Building Committee is Formed to Research SIB

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  • At the first meeting of the Board of Regents (having been established on August 10, 1846) a committee is chosen to obtain a site and initiate building plans for the new Smithsonian Institution. This committee includes the Chancellor of the Board, U.S. Vice President George M. Dallas, Secretary of the Board, William J. Hough, and members of the Executive Committee: Robert Dale Owen, a social reformer and Representative from Indiana who had introduced an 1845 bill to charter the Smithsonian Institution; William W. Seaton, an editor and journalist, and the mayor of the city of Washington; and Colonel Joseph G. Totten, a soldier, scientist, and engineer with distinguished service to the country in that capacity.
  • The Building Committee is charged with taking the proper steps to obtain plans for a building that was laid out in the legislation. Requirements include that it must be large enough to house a collection of objects relating to the arts and sciences and must contain a library, gallery of art, a chemical laboratory, and lecture rooms. The committee also conducted research and made recommendations to the Board of Regents on the most cost effective materials, methods of lighting, temperature control, ventilation, and construction. They were also authorized to purchase books and other materials needed for their research and were empowered to travel to other parts of the country to look at public structures and consult with experts.
  • This project keeps the committee occupied until November 30th, 1846, when they present their findings to the Board of Regents.


  • Seaton, William Winston 1785-1866
  • Totten, Joseph Gilbert 1788-1864
  • Dallas, George Mifflin 1792-1864
  • 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


Smithsonian Institution, Report of the Board of Regents to Congress, March 3rd 1847. 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 7, 1846


  • Design
  • Drawings and plans
  • Architecture
  • SI Buildings, Construction
  • SI Buildings
  • Architecture--Drawings and plans
  • Architecture--Design and plans

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