Natural History Building, Smithsonian Institution

The Natural History Building (as the National Museum of Natural History was originally known) opened its doors to the public on March 17, 1910, in order to provide the Smithsonian Institution with more space for collections and research.

The building was not fully completed until June 1911. The structure cost $3.5 million dollars. The Neoclassical style building was the first structure constructed on the north side of the National Mall as part of the 1901 McMillan Commission plan. In addition to the Smithsonian's natural history collection, it also housed the American history, art, and cultural collections.

The National Mall is located in the area encompassed by Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues on the north, 1st Street, N.W., on the east, Independence and Maryland Avenues on the south, and 14th Street, N.W., on the west. No longer part of the official Mall grounds is the section of land bordered by Jefferson Drive on the north, Independence Avenue on the south, and by 12th and 14th Streets respectively on the east and west, This property is now administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Mall itself is a large greensward slightly over one mile in length with a standard width of 1500, but narrowing,to-approximately 500 at its eastern terminus. It is crisscrossed by a series of roads and paths oriented in either a north-south or east-west direction. Three of the streets which run north to south across the Mall are above ground. These are 3rd, 4th, and 7th Streets. Two others, 9th and 12th Streets, have been diverted beneath the ground. Of the four streets which run east to west across the Mall, only two, Madison and Jefferson Drives, allow motorized traffic. The other two, Washington and Adams Drives, were converted to graveled pedestrian walkways in the mid-1970s.

A number of structures adorn the Mall including nine museums, two sculpture gardens, an ice rink, and a subway station entrance. The latter consists of a metro rail marker and three sets of escalators leading down to the station below. This station is located just south of Adams Drive, bordering the western side of the tunneled 12th Street axis.

The nine museums include the Smithsonian "Castle", Arts and Industries Building, Museum of History of Technology, Museum of Natural History, National Air and Space Museum, Hirshhorn Museum, National Gallery of Art, National Gallery of Art East Building, and the Freer Gallery. These structures, though on Park Service land, are under the jurisdiction of the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art.

Built 1910 (Hornblower & Marshall, architects)
DC listing November 8, 1964



11th Street & Constitution Avenue, NW