The Smithsonian Castle and the Seneca Quarry


Creator: Peck, Garrett


Date: 2013


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British scientist James Smithson (1765-1829) left his estate to found the Smithsonian Institution, and his endowment was used to build the Smithsonian Institution Building or "Castle." The Castle's distinct red sandstone, Romanesque façade, contrasts against the cool marble that dominates the National Mall. The story of the red sandstone is a fascinating piece of history. The Seneca Quarry where the stone came from experienced boom-bust cycles as its first developer died, it filed for bankruptcy twice, suffered through floods, and contributed to a national scandal that embarrassed the Grant presidency and helped bring down the Freedman's Bank.


  • Grant, Ulysses S (Ulysses Simpson) 1822-1885
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)
  • Freedman's Savings and Trust Company


Smithsonian History Bibliography

Citation information



Includes 16 page color photo insert.

Contact information

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




  • Quarries and quarrying
  • Business failures
  • Bankruptcy
  • African Americans


  • Seneca Quarry (Md.)
  • Maryland



Physical description

Number of pages: 144; Page numbers: 1-160

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