A Public Building for a New Democracy: The Patent Office Building in the Nineteenth Century

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Evelyn's dissertation traces the history of the Patent Office Building to study the architectural, administrative, and cultural issues influencing the federal building program in mid-nineteenth century Washington. He focuses on the years 1836 to 1868 and the issues of a federal architectural style, fireproofing of public buildings, managing large-scale building projects, and the impact of the building and its public spaces. Designed by architect Robert Mills, it included extensive exhibition spaces and became the most highly visited public building of the era. Evelyn's study relates to the history of the Smithsonian in two ways: 1) the Patent Office Building itself later became the Smithsonian's American Art and Portrait Galleries, and 2) the Patent Office Building housed the collections of the National Institution for the Promotion of Science from the 1840s to 1883. These collections were later transferred to the Smithsonian and became the core of its museum.


  • Walter, Thomas Ustick
  • Mills, Robert 1781-1855
  • National Museum of American Art (U.S.)
  • National Collection of Fine Arts
  • Fine Arts and Portrait Galleries Building (FA&PG)
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery Library
  • Patent Office Building (POB)
  • National Institution for the Promotion of Science
  • National Institute
  • National Portrait Gallery (U.S.)
  • United States Patent Office
  • United States. Patent Office--Buildings
  • United States National Museum
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography



Contact information

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




  • Fireproofing
  • Architecture--Washington (D.C.)
  • Buildings, structures, etc
  • Public buildings
  • Fire
  • Exhibitions
  • United States--Politics and government--19th century
  • City planning--Washington (D.C.)
  • National Collections
  • Building, Fireproof--Washington (D.C.)
  • Fires


Washington (D.C.)

Physical description

682 pps

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