The DC Office of Motion Picture and Television Development is pleased to recognize the Smithsonian Institution Building, also known as the “Castle,” in Southwest Washington as the September 2013 One City Location of the Month. One of the most recognizable buildings in the world, the Castle’s medieval-inspired style and reddish-brown hue allows it to stand out from the marble, granite and yellow sandstone facades that adorn many of the major landmarks in the nation’s capital. The Castle embodies the unrivaled beauty of the nation’s capital, while offering a distinctive persona that makes this structure one of Washington’s best filming locations.
The Castle is centrally located on the National Mall behind the National Museum of African Art and houses the Smithsonian Institution's administrative offices and information center. While the rapid expansion of the Smithsonian's collections and areas of research has prompted the Smithsonian campus to grow, the unique Gothic Revival structure remains the symbol of the Institution.
Designed by James Renwick, Jr. (Renwick Gallery, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City) and completed in 1855, the Castle was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965.
According to the Smithsonian Institution Archives, the exterior of the building is constructed of red Seneca sandstone from Seneca Creek, Maryland in the faux Norman style, a 12th-century combination of late Romanesque and early Gothic motifs. The west end of the building boasts soaring single story halls and abundant natural light through high windows and skylights, while the east wing of the building is more compartmented due to housing former laboratories, a lecture hall and private living quarters for the Smithsonian Secretary’s family.
The 1989 film Chances Are starring Cybil Shepard and Robert Downey, Jr. filmed some scenes at the Castle, as Cybil Shepard’s character Corrine was a curator there. In the movie Corrine is seen entering and exiting the Enid Hapt Garden on the Castle’s south side. The Castle has been seen in other feature films including The Day the Earth Stood Still, Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian, and J. Edgar.
In 2011, the DC Film Office launched One City Location of the Month to bring attention to the wide range of varied, cinematically compelling locations that are available to film and television productions. Former One City Location of the Month recipients include the Bellevue neighborhood in Southwest, the H Street corridor in Northeast, the Anacostia Library in Southeast, and the Letelier Theater in Northwest.
To learn more about the Smithsonian Castle and to view photos, please visit the One City Location of the Month feature on our web site. If you are interested in using the Castle for a future filming location, please contact us at [email protected].