U 1000 Jefferson Dr. SW
The Smithsonian Institution Building, also known as the Castle, is home to the Information Center and the offices of the Smithsonian Institution. When you get to the Mall, you'll be sure to spot it — look for the red sandstone building that looks like a castle. Though not a museum itself, this is the headquarters of the Institution, where all its main offices are located.
The Norman-style castle (a combination of twelfth-century Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles) was designed in 1855 by noted architect James Renwick, who also designed St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York and the Renwick Gallery. It has become the symbol of the Smithsonian over the years; you can find it on key chains and Christmas ornaments in any of the museum's shops.
Think of the Castle as your gateway to the Smithsonian theme park. There is a visitor's information desk where you can ask questions and get directions. You can also see models of the museums on the Mall and watch interactive videos. There is a twenty-four-minute film on the history of the Institution, as well as an overview of the museums and galleries that runs continuously throughout the day. Information on special exhibits and events is also available at the Castle.Location and Hours
The Castle is located on the Mall, accessible from the Smithsonian Metro station. The Information Center is open from 8:30
You may be able to visit the Smithsonian in your own community. How? The organization has affiliated with about 140 museums in 28 states, Puerto Rico, and Panama. It supplies artifacts from the collection, sometimes for extended periods of time, and works with the curatorial staff in presenting exhibitions. Find out if your hometown has an affiliate institution at
The marble sarcophagus of James Smithson, the founder of the Institution, is also housed in this building in its own room behind the information desk, and to the right (in a former guardroom) you will find a piece of smithsonite, a zinc carbonite he discovered that was named after him.
Believe it or not, Smithson never actually visited the United States when he was alive (and never even corresponded with any Americans that we know of). His bones were brought over to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century when an Italian marble drilling company bought the cemetery in Genoa where Smithson was buried. His crypt was set up in a former guardroom in the Smithsonian Castle.
In the 1970s, guards and Castle workers started to comment on weird occurrences in the Castle, such as alarms going off without cause and the ancient elevator jamming for no reason. Books were being pulled out and abandoned in the Woodrow Wilson Library, and many late-night workers complained of feeling that someone was watching them. This went on for about a decade. Then, in the late 1970s, Smithson's sarcophagus was opened during a renovation. Inside was a tin box with Smithson's bones inside, haphazardly mixed together with fragments of his original coffin. Ever since the bones were realigned properly and the sarcophagus resealed, the Castle has remained quiet.