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What does "quite an institution" mean? Here is an example:

As many of you know, the Capitol just celebrated our 85th anniversary in December of last year– we’re quite an institution around here! But while we value our historic standing, we are constantly striving for ways to expand our services to better serve the community.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

"Quite a/an" is used to show that something is of an unusually noticeable or remarkable kind:

She is quite a girl = She is a remarkable girl

It was quite a walk = The walk was very enjoyable/interesting...

You can look up other examples in some dictionaries, for example here, or here.

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Quite a walk can also mean it was long :) But your explanation is good :) – oerkelens Jun 19 '14 at 14:30
Sure it can, hence the ellipsis in the example :) All we know from this short example is that the walk was quite remarkable. Distance is often the cause :) – Vilmar Jun 19 '14 at 14:32

"Quite an X" is an idiom meaning a very extreme or unusual example of X, usually in a positive way, but depending on context it could be bad. Like if you say, "Wow, that's quite a car!" you mean that it is a very good car. That might mean very fast, very luxurious, etc, depending on the context.

If someone says, "That's quite a problem you have there," that would be a bad thing. It is a very serious or perhaps unusual problem.

"We're quite an institution" means that the institution they're referring to is a very good and great institution. From the context you give above I think they are stressing the longevity of the capitol building, though a larger context might indicate that they're talking about some group that is organizing the celebration.

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I think this depends on the speaker. For example, used sarcastically to complain about poor service at a restaurant or something. – MAW74656 Jun 19 '14 at 17:32
@MAW74656 Well, sure. The meaning of any word can be essentially reversed by saying it sarcastically. "Oh, Fred is SUCH an HONEST man." – Jay Jun 20 '14 at 13:15

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