Created by an act of Congress in 1980, the National Building Museum is Americas premier cultural institution dedicated to exploring and celebrating architecture, design, engineering, construction, and urban planning. Since opening its doors in 1985, the Museum has become a vital forum for exchanging ideas and information about such topical issues as managing suburban growth, preserving landmarks and communities, and revitalizing urban centers. The Museum's engaging exhibitions and education programs including innovative curricula for school children and stimulating programs for adults - annually attract more than 400,000 people. As a private, nonprofit institution, the National Building Museum relies on the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations to continue its vital work. Support the Museum by becoming a member. The Museum occupies one of Washington's most spectacular structures, designed in 1881 by civil engineer and U.S. Army General Montgomery C. Meigs and completed in 1887. The building, which originally housed the Pension Bureau and was later occupied by many government agencies, is widely recognized as a marvel of engineering.
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city was built from scratch, Washington's
regular town plan is easy to grasp. Centered
on Capitol Hill and its governmental
monoliths, the District is divided into four
quadrants - northeast, northwest, southeast
and southwest. Dozens of broad avenues , all
named after states, run diagonally across a
standard grid of streets , meeting up at
monumental traffic circles like Dupont
Circle. North-south streets are numbered,
east-west ones are lettered. There's no J
Street, an intentional slight to early
Supreme Court Justice John Jay, or X, Y or Z
Street. I Street is often written Eye
Street. Be sure to note the relevant
two-letter code in any address (NW, NE, SW,
SE), which shows its quadrant; 1600
Pennsylvania Ave NW is a long way from 1600
Pennsylvania Ave SE.
Once in the
city, stop at the
DC Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center ,
Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania
Ave NW (Mon-Sat 8am-6pm, Sun noon-5pm; tel
202/328-4748), which can help with maps,
tours, bookings and citywide information.
Look for visitor information desks at the
airports and Union Station.
The White House Visitor Information Center
, 1450 Pennsylvania Ave NW (daily
7.30am-4pm; tel 202/208-1631), supplies free
maps and handy guides to museums and
attractions; the most useful is the free
Washington DC Visitors Guide .