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The Smithsonian 'Castle' to close for 5 years of major renovation

On Feb. 1, the Castle will close while crews work on the first major renovation to the building in more than 50 years.

WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian Institution Building, commonly known as the "Castle" will close on Feb. 1 for the first major renovation to the building in more than 50 years. 

Starting in March, the building will undergo extensive repairs and upgrades, according to a release from the Smithsonian. The renovation is expected to last about five years.

The Castle, located on Jefferson Drive in Southwest, is the administrative headquarters of the Smithsonian. It houses the offices of the Secretary and Smithsonian senior leadership, the institution's visitor center, a café, a gift shop and a small exhibit featuring a sampling of Smithsonian artifacts.

While the renovations are happening, the Enid A. Haupt Garden will remain open. Pedestrian routes on both sides of the Castle will still be open to people coming from the National Mall to the National Museum of African Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the garden. 

The Smithsonian will launch a virtual Visitor Center in February, which will include several new features and enable visitors to build an itinerary, talk with live volunteers and take a virtual tour. Users can also download the Adventure Lab app to explore touchless scavenger hunts. 

When the renovations are complete, the Smithsonian says visitors will walk into a "dramatic Great Hall restored to its original appearance, with decorative finishes and terrazzo floors." 

Part of the renovation includes taking out a whole floor of office space added in the 1960s in order to return the Upper Great Hall to its original two-story height.

The Castle is a National Historic Landmark designed by James Renwick Jr. and first opened in 1885 as the institution's first building. The building's last major renovation was in the 1960s. It houses approximately 150 staff members who will be moved to Capital Gallery on Maryland Avenue. 

WATCH NEXT: Why do we have the Smithsonian?

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