National Museum of Natural History

Originally housing the U.S. National Museum, this building became focused exclusively on natural history in 1969.

The National Museum of Natural History, which opened in 1910 as the United States National Museum, is a large Neoclassical style building located on the National Mall, between Constitution Avenue NW, 9th Street, 12th Street, and Madison Drive. Through its dome (and interior rotunda) and portico, the building expresses the then-popular City Beautiful movement, which had been promoted by the Senate Park Commission of 1901-02 — better known as the McMillan Commission.

The grand building was designed by local architectural firm Hornblower & Marshall — along with nationally-prominent architects Charles F. McKim and Daniel H. Burnham (who had also been members of the influential McMillan Commission). It was constructed over a number of years, from 1904 into 1911. One year later, the interior was officially completed.

The Smithsonian's growing collection had increased the need for a new space, as the existing U.S. National Museum (Arts and Industries Building) and the Smithsonian Castle were too small for the massive and continually-expanding collection. The new museum, opened in 1910, helped meet these needs — at least for a short time. In 1964, the Museum of History and Technology (National Museum of American History) opened next door, followed by the National Museum of American Art-National Portrait Gallery in the Old Patent Office five years later. With these collections in new quarters, in 1969, the building became the National Museum of Natural History.

East and west wings, designed by Mills, Petticord and Mills, were added to the original building in 1961-65, with additinal changes to the building in the 1970s and 1990s. The wings are used by museum staff, and incude offices, storage, and other auxiliary space.

DC Inventory: November 8, 1964 (Joint Committee on Landmarks)
DC Inventory: January 26, 2023 (Amendment)
National Register: March 30, 2023
Within National Mall Historic District



11th Street & Constitution Avenue, NW