The National Building Museum

If you appreciate architecture and enjoy experiencing the atmosphere of an incredible building, visit the National Building Museum on your next trip to Washington D.C. Full of history and innovation, this building is a source of education and inspiration.

History and Features of the National Building Museum

The National Building Museum was designed by Montgomery Meigs in 1881 and was completed in 1887. This inventive building originally housed the U.S. Pension Bureau, followed by various other government agencies. It became
the National Building Museum due to an act of Congress in 1980 and opened its doors in 1985. The museum is dedicated to researching and highlighting engineering, design, architecture, urban planning, and most anything related to building in the U.S.

The Great Hall is very impressive. It is almost the size of a football field. Amazingly, a system of window, ducts, and archways keep it full of natural light and ventilated. The Great Hall is supported by eight massive columns, four at each end. These columns measure 8 feet in diameter and 75 feet high. They are some of the tallest interior columns in the world. Each is composed of 70,000 bricks covered with plaster. Originally they were painted and recently (2001) were marbelized. These columns feature Corinthian capitals. The Great Hall is often used for galas, including 15 inaugural balls.

The first level surrounding the Great Hall showcases 72 Doric columns, made from painted terra cotta. The second level has 72 painted iron Ionic columns. Each level has a walkway (colonnade or peristyle) around the Great Hall, with arched openings to extend the feeling of space.

What to See and Do at the National Building Museum

The first thing to do at the National Building Museum is nothing. Let yourself stand still in the Great Hall and take it all in. Absorb the feeling of space, notice the natural light, and the many architectural features. Next walk around the Great Hall and explore the many viewpoints. Venture upstairs and take a stroll on the second level walkway, stopping to look both up and down into the Great Hall.

Oh, and of course there are wonderful exhibits! Lectures, too. More than 145 temporary exhibitions have been in place since the museum opened to the public. If you're not sure where to start, the museum offers free tours. You can see films, attend family programs, and enjoy concerts. The web site provides a current schedule of events.

Last, check out the High Noon Cafe and the highly praised museum gift shop. It's known as the best museum shop in D.C.

How to Get There, Where to Park, Etc.

The National Building Museum is located at 401 F Street NW in Washington, D.C. The closest Metro stop is Judiciary Square (red line). Exit the Metro on the F Street side and the museum will be directly in front of you.

Hours for the National Building Museum are Monday - Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

Visit the museum's web site for more information.


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