#tbt My Preservation Date // National Building Museum: Oh no, Palladio!

Years ago, while I was in graduate school, I wrote a blog about historic sites as potential places to go on dates. I always enjoy re-visiting the blog and re-reading my snark. So much so, that I thought I would share selections from it across this platform. From Spring 2011:


To kick this blog off right, I thought it was only fitting to visit the National Building Museum (Fig. A).  Upon my 2008 move to the greater D.C. area, the NBM was the first historic site I visited, along with other incoming UMd preservation and planning students.  It was built in 1887 and served as the Pension Bureau building.  It was not until 1980 that the building transitioned to museum purposes.  Recognized as historically significant, the NBM is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Historic Landmark (sidebar: only about three percent of buildings on the NR are also designated as an NHL – this makes the the National Building Museum super special!). Additionally, the third floor contains the offices of Preservation Action and the D.C. Preservation League.

Figure A: National Building Museum

I seem to visit the National Building Museum about once every three months.  The allows me to check out the regular rotation of exhibits.  This afternoon my best friend from middle and high school and neighborhood superstar, Amanda, and I made the excursion. A first-time visitor, she was especially stoked to see Palladio and His Legacy: A Transatlantic Journey. Currently, there is also an exhibit on various World’s Fairs entitled Designing Tomorrow: America’s World’s Fairs of the 1930’s and my personal fav, the ongoing exhibit Washington: Symbol and City.

The Palladio exhibit was overcrowded with some of the only adults in the building.  The highlight of this was knowing that the drawings were +500 years old, but unless you are fascinated with reading measured drawings, I would probably skip this.  The World’s Fairs exhibit reminded me of themes and motifs that I saw at Epcot and Futureland in the Magic Kingdom as a child.  It is also interesting to learn about how it influenced architecture and design (City Beautiful movement/White City). As always Washington: Symbol and City was wonderful. I always seem to pick up on something different every time I wander around. (Did you know if you tilt your head to the right and look at the model of the mall, you can see the outline of an owl?)

Let me get down to the nitty-gritty.

Why you do not want to come here with a date: For some reason (probably the Lego exhibit), every time I visit the NBM I forget how it attracts SWARMS of children. Until I walk through the door.  Then it’s ankle-biters abound! Running down the hallway. Blabbering through the World’s Fair exhibit. Traipsing through the Pension Commissioner’s Suite. And yes, father of Traipsing Toddler, I AM aware there is not an exhibit in there, but Amanda has never before been here, thus I would like to give her the low down on it so why don’t you deal with your out-of-control Traipsing Toddler and mind your own beeswax? Bottom line being that much like the Depo-Provera shot, going on a date here will serve as birth control for the next three months.

If you do come here with a date: Before entering the museum, take photos with the bronze lion statues across the street (see Fig. B, C, and D).

Figure B: February 2009
Figure C: July 2010
Figure D: January 2011

Your date is probably going to be aggravated (and perhaps paranoid of you having baby-fever) that you went on a date to a place that is populated by so many toddlers and strollers. My suggested antidote is walking to the Greene Turtle Sports Bar (Fig. E) and sitting through the game of his sport team of choice (flat screen televisions in every booth). But even if you don’t feel the need for the antidote, I still advise grabbing a beverage here after a trip to the NBM.

Figure E: Map, A – National Building Museum, B – Greene Turtle Sports Bar

Yes, it is a chain but it is only one block away and between the NBM and the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stop. And you can get 25 wings for $17. And you can choose from FIVE different flavors of wing sauce: Mild, Kinda Hot, We Mean Hot, Honey Barbeque, Smokey Barbeque, and Maryland (I think it has to do with Old Bay?). Lastly, I recommend planning the excursion on a Saturday, for the sheer reason that the Greene Turtle features $4 Amstel Light, Heineken, and Dos Equis pints. That way even if your date is a dud, you can drink until he turns into the Most Interesting Man in the World. Cheers, y’all!

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