Founded in 1869 by Washington philanthropist William Wilson Corcoran, the Corcoran Gallery of Art was originally located at the corner of 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Rapid growth forced the gallery to relocate, and at its opening in 1897, the present structure was the first of a group of semi-public and public buildings to be erected on the 17th Street thoroughfare between New York Avenue and West Potomac Park. Throughout its history, the Corcoran Gallery has contributed significantly to the advancement of American art through its traditional policy of exhibiting contemporary American painting. Additionally, the gallery has a comprehensive collection of 18th, 19th, and 20th century American Art.
The area is lit through laylights in the roof of glass and copper. The lower floor is surrounded by 40 fluted, baseless Greek Doric columns while the upper floor is surrounded by 38 fluted Greek Ionic columns; both orders are of Indiana limestone and stand 18 feet high. The Ionic columns, which support the ceiling beams, are detailed with gilt bronze necking. The columns are spaced around two open wells with circulation along the outside. The frieze that surrounds the lower southern Atrium wall is a 19th century plaster reproduction of the frieze on the Pantheon. Originally, the Atrium housed statuary and plaster casts. Today, statuary is still exhibited here as well as plaster and wooden busts of famous Americans, which are mounted on brackets around the room.
DC Inventory: November 8, 1964 (Joint Committee on Landmarks)
DC Inventory (Interiors): April 23, 2015
National Register: May 6, 1971
National Historic Landmark: April 27, 1992