Site and Planning Committee Travels to Find Architect




Date: September 20-30, 1846


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In late September 1846, the Smithsonian Institution's Site and Planning Committee travels to Philadelphia, New York, and Boston to see buildings and to meet with potential architects in preparation for the construction of the Smithsonian Institution Building. This subcommittee of the Building Committee, was charged with determining the most cost effective materials, methods of lighting, temperature control, ventilation, and construction for the new building. The committee is comprised of three men from the Board of Regents: Robert Dale Owen, a social reformer and Representative from Indiana who had introduced the 1845 bill to charter the Smithsonian Institution; William J. Hough, a lawyer and Representative from New York; and Colonel Joseph G. Totten, a soldier, scientist, and engineer with distinguished service to the country in that capacity. While in New York they meet with the young architect James Renwick, Jr., who was eventually chosen for the project.


  • Renwick, James 1818-1895
  • Totten, Joseph Gilbert 1788-1864
  • Hough, William Jervis 1795-1869
  • Owen, Robert Dale 1801-1877
  • Board of Regents Committee on Buildings
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)
  • Smithsonian Institution Building Competition


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Daguerreotype portrait of Robert Dale Owen (1801-1877), c. 1840s. Smithsonian Institution Archives, negative number 2002-12184.
  • Smithsonian Institution, Report of the Board of Regents to Congress, March 3, 1847. A good summary can be found in Accession 09-007, Box 6, Folder "Smithsonian Institution Building Competition 1846."

Contact information

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


September 20-30, 1846


  • Design
  • Engineering
  • Drawings and plans
  • Architects
  • Architecture
  • SI Buildings, Construction
  • SI Buildings
  • Building
  • Architecture--Drawings and plans
  • Architecture--Design and plans


  • Boston (Mass.)
  • Philadelphia (Pa.)
  • New York (N.Y.)

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