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Folger Shakespeare Library

Original Name: Folger Shakespeare Library
Year Of Construction: 1932
Address: 201 E. Capitol St. SE Capitol Hill Neighborhood Washington, DC 20003
Architect(s): Paul Philippe Cret
Current Status: Civic & Religious
Original Use: Civic & Religious

This 1932 building by  Paul Philippe Cret is a beautiful example of what we nickname here in Washington “Greco-Deco.” It is a  modern design that does not repudiate the past and  very typical of the sophistication of  Cret’s work. There is a marked rhythm in the placement of the windows and pilasters–and an interesting reversal of the seemingly classical details. Normally, the frieze would be above the pilasters, but here it is down among them, and the upper entablature and cornice area are completely plain. Note also, that white metal, in this case stainless steel, so popular in the Art Deco period, is beautifully used here. In contrast to the exterior, however, the visitor will find that the interior of this world-famous library devoted to the works of Shakespeare is completely Elizabethan in design.

The sculpture is also notable. The exterior frieze panels by John Gregory depict scenes from Shakespeare’s plays across the front facade. At the west end of the building is the Puck Fountain by Brenda Putnam. The accompanying image is from 1995, when he had already lost his hand to vandalism. The sculpture has now been reproduced in sturdy metal for display outdoors, while the restored marble original is kept safely inside.