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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Architecture on the Nation's Front Lawn

Daytime Tour

Morning Tour

Friday, June 12, 2020 - 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1NWB03
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National Museum of African American History and Culture (Photo: Alan Karchmer)

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

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

Study a wide range of architectural styles as you view the Smithsonian’s buildings—from the first permanent structure, the 1846 Castle, to the most recent museum—as well as the National Gallery of Art and the Department of Agriculture. Compare diverse historical styles, ranging from the Gothic-revival Castle to the exuberant Victorian Arts and Industries Building to the Beaux-Arts classicism of the Natural History Museum. Compare the various interpretations of modernism expressed in the American History Museum, Air and Space Museum, Hirshhorn, the sinuous curves of the American Indian Museum, and the rich symbolism of the Museum of African American History and Culture. The tour concludes at the new Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial designed by architect Frank Gehry, to be dedicated in May.

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


  • The tour is 2.5 hours in length, including a brief midsession break.
  • Meet outdoors at the Smithsonian Metro, Mall exit (Blue/Orange/Silver lines).
  • No infants, children, or pets.
  • World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*

*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.

Other Connections

Preview the capital’s newest landmark as Frank Ghery describe his process and design for the Eisenhower Memorial, sited across Independence Avenue from the Air and Space Museum.

Tour meets outside the Smithsonian
Metro, Mall Exit