Located across the street from the new Washington D.C. Convention Center, the historic 64,000-sq.-ft. Carnegie Library building has been transformed into the City Museum, the only museum dedicated to telling the story of the District of Columbia. The Clark Construction Group Inc. served as general contractor on the $12-million restoration project (construction cost) led by the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
“Washington, D.C. now has a place to celebrate its history and allow people to discover all of the things that make this city unique. From Anacostia to Cleveland Park, Shaw to U Street, there is a city waiting to be explored,” said Barbara Franco, president and CEO of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
The landmark underwent a complete renovation. With its Beaux Arts design, the Carnegie Library building is a three-floor symmetrical structure with three mezzanine levels offering 14,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space. The public spaces are on the three main levels with the mezzanines used for administrative offices and library and collections storage. The K Street entrance of the building was re-opened, allowing visitors to enter from both the north and south sides.
Also featured is an education center with meeting space and a visitor information center. A research library and meeting room make the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.’s collections of archives and manuscripts, photographs, publications, prints and maps available to the public.
The City Museum adopted the 21st century model of a decentralized museum. In addition to the traditional role of preserving collections and offering exhibits and educational programs, the museum links visitors to neighborhoods and regional sites called gateways. Visitors experience a network of historic sites in off-the-Mall communities such as Chinatown, Adams Morgan, Shaw and Anacostia. The facility encourages visitors to see the city itself as part of the museum.
The museum’s design team included the architectural firms Devrouax & Purnell of Washington, D.C., and RKK&G of New York. GSM Design of Montreal designed the exhibits and Lee & Liu Associates of Washington, D.C., served as the landscape architect.
Built in 1903, the Carnegie Library is one of the few public spaces in the District of Columbia that was never racially segregated. In 1999, Mayor Anthony Williams presented the Historical Society with a 99-year lease for the Carnegie Library at the rate of one dollar per year. The $24-million project was funded by private donations, federal and local appropriations and grants.