Temple of Invention: History of a National Landmark

June 30, 2006 — January 21, 2008

Smithsonian American Art Museum (8th and F Streets, NW)

This exhibition honors the completion of the building’s glorious renovation and marks the 170th anniversary of President Andrew Jackson signing legislation that authorized the building’s construction. Begun in 1836 and completed in 1868, it was the third public building constructed by the new nation in its capital city. This landmark was praised by Walt Whitman as the “noblest of Washington buildings” and is considered to be one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the United States. Charles Robertson, former deputy director at the museum and specialist in American decorative arts, is the guest curator of the exhibition.


Temple of Invention: History of a National Landmark is co-organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. The exhibition and publication are made possible by generous support from Allan J. and Reda R. Riley. Additional support for the publication was provided by Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.



Charles Robertson is the author of the accompanying book, Temple of Invention: History of a National Landmark, which details the historical and cultural significance of the building.




An image of the Patent Office Building from 1846

Patent Office Building, 1846, Dauguerreotype by John Plumbwe Jr., Library of Congress