WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — The Smithsonian Institution said its iconic “Castle” would close at the start of February in order to undergo its first major renovation in more than 50 years.
The “Castle,” as it’s known by most people, is more formally called the Smithsonian Institution Building and is located at 1000 Jefferson Dr. SW. Currently, the Castle is home to the Smithsonian’s Visitor Center, a café, a gift shop, and a small exhibit that features Smithsonian artifacts. It also serves as the institution’s administrative headquarters.
Approximately 150 staff members who work in the Castle will be relocated to Capital Gallery, an office building which the Smithsonian owns. It’s located at 600 Maryland Ave. SW.
The Enid A. Haupt Garden will be open while construction is taking place, and pedestrian routes on both sides of the Castle will allow access from the National Mall to the National Museum of African Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the garden. The Smithsonian’s Visitor Center will expand its online services to continue to serve in-person and virtual visitors. It also will look at other opportunities to serve in-person visitors.
The Castle will close Feb. 1, with the renovation set to begin in March. Work to complete repairs and upgrades is expected to take about five years.
The Smithsonian Institution said when the renovation is complete, visitors will walk into a “dramatic Great Hall restored to its original appearance with decorative finishes and terrazzo floors.” The work on the building will include expansion of the café, shop and restrooms, all of which will move to the Castle’s lower level. A floor with office space directly above the Great Hall that was added in 1968 will have been removed. The removal will allow the Upper Great Hall to return to its original two-story height and become a venue for public programming, as it was before.
In addition to interior upgrades, the renovation will include:
- Restoration and replacement of windows
- Restoration of the roof and exterior stonework
- Replacement of all mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems
- Replacement of life-safety, security and information technology systems
The building’s red sandstone exterior will remain intact.
The virtual visitor center website will launch in early February and include several new features that allow people to build an itineraries, interact with live volunteers, and enjoy live virtual tours hosted by docents. Visitors also will be able to download the Adventure Lab app, which will guide them through touchless scavenger hunts. The online center will continue to feature information about museum hours and locations, entry guidelines, brochures and maps, dining and shopping options, accessibility and details about visiting with groups.
The Castle, which was designed by James Renwick Jr., opened in 1855 as the first Smithsonian building. It’s a designated National Historic Landmark that is on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the National Mall Historic District.