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Temple of Invention: History of a National Landmark

Charles J. Robertson

Copublished with Scala Publishers Ltd.
112 pp.: ill. (38 color)
ISBN: ISBN 1-85759-385-5

Softcover, $19.95

This lavishly illustrated history of America's Patent Office Building illuminates the importance of a treasured national landmark. Today the building is home to two Smithsonian museums, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. The book's rich historical details 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.

The Patent Office Building, constructed between 1836 and 1868, was built to display models submitted by inventors seeking patents, as well as historical artifacts including the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin's printing press, and George Washington memorabelia. In the mid-nineteenth century, it was known as a "museum of curiosities" and was visited by 100,000 people annually. During the Civil War it was both military barracks and a hospital for wounded soldiers. In 1865 its nearly completed north wing was the site for Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural ball. Poet Walt Whitman called this witness to history and repository for American ingenuity and enterprise "the noblest of Washington buildings."

Temple of Invention, designed by Robert Killian and Karen Siatras, won first place in the Washington Book Publishers 2006 Book Design and Effectiveness Competition.