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Main article: "Old Patent Office Building
National Portrait Gallery
The Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery.

The National Portrait Gallery occupies a portion of the Old Patent Office Building, a "National Historic Landmark. The building is located just south of "Chinatown in downtown Washington. Constructed between 1836 and 1867,[65] the building has a "sandstone and "marble façade,[66] and "porticoes modeled after the "Parthenon.[67]

The building was used as a hospital during the American Civil War, and both "Clara Barton and "Walt Whitman worked as nurses there.[68] The "Bureau of Indian Affairs, the "General Land Office, and the "Bureau of Pensions jointly occupied the building with the Patent Office through the Civil War and into the post-war period.[69] The massive increase in pension processing required by the Civil War lead to the construction of a new "Pension Bureau Building into which the Bureau of Pensions moved in 1887.[70] The General Land Office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs vacated the building in 1898.[71] The "United States Civil Service Commission and the "Government Accounting Office occupied the building after the Patent Office vacated it in 1932.[72] The Government Accounting Office vacated the structure in 1942, after its new headquarters nearby was complete.[73] The Civil Service Commission began constructing its own headquarters, and planned to vacate the building in 1962.[74]

Local D.C. businessmen asked the General Services Administration (GSA) to tear down the building and sell the land so a private parking garage could be built on the centrally located site. Legislation for this purpose was introduced in Congress in the waning days of the "82nd United States Congress in 1952, but did not pass. The legislation encountered resistance from a few members of Congress, architects, and the influential "Committee of 100 on the Federal City (a private business group dedicated to promoting the D.C. economy).[75] GSA reversed course, and said in June 1956 it no longer wanted to demolish the building. However, the agency said it would continue to use it for federal office space (which was in short supply) until the Civil Service Commission vacated the structure.[76] On March 21, 1958, Congress unanimously passed legislation authorizing the transfer of the building to the Smithsonian for a national art museum.[77] President "Dwight Eisenhower signed the legislation a few days later.[78]

Congress passed legislation establishing the National Portrait Gallery in 1962, and the Civil Service Commission moved out of the structure in November 1963.[79] Preparations for the renovation began in November 1964,[80] and the Grunley, Walsh Construction Co. began demolition of non-historic interior structures by May 1965.[81] The $6 million renovation was complete by April 1968,[82] and the National Portrait Gallery opened on October 7.[83]

2000–2007 renovation[edit]

In 1995, the Smithsonian revealed that the Old Patent Office Building was in serious disrepair.[84] The Smithsonian announced in January 1997 that the building would close in January 2000 for a two-year, $42 million renovation. Hartman-Cox Architects was hired to oversee the conservation and repair.[85] But just three years later, as the renovation was about to begin, the cost of repairs had risen to $110 million to $120 million.[86]

Prior to the building's closure in January 2000, a decision was reached to allot about one-third of the building's total space to the National Portrait Gallery while simultaneously eliminating the informal north-south division between the NPG and American Art Museum.[87] This led to acrimony between the two museums, and a public debate about which collection deserved more space. The Smithsonian resolved the dispute practically: Art that best fit an exhibition space got it. (For example, since modern art often tends toward large canvases, this art is on the high-ceilinged third floor.)[59]

The cost of the renovation rose to $180 million by March 2001. That month, Nan Tucker McEvoy (a "California newspaper heiress and arts patron) donated $10 million for the renovation.[88] The Henry Luce Foundation gave another $10 million later that year.[89] Costs continued to rise. Although Congress appropriated $33.5 million for the renovation, reconstruction costs were estimated at $214 million in June 2001 and the museum not scheduled to reopen until 2005.[90] Just a month later, the reopening was pushed back even further to July 2006.[91]

In 2003, the government increased its contribution to $166 million. Smithsonian officials subsequently began discussing a major change to the renovation design: Adding a glass roof to the open courtyard in the center of the Old Patent Office Building. Congress approved the change in August 2003. In March 2004, the Smithsonian announced that architect "Norman Foster, would design the glass canopy.[92] In November, Robert Kogod (a real estate development executive) and his wife, Arlene (heiress to Charles E. Smith Construction fortune) donated $25 million to complete the canopy. By then, costs had risen to $298 million. $60 million in private funds still needed to be raised.[89]

Design approval for the canopy proved difficult. The design had to be approved by the "National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), which has statutory authority to approve all buildings and renovations in the D.C. metropolitan area. Although the NCPC approved the preliminary design,[89] the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), the "United States Department of the Interior, the D.C. State Preservation Office, and the "National Trust for Historic Preservation all opposed the enclosure of the courtyard.[93] The NCPC reversed its preliminary approval on June 2, 2005.[94] Unwilling to lose the canopy, the Smithsonian brought five alternatives to the NCPC on August 4.[95] On September 8, 2005, the NCPC reversed itself yet again, and approved one of the revised designs.[96] The delay cost the Smithsonian $10 million.[59] In October 2005, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation made a $45 million donation to the NPG to finish both the building renovation and the canopy.[97] The Smithsonian agreed to call the two museums, the conservation center, courtyard, storage facility, and other operations within the Old Patent Office complex the "Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture" in appreciation for the gift.[98] The National Portrait Gallery reopened on July 1, 2006.[99] The total cost of the building's renovation was $283 million.[100]

Attendance at the renovated building rose significantly to 214,495 in just two months. In the past, both museums had drawn just 450,000 over 12 months. The achievement was even more impressive in the face of flat or declining attendance at all other Smithsonian museums.[101] The higher attendance was not all positive. Some patrons spit on art they did not like, while others kissed or touched some paintings. Video security cameras were hastily installed in September 2007 to stop the vandalism.[102] By the end of the year, more than 786,000 people had visited the two museums.[103]

Governance and directors[edit]

The National Portrait Gallery is governed by a board of directors known as the National Portrait Gallery Commission. The commission members are appointed by the Regents of the Smithsonian Institution. The museum is led by a Director, who oversees its day-to-day activities. Directors of the museum include:


  1. ^ Images are paintings, drawings, or similar media, unless otherwise noted.
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External links[edit]

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