The Smithsonian defines its South Mall Campus as the area south of the main Mall between 7th and 12th Streets and Independence Avenue, encompassing buildings from the Hirshhorn Museum to the Freer Gallery. A significant element of the Campus is the Quadrangle behind the Smithsonian Castle, which includes these important features:
• The three entrance pavilions designed by noted architect Jean Paul Carlhian for the National Museum of African Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and the S. Dillon Ripley Center;
• The Victorian Enid A. Haupt Garden designed by landscape architect Lester Collins; and
• The Renwick Gates, constructed from James Renwick’s original 1849 design, now the entrance to the garden.
Completed in 1987, this complex was the mastermind of Dillon Ripley as his final contribution to the Smithsonian’s legacy on the Mall. An equally important contribution was the inspiration and generosity of Enid Haupt, who funded the garden named in her honor and an endowment for its upkeep. The garden, with its Victorian seating and water features, has over the years become a cherished and contemplative refuge from the bustle of the Mall.
In 2014 the Smithsonian announced a Master Plan for the South Mall Campus that involved all of the structures in it. The Danish architectural firm Bjark Ingels Group (BIG) was retained to design a new concept for the Quadrangle complex that would entirely demolish all of the existing features listed above and replace them with a sweeping futuristic landscape (see illustration). The Smithsonian’s rationale for this radical action is to allow repair of the membrane roof beneath the garden that covers the underground spaces, to improve visitor access, and to create new underground visitor amenities. Less drastic alternatives than complete demolition are also under consideration.
The Smithsonian has hosted a series of consultation meetings, as required by the National Historic Preservation Act and National Environmental Policy Act, to receive comments from interested parties on its plans for the Quadrangle. The Committee of 100, which is participating in these meetings, does not believe that the Smithsonian’s expressed needs justify or require the destruction of the Quadrangle and has strongly opposed the demolition of its defining elements.
In 2016, the National Park Service expanded the National Mall Historic District to designate the buildings in the Smithsonian Quadrangle as historic and to include them on the National Register of Historic Places. In order to ensure their local historic importance, the Committee of 100 prepared and filed an application to list the Quadrangle and its component structures and garden on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites. The application was approved unanimously by the DC Historic Preservation Review Board in 2017.
The Smithsonian’s Master Plan contemplates both major and minor modifications to the other historically significant buildings in the South Mall Campus, including the Smithsonian Castle, the Freer Gallery of Art, the Arts and Industries Building, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. As detailed plans are developed and proposed by the Smithsonian concerning these buildings, the Committee of 100 will continue to be involved and to offer comments and recommendations.
In the News:
“John Kelly’s Washington” column in the Washington Post titled “Fans of Garden by Smithsonian Castle don’t want grassy successor to swoop in,” March 14, 2017.
“Don’t destroy the Smithsonian’s beloved Haupt Garden.” James M. Goode. The Washington Post, March 20, 2016.
“Mall Plan Scrutinized.” Peggy McGlone. Washington Post. April 9, 2016
“Smithsonian Should Set Standard on Public Signs, Not Fight Oversight.” Philip Kennicott. The Washington Post. December 4, 2015.
- 2017-05-09 C100 Letter Spofford Section 106 Consultation Meeting On Proposed South Mall Campus Master Plan
- May 9, 2017, Stephen A. Hansen
The Committee of 100 on the Federal City offers these comments on the new Alternative F unveiled at the May 3 pubic meeting as well as on continuing discussions and conceptual iterations of the proposed Smithsonian South Mall Campus Master Plan. While we find many aspects of the Plan laudable, we remain firmly opposed to demolition of the Haupt Garden and the Carlhian-designed pavilions in the Quadrangle Historic District, which was recently designated a DC landmark by unanimous vote of the Historic Preservation Review Board.
- C100 Press Release Smithsonian’s Haupt Garden Declared Historically Significant
- May 2, 2017, Kate Perry
The DC Historic Preservation Review Board has unanimously approved the application by the Committee of 100 on the Federal City for local landmark designation of the “Quadrangle Historic District” that abuts the Smithsonian Castle and includes the Enid Haupt Garden, the Renwick Gates, and the entrance pavilions to the Sackler Gallery, the Museum of African Art, and the Ripley Center. The Smithsonian is considering a plan that would demolish all of these structures.
- C100 Letter Garden Club Of America Enid A Haupt Garden
- July 18, 2016, Nancy MacWood
We are grateful for The Garden Club of America’s interest in the historic Enid A. Haupt Garden and its preservation. Your featuring the proposed destruction of the garden on The Garden Club’s website home page was welcome news to the several organizations nationally and locally that are also opposing the demolition of the garden.
- AOIDC Smithsonian South Campus Plan Opposition
- April 1, 2016, William N. Brown
Although we are supportive of efforts to rehabilitate the Smithsonian Castle and, perhaps, redesign the entrances to the Sackler Gallery, the National Museum of Asian Art and the Ripley Center, we believe that these initiatives can be accomplished without the extreme changes that would removed the custom-designed and compatible Renwick Gates and destroy the Haupt Gardens.
- C100 Call To Action - Oppose Smithsonian Proposal To Destroy The Haupt Garden
- April 08, 2016, Historic Preservation Subcommittee
CALL TO ACTION: Oppose Smithsonian Proposal to Destroy the Haupt Garden
- ACHP Response To C100 Regarding SI South Mall Campus Master Plan
- February 19, 2016, Reid J. Nelson
At the urging of C100 and other consulting parties, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) determined that it should enter into the process to ensure that the procedural issues raised by consulting parties are properly addressed, and that the Smithsonian meaningfully considers alternatives to adverse effects on two National Historic Landmarks and other properties potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
- C100 Letter NCPC South Mall Campus Master Plan EIS
- February 18, 2016, Nancy MacWood
The C100 has responded to the National Capital Planning Commission's Federal Register Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental impact statement on the Smithsonian Institution's proposed South Mall Campus Master Plan.
- C100 DCPL South Mall Master Plan Ensure Historic Accuracy
- February 19, 2016, Nancy MacWood, Rebecca Miller
The Committee of 100 on the Federal City (C100) and the DC Preservation League (DCPL) urge the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to enter consultation on the Smithsonian Institution’s proposed South Mall Campus Master Plan to ensure resolution of the Plan’s potential adverse impacts on National Historic Landmark buildings, buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places (National Register), and potentially eligible historic properties.
- December 5, 2015, Nancy MacWood, Rebecca Miller, Robert Nieweg
C100, DC Preservation Leauge, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation calls on Smithsonian Institution to fully comply with Section 106 requirements.
- C100 Comments NEPA Scoping Meeting Carnegie Library
- May 26, 2017, Stephen A. Hansen
As a follow-up to the National Environmental Policy Act Scoping Meeting on the Carnegie Library held by your commission on May 9, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City (C100) has the following preliminary comments. Several of these points were raised briefly at that meeting with Ms. Elizabeth Edelsen Estes, a representative of your consultant Stantec.