Daguerreotype of the Patent Office Building

United States Patent Office, Washington, D.C. by John Plumbe Jr. / Half-plate daguerreotype, c. 1846 / Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Temple of Invention: The History of a National Landmark

July 1, 2006 - January 21, 2008

The National Portrait Gallery, along with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, occupies the historic Patent Office Building, re-opened in 2006. One of the finest neoclassical structures in the world, its Greek Revival design dates from 1836. Completed in 1867 as the third Federal building in Washington, DC, this national landmark was hailed by Walt Whitman as 'the noblest of Washington buildings'. Several important early American architects were involved in the original design of the building. Here inventors such as Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison obtained title to their work. During the Civil War, it served initially as temporary barracks, hospital and morgue, and, in 1865, as the site of Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural ball. In 1958, the Smithsonian acquired the building, saving it from demolition.

Temple of Invention: History of a National Landmark
by Charles Robertson

This lavishly illustrated history of America's Patent Office Building illuminates the importance of a tresured national landmark.  Today the building is home ot two Smithsonian museums, the National Portrait Gallery and hte Smithsonian American Art Museum.  The book's rich historical detail from the 1830s to the present will be of particular interest to architectural historians and urban planners and to anyone who loves our nation's capital.

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Book cover of "Temple of Invention" with black and white photo of old Patent Office Building