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Architecture on the Nation’s Front Lawn

In-Person Program

Weekend Tour

Sunday, August 27, 2023 - 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1CSC10
Tour meets outside the Smithsonian
Metro, Mall Exit
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National Museum of African American History and Culture (Photo: Alan Karchmer)

Pierre L’Enfant’s 1791 plan for the National Mall envisioned a grand “public walk.” By 1900, that plan had been stymied and ignored. The far-reaching and critically influential McMillan Plan of 1902 reinterpreted the ceremonial core of the city, and much of what we see on the Mall today reflects that proposal.

Enjoy a morning walking tour and discover the Mall’s history, design, and architecture, from its earliest incarnation to the latest developments. Learn what happened to the museum park, the railroad station and its tracks, and why the Mall does not align with compass directions.

Take in a wide range of architectural styles as you view the Smithsonian’s buildings—from the first permanent structure, the 1846 Castle, to the 2016 National Museum of African American History and Culture—as well as the National Gallery of Art and the Department of Agriculture. Styles range from the Castle’s Gothic Revival to the Arts and Industries Building’s exuberant Victorian architecture to the Natural History Museum’s Beaux Arts classicism. Compare the varied interpretations of Modernism expressed in the Hirshhorn Museum, American History Museum, Air and Space Museum, American Indian Museum, and African American History and Culture Museum. The tour concludes at the newest addition to the Mall, the Frank Gehry–designed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.

The tour leader is Bill Keene, a lecturer in history, urban studies, and architecture.

No infants, children, or pets.

Know Before You Go

  • Tour participants meet outdoors at the Smithsonian Metro, Mall exit (Blue, Orange, and Silver lines).
  • Tour is 2.5 hours in length, including a brief mid-session break.

Additional Date Options for this Tour

General Information

  • Registration for this tour will end by 2 p.m. ET on Friday, August 25, 2023.
  • Smithsonian is a mask-friendly environment. Masks are strongly recommended to be worn on buses at all times and may also be required at various indoor sites.
  • For additional tour information: