Temple of Invention

History of a National Landmark

Charles J. Robertson

    ISBN: 978 1 85759 385 3

    Size: 222 x 230 mm / 9.1 x 8.7 in.

    Binding: Paperback

    Pages: 112

    In association with:

    Date published: April, 2006

    UK £12.95 /US $19.95


  • Celebrates the architecture of a landmark building
  • Highlights the new courtyard atrium designed by renowned British architect Norman Foster


The Smithsonian American Art Museum, along with the National Portrait Gallery, occupies the historic Patent Office Building, which re-opened in 2006. One of the finest neoclassical structures in the world, its Greek Revival design dates from 1836. Completed in 1867 as the third Federal building in Washington, DC, this national landmark was hailed by Walt Whitman as ‘the noblest of Washington buildings’. Several important early American architects were involved in the original design of the building. Here inventors such as Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison obtained titles to their work. During the Civil War, it served initially as temporary barracks, hospital and morgue, and, in 1865, as the site of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural ball. In 1958, the Smithsonian acquired the building, saving it from demolition. An architectural adaptation gave it new life, and in 1968 the Smithsonian American Art Museum opened to the public. The new renovation includes a glass courtyard atrium designed by the award-winning architect Norman Foster. This richly illustrated volume traces the history of this landmark building, documenting its varied functions and evolving architecture with rarely seen photographs and architectural plans. The book is essential for all visitors to the Smithsonian and all those interested in the architectural history of the United States.

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