IWalked Washington D.C.’s Arts and Industries Building
The Arts and Industries Building is currently the second oldest Smithsonian building located on the National Mall. It is best recognized as being the original home of the National Museum (which is now best known as the National Museum of Natural History), the site of the 1881 inaugural ball for President James A. Garfield (attended by some 7,000 people), and being the cheapest government building ever built ($3 per square foot).
The building was designed by architect Adolf Cluss and Paul Schultze in a High Victorian style. Cluss is known to have designed on the upwards of seventy other buildings within Washington D.C. including the last market house within the city, Eastern Market. Together Cluss and Schultze created a symmetrical brick structure that was designed to be fireproof and where all four facades are said to be identical. It was constructed over a fifteen month period at a cost of $310,000.
Just atop the northern entrance is a sculpture known as Columbia Protecting Science and Industry. This work, by artist Caspar Buberl, was sculpted in 1881. It features the female figure of Columbia standing with her arms spread across and over the seated figures of Industry (to the right) and Science (on the left, who is reading a book).
As previously noted, the Arts and Industries building was originally constructed to house the National Museum. The museum opened in 1881 with four main halls and 80,000 square feet of displays. Today only about one-third of this original exhibition space is still usable due to multiple renovations that partitioned off the floor.
Currently the Arts and Industries building is closed to the public (as it has been since 2004). It is undergoing a massive renovation, although the specific plans for are still technically undefined. Rumors have persisted that a future National Latino Museum may land here but nothing definitive has been confirmed. In 2004, a prominent New York architect, Richard Olcott was hired for the sum of $10 million to design a renovation for the structure. Upon receipt of the $200 million renovation plans though, it was decided to forego these plans and chalk up the $10 million fee to “experience.” In 2006 the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Arts and Industries Building as one of America’s Most Endangered Places.
Address: 900 Jefferson Drive, SW, Washington, DC
IWalked Audio Tours To See This Site: Washington D.C’s The National Mall. (Download the MP3 tour here. iPhone application tour is available here. Please note, all Washington D.C. tours are now available as in-app purchases upon download of our FREE Washington D.C. Tours application, which includes a nearly 4-hour tour of the National Mall.)