Buildings of the The National Mall

The National Mall is especially these days as the location where the massive crowd formed to see the inauguration of President Barrack Obama.  Over forty years ago, it was famous for a similar occasion when people gathered there to hear Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.  The mall is also home to a wide array buildings, most of which are fabulous museums.

Washington Monument

washington-monument

Completed on December 6th, 1884, the Washington Monument to this day is still the tallest stone structure and obelisk in the world. It is also the tallest building in Washington DC. If that’s not impressive enough, when the monument was first completed, it was tallest man-made structure in the world until the Eiffel Tower was completed a few years later.

Lincoln Memorial & Reflecting Pool

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As the name suggests, this memorial was built in honor of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. It was dedicated on May 30th, 1922. The memorial can be found at the opposite end of the National Mall from the United States Capitol. Together, these two structures form the “book ends” of the park. The Lincoln Memorial’s reflecting pool is the largest in Washington DC. It reflects both the Lincoln and Washington Memorials.

Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial

Often overlooked as part of the National Mall, the Jefferson Memorial was indeed created with the mall in mind. While the east and west bookends of the mall are the Lincoln Memorial and the Capital Building, the Jefferson Memorial serves as a south anchor point for the mall, with the Whitehouse located directly north. The Jefferson Memorial was completed in 1943, having initially been spearheaded by President Franklin Roosevelt, who held a great admiration for Thomas Jefferson.

United States Capitol Building

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Located at the top of Capitol Hill, this is home to the United States Congress, the Legislative Branch of the United States government.  Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have their own chambers here, where they do business.  It is in the House of Representatives chamber where the President of the United States gives his annual State of the Union Address.

Ulysses S. Grant Memorial

grant-memorial

Located at the base of Capitol Hill, this memorial honors President Ulysses S. Grant.  Looking at the memorial, though, it is obvious that Grant is especially commemorated for his role during the American Civil War in which he defeated Robert E. Lee.  The statue of Grant astride his favorite horse, Cincinnati, faces down the length of the National Mall, directly to the statue of Lincoln, Grant’s Commander and Chief during the war.

National Air and Space Museum

National Air and Space Museum

When people think about the “Smithsonian Institute” it is more than likely they are thinking of the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum. Glamorous Glennis, the first plane the break the sound barrier, is here. This is also home to the Spirit of St. Louis, and an actual Wright Flyer.

National Museum of Natural History

National Museum of Natural History

This is the natural history museum of the Smithsonian Institute.  The museum’s most well known attractions are its Hall of Mammals, Hall of Dinosaurs, Hall of Geology Gems, and Minerals, its live Insect Zoo, and of course its IMAX theater.

National Museum of American History

National Museum of American History

Another of the Smithsonian Institute’s museums.  The key artifact at the heart of this museum is the original Star Spangled Banner.  This is the flag Francis Scott Key saw flying over Fort McHenry when he was inspired to write the poem that became the United States national anthem.

United States Botanic Garden

United States Botanic Garden

This is the oldest continually operating botanic garden in the United States.  In 1842, Charles Wilkes returned from the “United States Exploring Expedition” with a massive collection of plants previously unknown to the United States.  This garden was ultimately built to house those plants.  Within the garden today, there are still four plants that are believed to either be the actual plants from the expedition or their descendents.

National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of the American Indian

This is the Smithsonian Institute’s museum dedicated to the original natives of the United States.  This museum actually has three facilities, with this building being just one of them.  Interestingly enough, the museum is just as much dedicated to focusing on the Native Americans living today as it is to their history.

Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden

Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Garden

This is Smithsonian Institute’s museum that focuses on art created after WWII, especially during the last thirty years.  The building itself is a work of modern art as it is a cylinder resting on four legs above the ground.

Arts and Industries Building

Arts and Industries Building

This is the second oldest building in the National Mall that is used by the Smithsonian Institute.  The building has primarily been utilized to house the exhibits from the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.

Smithsonian Institution Building

Smithsonian Institution Building

This is the home of the Smithsonian Institute’s administrative offices and information center.  The building’s appearance has earned it the nickname, “The Castle”.  Of all the Smithsonian Institute’s buildings, this one was the first.  It was completed in 1855.  While the building gained electric lighting in 1895, it wasn’t until 1968-1970 that the building was fully retrofitted with all the modern conveniences of climate control, modern electrical systems, and elevators.

Freer Gallery of Art

Freer Gallery of Art

This is one of the two Smithsonian Institute galleries dedicated to Asian Art.  The gallery was founded by Charles Lang Freer who dedicated his vast art collection to the United States as well as enough funds to build a museum to house them.  Although the gallery primarily exhibits Asian art, Freer also owned an impressive collection of American art too, which is also shown in the museum.

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

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This is the second Smithsonian Institute gallery dedicated to Asian Art.  It opened in 1987 when Arthur M. Sackler donated his own Asian Art collection of some 1000 pieces as well as $4 million to help with constructing a gallery to house them.

National Museum of African Art

National Museum of African Art

As the name would suggest, this is the Smithsonian Institute’s museum dedicated to African Art.  Interestingly enough, it actually began as a private museum in 1964 only to become part of the Smithsonian a few years later in 1979.  Its building features a circular motif, which is used throughout its design.

National Gallery of Art & Sculpture Garden

National Gallery at Sunset

This museum is actually comprised of two buildings linked by an underground tunnel, with a large sculpture garden beside them. The West Building was built in a neoclassical style. In contrast, the east building is designed to appear as if it were several interlocking prisms.

Suffice to say, if you’re a person who loves museums, the National Mall in Washington DC is a virtual heaven with something for almost everyone.  It’s the sort of place one visits for a day and wishes they could stay for a month.

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