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A black & white front angle view of the Patent Office Building  - a multi-story masonry building with a large wide staircase up to a large columned entrance.

Patent Office Building, ca. 1900-1906
Courtesy Library of Congress


Patent Office Building
8th and F Streets, NW
Washington, DC

The historic Patent Office Building covers the entire block, defined by F and G Streets, and 7th and 9th Streets. Considered the third oldest federal buildingin Washington, it houses two art museums of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Designed in the Greek Revival style in the 1830s, the massive structure took over thirty years to complete. Many early government offices were located here. In the 1850s, Clara Barton worked here as a clerk to the Patent Commissioner, the first woman federal employee to receive equal pay. During the Civil War, the building was turned into military barracks, hospital, and morgue. Wounded soldiers lay on cots in third-floor galleries, among glass cases holding models of inventions that had been submitted with patent applications. The American poet Walt Whitman frequented the place and read to wounded men. The Patent Office continued to occupy the building until 1932. In 1958, United States Congress transferred the structure to the Smithsonian Institution for housing its art collections. After serving as home for american art for over three decades, the building closed for renovations in January 2000. Recently named the Donald Reynold W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, the Patent Office Building is once again a part of the cultural life of Washington.

See: #11 on Downtown Map.

Nearest Metro Station: 'Gallery Place-Chinatown' on Red, Green and Yellow Lines.

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