A Surprising New Oasis Blossoms at the Smithsonian

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  • James R. Buckler's article, "A Surprising New Oasis Blossoms at the Smithsonian," discusses the origin, design and construction of the Smithsonian Institution's Enid A. Haupt Garden, which opened to the public on May 22, 1987. The idea for the 4.2 acre Victorian-style garden located in the South Yard of the Smithsonian Institution's Castle Building was conceived by Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley. The garden is set atop the Smithsonian's underground Quadrangle Complex scheduled to open in September 1987. The complex, comprised of the National Museum of African Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and the S. Dillon Ripley International Center will open to the public in September 1987.
  • Secretary Ripley included his idea for a ground-level, rooftop garden in original plans for the complex, and solicited financial support for the project in 1983 from his friend Enid A. Haupt, a well-known patron of horticultural projects. She agreed to donate $3 million, with the stipulation that the space be planted with full-grown trees and plantings to give a visitor the impression of being in a mature garden.
  • Buckler, who is director of the Office of Horticulture, describes the various uses of the South Yard site over the years. The South Yard had been home to a carriage drive as envisioned by landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing, a pen for the American bison before the National Zoo was established, an astrophysical observatory for Secretary Samuel P. Langley, and a World War I hanger for the Smithsonian's aviation collection. Prior to the construction of the Quadrangle complex and the installation of the Enid A. Haupt Garden, the site was a Victorian garden that was installed in 1975. The author details the challenges associated with the garden's construction, such as locating and transporting specific full-grown trees that could thrive in soil depths ranging from three feet to full depth.
  • The article's photographs reveal the intricate beauty of the parterre's design, show entrance gates created from an 1849 plan by architect James Renwick, Jr., and highlight some of the garden's architectural structures. The author concludes that a walk through the garden today is like entering a quiet oasis that has been there for years.


  • Haupt, Enid A
  • Adams, Robert McCormick 1926-2018
  • Downing, A. J (Andrew Jackson) 1815-1852
  • Renwick, James 1818-1895
  • Ripley, Sidney Dillon 1913-2001
  • Horticultural Services Division
  • Renwick Gates
  • Smithsonian Institution Quadrangle Complex
  • S. Dillon Ripley International Center
  • Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (Smithsonian Institution)
  • National Museum of African Art (U.S.)
  • International Center
  • South Yard
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)


Smithsonian History Bibliography


The article is accompanied by 11 photographs of the garden.

Contained within

Smithsonian Vol. 18, No. 4 (Journal)

Contact information

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


July 1987


  • Design
  • Architecture--Washington (D.C.)
  • Benefactors
  • Horticulturists
  • Architecture
  • Horticulture
  • Architects
  • Secretaries
  • Gifts
  • Gardens
  • Gates
  • Gardens, Victorian
  • Architecture--Design and plans
  • Building


  • Mall, The (Washington, D.C.)
  • Enid A. Haupt Garden (Washington, D.C.)
  • Washington (D.C.)

Physical description

Number of pages: 7; Page numbers: 120-124, 126-127

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