WASHINGTON, D.C. — If you’ve visited our nation’s capital there’s a good chance you walked around the national mall where the majority of museums are located. Starting in February, one of the most iconic buildings on that stretch will be closed for years.
Along the national mall across from the National Museum of Natural History is the Smithsonian Institution building. It’s known locally as the ‘Castle’. The design, the red brick color, the glass windows, features that live it to its nickname.
“Nothing looks like the ‘castle,’” said Linda St. Thomas, spokesperson for the Smithsonian.
St. Thomas said it was built in 1855. It now serves as the institution’s administrative headquarters.
“This is the first building on the national mall so if you see historic photos, you see all this grassland then there’s this building in the middle of it so it is the very first building on the mall and the first building of the Smithsonian institution,” said St. Thomas.
But come February, it will be closed for the next five years for renovations. St. Thomas said the last time the building had major renovation work was in the 1960s.
“This room right here this is called the great hall,” said St. Thomas. “The wall behind us is an addition and it was put in in the 60s and the great hall really was meant to go all the way to those double doors, so this is an artificial wall right here to accommodate a café and a shop. But in the new look in five years, this will all be the way it was in the late 1800s: Two stories high, these beautiful big columns, a cafeteria, a restaurant, restrooms and a shop will be on the lower level, so this will all be wide open for the public for a visitors’ center, events and a public gathering space.”
St. Thomas said the renovations will bring this iconic building back to the way it was meant to be.