Smithsonian Castle and Information Center

Description And Comments

The story of the grand, red sandstone Smithsonian Institution Building starts with the story of James Smithson, founding patron of the Smithsonian Institute. Smithson was an English chemist and mineralogist who came from wealthy parents and had no children of his own. Due to a clause in Smithson’s will, all of his wealth was gifted to the government of the United States, a country that he seemingly never visited, to found “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men” that was to be called the Smithsonian Institute.

The first building was completed for the Smithsonian Institute in 1855 and is lovingly referred to as “the Castle” although is officially called the Smithsonian Institution Building. The Castle contains the primary visitor information center as well as all Institution administrative offices. The interior is just as beautiful as the exterior, with the vaulted ceilings closer resembling a church nave than an administration building. There are also a few exhibits inside about the Castle and the Smithsonian, as well as the remains of James Smithson himself, which were moved to the Castle in 1904.


1000 Jefferson Drive SW
Washington, D.C.
The Mall



Touring Tips

The Castle opens earlier than any of the surrounding Smithsonian museums. The cafe inside is a great place to grab a cup of coffee before heading elsewhere.

Attraction Photos