Three easy questions. Three surprising NLM answers.

  1. What is the most famous house in Washington, DC?
  2. What is the most famous theater in Washington, DC?
  3. What is the most famous name in museums in Washington, DC?

The National Library of Medicine was located at three prestigious places in Washington, DC, before moving to the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda in 1962. The questions above hint at those three locations.

Can you figure them out?

The most famous house?

Riggs Bank building with horse and carriage in frontThe White House: From 1862 to 1866, the Library was housed in the front parlor of the Surgeon General’s Office at 15th and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW—in the former Riggs Bank building next to the White House. Called at the time the Library of the Office of the Surgeon General of the Army, the collection numbered about 2,300 items in 1865.

The most famous theater?

black & white photograph of Ford's TheaterFord’s Theatre: After it outgrew that parlor, the Library resided in Ford’s Theatre from 1866 to 1887.

On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated while attending a performance of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre. After citizens protested against further productions taking place at the theatre (and Mr. Ford received a threatening letter), the Federal government took over the property and purchased it the following year (1866) to house the Army’s medical records, museum, and—you guessed it—the Library.

The most famous museum?

southeast corner view of the "Old Red Brick"The Smithsonian: From 1887 to 1962, the Library was located on land where the Smithsonian’s Hirshorn Museum now stands. At the intersection of 7th Street and Independence Avenue, SW, the Library occupied a stately structure that became affectionately known as the Old Red Brick.

If you’d like to learn more about the Library’s past—including our name changes and why the historical collection was shipped to Cleveland for safekeeping during World War II—check out A Brief History of NLM, along with the illustrated history of the Library, Images of America: US National Library of Medicine.

NLM in Focus is a product of the NLM Office of Communications and Public Liaison. You’re invited to subscribe to receive word of future articles. We welcome your comments, likes, and shares.

One thought on “Three easy questions. Three surprising NLM answers.

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