America's Castle: The Evolution of the Smithsonian Building and its Institution, 1840-1878

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This book provides a brief background on the founding of the Smithsonian Institution, including biographical information on James Smithson. The focus of book is mainly architectural, and includes reproductions of maps, blueprints, woodcuts and photographs. It discusses the concepts underlying the design of the Smithsonian Institution Building or "Castle," and the roles of Alexander Dallas Bache, Joseph Henry, Robert Mills, Robert Dale Owen, and James Renwick, Jr. It also discusses the controversies surrounding the selection of an architect and a design; Joseph Henry's opposition to the construction of a monumental building; debates over the design of the buiding's interior; the building's original layout when it opened in 1855; the fire of 1865; and the building's subsequent restoration.


  • Bache, A. D (Alexander Dallas) 1806-1867
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Mills, Robert 1781-1855
  • Owen, Robert Dale 1801-1877
  • Renwick, James 1818-1895
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Based on his thesis, "The Smithsonian Castle: The Politics of Public Architecture." Contains extensive notes.

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




  • Architecture
  • Fire
  • SI, Early History
  • Buildings
  • Fires


Washington (D.C.)

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