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The Seneca Quarry and the Castle
Saturday, April 18, 2020 - 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Mall entrance to the Castle (Photo: Risa Ryan)
The Smithsonian Castle's distinctive red sandstone facade glows warmly against the cool marble that dominates the National Mall. The story of its stones, from Seneca Quarry in Montgomery County, is just as remarkable as that of the building. The quarry saw its first developer die, filed for bankruptcy twice, suffered through floods, and contributed to a national scandal that embarrassed the Grant presidency and helped bring down the Freedman's Bank. Until it was closed in 1901, the quarry was the source of stones used in projects all over the region, including the Cabin John Bridge and some walkways and doorways of the U.S. Capitol.
Garrett Peck, author of The Smithsonian Castle and the Seneca Quarry, leads an excursion that centers on the role that the quarry played in the building of 19th-century Washington. The first stop is the Castle, then travel to the site of the quarry in Poolesville, now within the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Enjoy lunch at nearby historic Rocklands Farm. Afterward, tours of the Seneca Schoolhouse and Montevideo, the striking Federal-era home once owned by quarry owner John P.C. Peter, provide another glimpse of life during the years that the Seneca Quarry was a thriving part of the local scene.
No fringe pickup stop.
Wear layers for variable weather and sturdy boots; expect some uneven terrain during portions of the tour.
Hear Garrett Peck talk about the history of the Seneca Quarry in an interview on WAMU’s “Metro Connection.”
Departs from the Holiday Inn Capitol at
550 C St SW (corner of 6th & C Sts)
No fringe stop on this tour