Part of the Smithsonian, this intimate museum is dedicated to crafts and decorative art created in America from the 19th to 21st centuries. Originally built in 1859 to house D.C.’s first art museum, the Corcoran Gallery - which soon outgrew these digs and moved down the street - this ornate Second Empire building had become a moldering, almost-lost cause by the mid-1960s, when it was saved from demolition by President Lyndon Johnson and declared a National Historic Landmark.
In 1972, the museum was spruced up, re-named for its famous architect, James Renwick (designer of the nearby Smithsonian Castle), and re-opened as the home of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s craft collection. The Renwick has since become renowned for its rotating exhibits of inventive, detailed and even whimsical works of American art.
Docent-led tours of the Renwick’s highlights meet at the Information Desk in the lobby, offered
Monday - Friday at 12 p.m. and Saturday - Sunday at 1 p.m. Scavenger hunt materials for children are also available free of charge at the Information Desk. Set across the street from the Old Executive Office Building and the White House, the Renwick attracts a great deal of foot traffic; it’s advisable to arrive early or late in order to have the most elbow room.