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The Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries building on the National Mall will remain closed for the foreseeable future, the institution announced yesterday. Secretary G. Wayne Clough says the Smithsonian cannot afford to reopen the 133-year-old building, which has been closed for renovations since 2004. The facility was originally expected to reopen this summer.
A statement reads, “After a year of program planning and financial review, the Smithsonian concluded the cost of rehabilitating the building for public use and operating it exceeded available funding sources at this time.” Asked what accounts for the budget shortfall, Smithsonian spokesperson Linda St. Thomas writes in an email, “This was about private fundraising for all the interior work as well as programming inside the building.”
Stabilization of the building’s exterior was paid for with $55 million in federal dollars, but the Smithsonian’s federal requests for capital funds “have been focused on the National Museum of African American History and Culture and other priorities,” St. Thomas writes.
It’s not yet clear how this impacts pending plans for the museum to house the future Smithsonian American Latino Museum. The institution’s statement only says that it “has agreed to explore only interim uses for the building” while Congress sorts it out.
Designed by architects Adolf Cluss and Paul Schulze, the Arts and Industries building was the jewel of the Smithsonian when it opened in 1881 as the U.S. National Museum. According to a history of the building on the Smithsonian’s website, the museum’s first event was President James Garfield‘s inaugural ball. Today, it remains one of the most beautiful structures on the Mall, not to mention one of the most centrally located.
Yet in 2006, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the building one of the year’s most endangered historic places. The threat? “Deterioration and neglect.”
Photo courtesy Smithsonian