Building Accident in SI Building

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The framing and floor of the southeastern end of the main building, first floor (Great Hall), of the Smithsonian Institution Building or "Castle" collapse. Professor Louis Agassiz had just concluded his first lecture in the east wing lecture hall. A committee, consisting of architects E. B. White, Mr. Turnbull, and John Niernsee, is appointed on March 4 to investigate the collapse. They find the contractor responsible for $12,000 worth of damages for inferior work. Architect James Renwick, Jr., proposes a plan to fireproof the main building.


  • Renwick, James 1818-1895
  • Agassiz, Louis 1807-1873
  • White, E. B (Edward Brickell) 1806-1882
  • Turnbull, Mr
  • Niernsee, John
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1849, p. 50, 54-55
  • Henry 1850 desk diary
  • Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, volume 18, number 329. "Journals of the Proceedings of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution 1846-76, Reports of Committees, Statistics, Etc." ed. by William J. Rhees. Washington: Published by the Smithsonian Institution, 1879, p. 61.

Contact information

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


February 26, 1850


  • Fireproofing
  • Architecture
  • Lectures and lecturing
  • Accidents
  • Buildings
  • Building

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