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American Art Museum Announces Renovation of Renwick Gallery

A major renovation of the Renwick Gallery, home of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s craft and decorative art program since 1972, is in the design phase. This project is the first comprehensive renovation to the building in 40 years.

The Renwick Gallery will close to the public in early 2014 with plans to reopen in 2016.

Design is underway for completely renewed infrastructure, enhanced historic features and other upgrades to the National Historic Landmark building that will make it a 21st-century destination attraction. Funding for the renovation is a 50-50 public-private partnership.

The Smithsonian has hired Westlake Reed Leskosky, based in Cleveland with offices in Washington, D.C., as the lead design architects for this major renovation and enhancement effort. Plans for renovating the 34,000-square-foot masonry structure include replacement of all heating, air conditioning, electrical, plumbing and fire-suppression systems as well as upgrades to security, phone and data communication systems. Wireless access will be installed throughout the building. The original window configuration will be re-created, two vaulted ceilings in the second floor galleries will be restored and the basement will be reconfigured for improved staff offices and workshops.

The Renwick Gallery is one of the most elegant examples of Second Empire architecture in the U.S. The building was designed in 1859 by the distinguished architect James Renwick Jr., who also designed the Smithsonian’s “Castle” and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. The Renwick Gallery is the third-oldest Smithsonian building. Renwick was inspired by the Louvre’s Tuileries addition in Paris and modeled the gallery in the French Second Empire style that was popular at the time. The Renwick Gallery was built originally as a public museum for William Corcoran’s private art collection.

Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Website:

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