From the Re-envisioning Washington D.C. series… The Old Patent Office Building. Source: Photocopy of drawing (from Library of Congress) Artist unknown 1891 SOUTH FRONT FROM THE SOUTHWEST – Patent Office Building, Bounded by Seventh, Ninth, F & G Streets, Northwest, Washington, District of Columbia, DC. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 Call# HABS DC,WASH,503–35
This Greek Revival building began construction in 1836 and took over 30 years to complete. If you take some time to visit you’ll see why. It’s massive, encompassing a whole city block. The history of the building is as equally impressive. Here are some highlights from Wikipedia…
- It’s initial purpose was to house scale model versions of inventions for patents.
- Clara Barton worked in the building as a patent clerk prior to founding the American Red Cross.
- The building was used to house soldiers (dead and alive) during the Civil War.
- The famous poet Walt Whitman frequented the building.
- The location was the venue for Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural ball.
- In 2008 the building was named one of the “new seven wonders of the architecture world” by Condé Nast Traveler magazine
Today the structure is known as the Smithsonian Donald Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture. It plays home to two museums, The National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as well as an courtyard underneath a giant glass canopy.
Fellow photographers might be interested to know the Monument to Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre that once sat elsewhere on the Smithsonian grounds was relocated here just outside on the corner of 7th and F St., NW.