Main Portion of SI Building Completed




Date: December 1854


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Under the direction of B. S. Alexander, the main portion of the Smithsonian Institution Building or "Castle" is completed, except for a few, unimportant additions. The total cost for the building, grounds, and furnishings is $299,414.14. From June 13, 1853, when Gilbert Cameron, the original contractor, commenced work on completion of the building, the project has been uninterruptedly prosecuted without any further accidents. The completed upper story has a Lecture Room of about 100 feet in length in the middle, which comfortably seats 1500 and can hold upwards of 2000. The optical and acoustic properties of the lecture room are considered unsurpassed by any other in the U.S.


  • Alexander, B. S (Barton Stone) 1819-1878
  • Cameron, Gilbert
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)
  • Smithsonian Institution Building Lecture Hall


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Engraving of the Smithsonian Institution Building, 1855. Smithsonian Institution Archives, negative number SIA2012-1449.
  • Goode, George Brown, ed. The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896, The History of Its First Half Century. Washington, D.C.: De Vinne Press, 1897, p. 835
  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1854, p. 69-71

Contact information

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


December 1854


  • Architecture
  • Lectures and lecturing
  • Finance
  • Grounds
  • Major Events in Smithsonian History
  • Buildings

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