The Forgotten National Aquarium
Aquatic Adventures at the Department of Commerce, 1932-2013
Finding a Home at the Herbert C. Hoover Building
In 1903, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Fisheries opened the first iteration of the National Aquarium in Washington at its offices on 6th St SW. The tiny aquarium housed a variety of freshwater fish whose visitors were primarily government employees. Calls for a larger National Aquarium that could serve as a major tourist attraction inspired the installation of an aquarium in the basement of the department’s new Herbert C. Hoover building on 14th St NW. The fish moved into their new home in the winter of 1932, after nearly being abandoned due to cost concerns in the midst of the Great Depression.
[Left] Feeding time at the National Aquarium in downtown DC. Pictured, Shania, the octopus, gloms on to a Mr. Potato head toy that has been filled with food (dead fish) and dropped into her tank at the aquarium. ~Photo by Bill O'Leary/The The Washington Post via Getty Images