventually be the roof of a 10,000 square foot, two-story high exhibit gallery. Photo shows Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution Building and Arts and Industries Building in background and was taken with wide-angle lens that has made an interesting distortion.
S. Dillon and Mary Ripley Across from South Yard, by Unknown, 1987, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 96-600. Secretary S. Dillon and Mary L. Ripley Standing on the Roof Across from the South Yard, 1987
Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley standing with his wife, Mary Livingston Ripley, on the roof of building across from South Yard. Aerial view shows Smithsonian Institution Building (SIB), Enid A. Haupt Garden, National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) (right) and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (AMSG) (left).
Overall View of the Quad, by Unknown, 1987, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 87-10129-2 or 87-10129.02. Quadrangle Complex and Haupt Garden, 1987
Overall view of Quad and the pavilions of the Smithsonian Institution's two new museums: On the left the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Asian Art) (AMSG) with pyramided roof, and on the right the National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) with domed roof. In the center is the Enid A. Haupt Garden which sits atop the underground museums with the Smithsonian Institution Building (SIB), the "Castle," in the background. Visible to the left behind the Sackler is the copper-domed kiosk which is the public entrance to the S. Dillon Ripley International Center (RC) located on the third and deepest level of the complex. On the far right a portion of the Arts & Industries Building (A&I) and on the far left a portion of the Freer Gallery of Art (FGA) are visible.