Robert Mills Submits Design for Smithsonian Institution Building

Close
Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact photos@si.edu.
Print

Narrow Your Results

Reset

Filter Your Results

Smithsonian Secretaries Information

Close Browse records and papers of the Smithsonian Secretaries, from 1846 until today. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by individuals who have held that office.

Expeditions Information

Close Browse records and papers documenting scientific and collecting expeditions either affiliated with the Smithsonian, or with which Smithsonian researchers participated. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by geographic regions predominantly represented in expedition records.

Professional Societies Information

Close Browse records of professional societies closely associated with the Smithsonian, that focus on areas of scientific research and museum studies. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by major topics and disciplines.
 

Summary

  • In 1841 Robert Mills completes the first design of the Smithsonian Institution Building which proposes that the Smithsonian could be integrated with the newly founded National Institute for the Promotion of Science. The architect submitted his drawing to Joel Poinsett, the Secretary of War who was also serving as president of the National Institute. Ultimately the project was postponed until Congress passed legislation and made appropriations for the Smithsonian to construct a separate building.
  • The Mills plan depicts a romantic, medieval style building with arched windows, parapets, and three towers. Both the north and south entrances are each emphasized with a large hexagonal tower and the south tower is capped by a glass dome to house an observatory. The building also contains lecture halls, exhibition rooms, and space for a conservatory. Unlike James Renwick, Jr.'s, later design, this early layout is perfectly symmetrical and constructed with white stone. Mills based this proposal on his 1839 plan of a library and observatory at West Point but he decided to break away from the neo-classical style that was used for most public buildings at the time.
  • When the Smithsonian was established in 1846, the building committee, led by Robert Dale Owen consulted with Robert Mills and adapted many aspects of his design into a new set of drawings which were given to the architects who participated in the design competition as a model for them to follow.

Subject

  • Mills, Robert 1781-1855
  • Renwick, James 1818-1895
  • Owen, Robert Dale 1801-1877
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)
  • Smithsonian Institution Building Competition
  • United States Military Academy
  • Board of Regents Committee on Buildings

Category

Chronology of Smithsonian History

Notes

Field, Cynthia R., Richard E. Stamm, and Heather P. Ewing. The Castle: An Illustrated History of the Smithsonian Institution Building. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993.

Contact information

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

Date

1841

Topic

  • Design
  • Drawings and plans
  • Architecture
  • Drawings
  • Architectural drawing
  • Architecture--Drawings and plans
  • Architecture--Design and plans

Full Record

View Full Record