The Peacock Room glimmers anew
In the last decade or so, many of Washington DC’s most popular museums have received facelifts, subjected to extensive and expensive renovation and restoration work with a combination of public and private funds. The first extensive renovation involved the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, both of which are housed in the Old Patent Office Building in downtown Washington. After being closed for 6 years and upon completion of a $300 million renovation, the combined museums reopened to great fanfare with a newly enclosed courtyard that quickly became one of DC’s most sought-after event venues.
Since then, other museums have undergone similar renovations. In 2015, the Renwick Gallery (which is part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum but located in a separate building across from the White House) reopened after a $30 million renovation to rave reviews. In 2016, the East Building of the National Gallery of Art reopened after a $69 million renovation. And just last month, the Hall of Presidents exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery reopened after a $3 million renovation.
Now add the Peacock Room at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries to the list. The 1877 interior, created for British shipping magnate Frederick R. Leyland as a dining room for his London townhouse. In 1904, American industrialist Charles Lang Freer purchased the room and had it installed in his Detroit mansion. Upon Freer’s death in 1919, the room was moved to a new museum in Washington with Freer as its namesake; the museum opened to the public in 1923. (The 2009 photo of the Peacock Room above before the renovations by the Smithsonian Institution is shared here under CC BY-SS 2.0.)
By William O’Connor
Accessed October 16, 2017
The Daily Beast