Architectural History of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, 1901



Form/Genre: --Federal

Date: 1899-1976


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  • Construction on the grand Georgian manor began in 1899 and was completed in 1902. It was originally built as a private residence for steel mogul and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The well-known architecture firm Babb, Cook and Willard designed the home, it was the first residential building in New York to utilize steel frame technology. It also boasted an elevator and central air conditioning.
  • The building remained in use as a residential home until Andrew Carnegie's widow died in 1946. It was then leased to Columbia University, and underwent a major renovation.
  • In 1968, the entire collection from the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts and Decoration, along with its library, were donated to the Smithsonian under one condition: the collection had to remain in New York City. The Carnegie house seemed an ideal location fro such a museum. The building was leased by the Smithsonian until 1972 when it was finally donated in full. Another major renovation carried out by Hardy, Holzman and Pfeiffer adapted the home for use as a museum, retaining much of its original character. The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum opened to the public in 1976.
  • Architectural elements of this Georgian mansion include a granite panelled, centered front door; embellished roof cornice; several symmetrical multi-paned windows; side gabled roof; and multiple chimneys. A variation of this architectural style is known as federal architecture, and was a very popular style at the turn of the century.


  • Carnegie, Andrew 1835-1919
  • Carnegie Mansion (New York, N.Y.)
  • Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
  • Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration
  • Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates
  • Babb, Cook and Willard


Chronology of Smithsonian History


Ewing, H., & Ballard, A. (2009). A guide to Smithsonian architecture. Washington: Smithsonian Books.

Contact information

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




  • Art museums
  • Architecture
  • Repair and reconstruction
  • Conservation and renovation
  • Museum architecture
  • Buildings--Repair and reconstruction
  • Building--Conservation and renovation


New York, New York


  • --Federal
  • --Georgian

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