Throw-back Thursday

Smithsonian historian Pamela Henson describes a more pastoral National Mall.


National Mall with trees

Lantern slide of the National Mall photographed from the Washington Monument, 1915, showing the National Museum of Natural History on the left facing the Smithsonian Castle on the right. (Via Old Time DC)

This hilly area was called the Smithsonian Park, between 1910 when the National Museum of Natural History opened and 1916, when construction began on the Freer Gallery of Art. There are even pictures of deer living in the park.

As part of the McMillan plan (a comprehensive planning document for the development of the monumental core and the park system of Washington, D.C.), in the early 20th century, the Mall was leveled and a lot of the trees cut down, to make an open space between the Capitol and the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Many of the trees that were left were Dutch elms that died during the Dutch elm disease epidemic of the 1930s.

Note that the Freer Gallery does not yet exist, west of the Castle on the right of the lantern slide. It’s groundbreaking was 1916. The old Agriculture Buildings on the right were razed in 1923.

Note also that past the Arts and Industries Building beyond the Castle is the old red brick Army Medical Museum, located where the Hirshhorn is now.

The east and west wings of the Natural History Building wings were not built until the 1960s and the National Gallery of Art was not built until the 1930s.

Posted: 12 October 2017
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