District of Construction

Shepherd Park/Juanita E. Thornton LibraryStaff Picks

District of Construction

You've seen them in photos, books, and movies. Have you wondered about how they came to be built? Washington, D.C. features a variety of architectural designs in homes, public buildings, and monuments. With building as the theme for this year's summer reading, below are a selection of books about building and architecture in the District. 

AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington, D.C. by Gerard Moeller
In the fifth edition of this well-known guide, the author takes readers on an informative tour of Washington's landmark buildings and monuments. The book is organized in nineteen neighborhood tours, featuring private homes, civic buildings, foreign embassies, and more. A concise description and its architects is provided for each building and monument. Of interest, a few neighborhood branch libraries are included! Photographs and maps accompany the text.

Washington at Home, second edition, edited by Kathryn S. Smith
Washington is well-known for its public buildings, monuments, and museums. However, the hometown aspect of the city is overlooked. In this expanded and updated edition of the classic 1988 title, discover the social history of 26 neighborhoods of the District. Each chapter is written by someone who is familiar with that neighborhood. You'll read about how these neighborhoods developed and what makes them unique. Whether you're a newcomer or a long time resident, this book is a fascinating story of the city's many neighborhoods.  Full color plates and period photographs accompany the text.

The Smithsonian Castle and the Seneca Quarry by Garrett Peck
The Smithsonian Castle is a distinctive building with its red sandstone exterior on the National Mall.  It's named in honor of James Smithson, a British chemist who admired the United States but never visited. After the castle's designs were approved in late 1846, the search for a local quarry to supply stone for the new building began, and the Seneca Quarry in Maryland was selected as the best one. You'll learn about the quarry's history and operations, its workers, the once thriving town of Seneca, and the efforts to preserve the area today.  Although Seneca Quarry closed in 1901, you can visit the site and imagine what it was like at its peak in the 19th century.

Private Washington by Jan Cigliano
Take a tour of some of Washington's best known private houses!  The book is divided by time period and shows the architecture of that time.  You'll read about the history of each house, its architectural style, how it was furnished, and meet some of the owners who lived in them. The book features full color photography by architectural photographer Walter Smalling, Jr.

Washington's Monument by John S. Gordon
When the Washington Monument was dedicated in February 1885, it was the tallest structure in the city at the time.  Its design was inspired by the obelisks of ancient Egypt.  In telling the story of the Washington Monument, the author examines the history of obelisks, how these unique structures came to Western Europe, and the construction of the monument.  For many years, funding for the Washington Monument was a problem, and the work was stopped for long time periods. Today the Washington Monument attracts visitors and still remains the tallest structure in D.C.

How did modern Washington develop to be what is today?  Meet the man who made it happen in Alexander Robey Shepherd: the Man Who Built the Nation's Capital by John P. Richardson, published in 2016.