Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Hoban’s Observations on William Thornton’s Design for the Capitol, 10 July 1793

James Hoban’s Observations on William Thornton’s Design for the Capitol


On drawings delivered by Doctor Thornton, for a Capitol to be built in the City of Washington.

1st. The extent of bearing of the Repository Ceiling, and the Ceiling of the Halls.
2nd. The intercolumnations.
3rd. The entrances.
4th. Darkness and irregularity.
5 the Staircases.
[6] Inconveniences to the Members.
7 Impractability of the Gallerys.
8 Disagreement between the ornamental and necessary points of the internal structure——&c.

James Hoban

MS (DLC); entirely in Hoban’s hand; torn at seal; endorsed by TJ as received in July, but recorded in SJL as received 10 July 1793. Enclosed in Tobias Lear to TJ, 15 July 1793.

James Hoban (ca. 1762–1831), architect and builder, was a native of Ireland who moved to Philadelphia after the Revolution, lived for several years in South Carolina, and in 1792 settled and spent the rest of his life at the District of Columbia. In that year he won the competition for the design of the President’s House sponsored by the Commissioners of the Federal District, and later he supervised both its construction and its rebuilding after the British burned it in 1814 (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ).

TJ submitted Hoban’s communication to the President on 13 July 1793. These and other criticisms of William Thornton’s prize-winning design for the Capitol soon led to its modification (Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 195; Washington to TJ, 30 June 1793, and note; TJ to Washington, 17 July 1793, and note).

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