The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, a National Historic Landmark, was erected between 1859 and 1861 by William Wilson Corcoran (1798-1888), Washington banker and philanthropist, as an art gallery for his private collection of paintings and sculpture. The building was designed by James Renwick, Jr., a prominent New York architect who designed St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York and the Smithsonian Building (The Castle) in Washington. During the Civil War, Corcoran left Washington to live in Paris with his daughter and son-in-law, a member of the Confederate diplomatic corps in France. The gallery building was seized by the U.S. Army in August 1861 for use as a storage warehouse for the records and uniforms for the Quarter Master General's Corps. In 1864, General Montgomery Meigs cleared and converted the building into his headquarters office. After the Civil War, Corcoran returned to Washington and pressed for the return of the art gallery, which was returned to his control on May 10, 1869. Corcoran immediately established a board of Trustees, and in 1870 the gallery was chartered by an act of Congress.
After an extensive restoration, the gallery opened to the public on January 19, 1874. The collection quickly outgrew its building, however, and in 1897, the gallery moved to a larger building on 17th Street where it remains today. The Federal government first rented and then purchased the old gallery for use by the U.S. Court of Claims which occupied the building from 1899 to 1964. In 1965 S. Dillon Ripley, Secretary of the Smithsonian, met with President Johnson and requested that the building be turned over to the Smithsonian for use as a gallery of art, crafts and design. Restoration of the building for the Smithsonian began in 1967, and the building reopened as the Renwick Gallery in 1972. http://americanart.si.edu/renwick/