Today in Smithsonian History: August 22, 1861

Corcoran Gallery under construction in 1861

View of the original Corcoran Gallery of Art, designed by James Renwick, Jr. under construction ca. 1861. Statues by Moses Ezekiel are in niches on the main facade, the outer niches are missing statues, awnings are on street level windows. The Corcoran was later relocated, and in 1972 the National Collection of Fine Arts, now the Smithsonian American Art Museum, gained additional gallery space with the acquisition of the building now called the Renwick Gallery.

August 22, 1861 The U.S. Army seizes the Corcoran Gallery of Art (today the Renwick Gallery) for use as a warehouse for storage of records and uniforms for the Quartermaster General (Montgomery Meigs) Corps. The building was designed by James Renwick, Jr. At the time it was seized, the exterior of the Gallery was virtually complete except for some decorative detail. The interior had not yet been floored or plastered.

U.S. Quarter Master General staff members on the front steps of the building, 1865

In 1861, construction of the building was interrupted by the Civil War; the U.S. Quarter Master General Montgomery C. Meigs and his staff occupied the partially constructed building from 1862 to 1869.

Renovated Renwick Gallery of Art exterior

The Renwick Gallery was closed to the public in early 2014 and reopened in November 2016. This major renovationproject includes completely renewed infrastructure, enhanced historic features and other upgrades. (Photo by Ron Blunt)

Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives

Posted: 22 August 2017
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