LivingTravelSmithsonian Castle: Smithsonian Institution Building

Smithsonian Castle: Smithsonian Institution Building

The Smithsonian Castle, officially called the Smithsonian Institution Building, houses the administrative offices and Information Center for world-class museums in Washington DC. This Victorian-style red sandstone building was built in 1855 and designed by architect James Renwick, Jr. It was originally the home of the Smithsonian’s first secretary, Joseph Henry, and his family, and is the oldest building on the National Mall.

What to see there

The Smithsonian Castle is centrally located on the National Mall and serves as a good place to start a tour of the Smithsonian museums. You can watch a 24-minute video at the Smithsonian and see other Washington, DC attractions as well. The main information area has two large models of the mall and two electronic maps of Washington, DC.

Volunteer Information Specialists are available to provide free maps and help you plan your tourist itinerary. There is also a cafeteria and free wifi. The Enid A. Haupt Garden is located on the south side of the building and is a beautiful place to explore during the warmer months of the year.


The castle was the museum’s first exhibition hall from 1858 to the 1960s. Over the years, the building has been home to the Archives of the Smithsonian Institution and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. It has been restored several times and is a National Historic Landmark. The crypt of James Smithson, benefactor of the Institution, is located at the north entrance of the building.

Get there

The Smithsonian Castle is located at 1000 Jefferson Drive SW in Washington, DC. The closest subway station is Smithsonian.

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