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The East Wing and Range were the first portions of the Smithsonian Building to be completed. For over a year, all of the functions of the fledgling Institution were carried on within their walls; there was an office for the Secretary and one for the Librarian, a lecture hall, two laboratories, and an apparatus room. Adjustments to the ill-suited space were constant in the first few years, while the concept of the Institution was redefined by the forceful first Secretary. Joseph Henry made significant changes to adapt the East Wing to the purposes of a budding research institution rather than a public teaching college. As the Smithsonian Building was gradually completed, the myriad functions housed in the East Wing and Range were dispersed.
The role of the East Wing took a dramatic turn with the introduction in 1855 of domestic quarters for the first Secretary and his family. The East Range continued to house laboratories until 1872, when Henry designated it the administrative headquarters of the Smithsonian. Into modern times the East Wing and Range have served as the seat of the Secretaries. Special projects, including the Art Room and the Smithsonian Institution Archives, as well as the Secretary’s Parlor (later called the Meeting Room), have been housed in the East Wing.