• Present: Millard Fillmore, Walter Lenox, James A. Pearce, Jefferson Davis, James M. Mason, Graham N. Fitch, Henry W. Hilliard, William F. Colcock. Also Present: Joseph Henry. The members not present were Roger B. Taney,Alexander Dallas Bache, Joseph G. Totten, Rufus Choate, Gideon Hawley, Richard Rush, and William C. Preston.
  • The board met at the call of the Secretary. Mr. Lenox, "elected mayor of Washington, and ex-officio Regent" took his seat as a member of the board. The journal of proceedings of the last meeting were read and approved. The Secretary presented the final report of the committee given the responsibility to examine the building. The report stated that under the resolutions of March 2, April 20, and June 1850, the committee "associated themselves with three distinguished architects": Col. William Turnbull, Edward B. White, Esq., and John R. Niernsee, Esq., who were "highly recommended as practical architects and engineers, of established reputation." The report also stated that the committee "are indebted to Hon. Alexander Evans...for an examination of the building, with reference to a comparison of the different reports; and to Mr. Joel Downer, for an additional inspection and opinion as to the character of the...wood-work."
  • The report went on to say that after studying the reports of the contractor, superintendent, Mr. Renwick, and the commission of architects, that the committee "unanimously arrived at the following conclusions, which they respectfully submit for the consideration and action of the Board": 1. The masonry is of a "passable character with reference to the terms of the contract," though "in some respects, not of the best quality." 2. "The interior of the main building is defective in the kind of materials originally adopted and to a considerable degree in the quality of the materials employed" and thus inappropriate for a building meant to house various valuable objects. 3. That the committee is anxious to "save the accrued interest" and use it for objects "more in accordance with the spirit of the original bequest than the erection of a costly building" and yet would still recommend that "the interior work of the center building" be removed and replaced with a fireproof structure, following the recommendations in the reports of both Mr. Renwick and the commission of architects.
  • 4. The completion of this new plan for the building will cost roughly $44,000, and the committee recommends accepting Col. Davis's suggestion that "the exterior of the building and the interior of the towers be completed in accordance with the plan, and within the time specified by the contract, and that the remainder of the interior be finished agreeably to the new plan, in the course of a number of years, and in such portions as can be paid for out of the annual interest of the Smithsonian fund, not otherwise appropriated." 5. "By addendum to the contract," the regents have the power to stop at any time the progress of building, with the sole requirement that the contractor be paid pro rata for the work complete, according to prices specified in the contract and allowing for "reasonable damages if the circumstances require the payment of them," to be decided by the building's architect or the architects of the board.
  • 6. That the committee requested Mr. Renwick to give an estimate pro rata for completing the exterior of the building and interior of the towers after "making reductions for materials and workmanship which we would have condemned, had the building been completed" following the original plan; Renwick gave an estimate of $185,154. 7. The committee recommended that the board "agree to this provision, and that a resolution be adopted directing the contractor to proceed" following the terms of the contract.8. By adopting the $185,154 sum, Mr. Renwick estimates the cost of finishing the building in accordance with the fire-proof plan at $245,479. 9. The commission estimates such a cost at 253, 810, a difference of $8,331, which Mr. Renwick contributes to "various deductions he made on account of defective materials, imperfect workmanship, and changes in plan."
  • The report concluded that the committee was of the opinion, "sustained by the commission of architects," that by adopting the fire-proofing plan of Mr. Renwick, "and the proposition of the contractor, the building will be rendered safe and durable, at a very reasonable cost, considering the amount of work which has been bestowed upon it." As such, the committee did not deem it necessary to give any comments of the cause of the accident which led to the investigations because "If these recommendations be adopted, the whole structure" in which the accident occurred "will be exchanged for one more in accordance with the permanence and utility of the edifice; and in this case they will consider the accident as a fortunate event."
  • The board then resolved that this report be accepted and that the Building Committee be directed to "proceed with the work, in accordance with the recommendation thereof." The board also resolved that the Executive Committee be authorized to advance to the contractor before the 19th of March, 1851, "in addition to the sum which he is now allowed to expend upon the building within the aforesaid year, the sum of $17,890, in proportion to work done in addition to what would otherwise have been done, and on condition of his paying interest at the rate of six per cent. per" year on the advance from the time he receives it to March 19, 1851.
  • The committee consisting of the Secretary and chairmen of the Executive Committee given the responsibility to report on a system for keeping and disbursing the money of the Institution then made a report. The board resolved that the Secretary be authorized to appoint an assistant to act as treasurer to "take charge of the funds for he current expenses of the institution" and provide safekeeping for all the money "belonging to the institution which shall come into his possession"; that these funds be deposited, unless otherwise ordered, with Messrs. Corcoran and Riggs "to the credit of the treasurer of the institution"; that bills presented for payment be audited and certified by the Secretary, "on whose order the treasurer may pay them"; that each month the treasurer report to the Secretary all payments made by him that month; that the monthly records be "examined and certified" by the Executive Committee each quarter; that the account books be kept in the Smithsonian building so as to give the Secretary and Executive Committee easy access to them.
  • The secretary nominated Mr. Seaton for the office of treasurer, after which the nomination was unanimously confirmed by the Board. The Secretary stated that Mr. Seaton would accept the office but would not accept any compensation for his work. The board resolved to offer their thanks to W.W. Seaton, the late mayor of Washington and ex officio regent "for his able and valuable services as a member of the Board, now terminated by the expiration of his term of office as mayor of Washington." The board then adjourned to meet the following Friday morning at 9:00 AM.


  • Fitch, Graham Newell
  • Fillmore, Millard 1800-1874
  • Hilliard, Henry W (Henry Washington) 1808-1892
  • Pearce, James Alfred
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Colcock, William Ferguson
  • Mason, James Murray
  • Davis, Jefferson 1808-1889
  • Niernsee, John
  • Renwick, James 1818-1895
  • White, E. B (Edward Brickell) 1806-1882
  • Evans, Alexander 1818-1888
  • Turnbull, Wm (William) 1800-1857
  • Downer, Joel
  • Lenox, Walter 1817-1874
  • Seaton, William Winston 1785-1866
  • Totten, Joseph Gilbert 1788-1864
  • Hawley, Gideon 1785-1870
  • Bache, A. D (Alexander Dallas) 1806-1867
  • Rush, Richard 1780-1859
  • Taney, Roger Brooke 1777-1864
  • Preston, William C. 1794-1860
  • Choate, Rufus, 1799-1859
  • Board of Regents
  • Board of Regents Committee on Buildings
  • Board of Regents Executive Committee
  • Corcoran & Riggs
  • Smithsonian Institution Office of the Treasurer
  • Journal of Proceedings of the Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, at the City of Washington, Beginning on the First Monday of September, 1846
  • Board of Regents Committee on Finance and Investment
  • Regents Smithsonian Institution


Smithsonian Legal Documents

Legal document information

  • 1850/07/03 Regents Minutes
  • Board of Regents - Minutes of Meetings, 1846-


William W. Seaton is elected treasurer of the Board of Regents.

Contained within

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 1, Board of Regents Vol. 1 (Bound volume)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


  • 1879
  • July 3, 1850


  • Construction
  • Architects
  • Accidents


Board of Regents

Physical description

Number of pages: 4; Page numbers: 64-67

Full Record

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