Alice Pike Barney: Bringing Culture to the Capital

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Article portrays the life of Alice Pike Barney (1857-1931), who was not only a wealthy patroness of the arts in Washington, D.C., but one of its practitioners through her own art and theater projects. Barney was viewed as a lively and colorful character in her day; the author comments that the word "unusual" was the adjective most often used by the press when writing stories about her. She was a recognized artist whose paintings are in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American Art (now the Smithsonian American Art Museum) and her Washington home, Studio House, was bequeathed to the Smithsonian. Barney sought to broaden culture and the arts beyond Washington's elite to the general public and was instrumental in the 1917 founding the first federally funded theater in the nation, the National Sylvan Theater on the Washington Monument grounds.


  • Barney, Alice Pike 1857-1931
  • National Sylvan Theater
  • National Museum of American Art (U.S.)
  • Barney Studio House (Washington, D.C.)
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Sixteen photographs accompany the article.

Contained within

Washington History Vol. 2, No. 1 (Journal)

Contact information

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


Spring 1990



Physical description

pp. 68-89

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