Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 12 September 1807

Washington Septr. 12h. 1807

Dear Sir

In my last I informed you of some difficulties which had occurred respecting Mr. Lenthall and our carpenters. I have fortunately arranged every thing with bothe parties to my perfect satisfaction, and hope to derive advantage from the perfect explanation which has taken place.

The work that has been done upon thereof has been entirely successful. The West part has not leaked a drop during the late very heavy rains. We are now engaged on the East & Northern sides & hope to finish in the course of next week.—The plaisterers have compleated the cieling some time ago, & have now little to do in the Southwing. On Monday we shall begin to strike the Scaffolding in the Hall of representatives. Not having been honored with your directions on the subject of the exclusion of visitors, I have been obliged to take upon myself to give public notice to that effect in the papers; and to get a Man to attend the door. Otherwise we should not have been able to get thro’ our business, without much injury & interruption.

In the North wing we are very forward. The necessity lately, of my constant attention to the work from an early to a very late hour has prevented my compleat the drawings without which it is impossible to explain the points on which I have to solicit you direction.—All the faulty parts of the roof are now removed, & the whole of the interior lobbys are open to the sky. In a few days however the arches will be turned. I think the new central Lobby of the Northwing will be among the handsomest parts of the whole building.

I regret that the Dome of the Stairs will probably be plaistered before your return. The plan is an Elipsis of 45 feet. by 38, & I have covered it with an ablate spheroidal dome (or rather with an irregular figure nearly approaching to the Spheroid) an horizontal section of which at the higth of 14 f. 7 inches gives a perfect circle of 15 feet diameter. [GRAPHIC IN MANUSCRIPT] The construction of this figure is effected by the following process.

Fig. 1 is a perpendicular section of the dome lengthwise. Fig 2. a plan, or horizontal section. a. & b, are the foci of the Elipsis of the plan of the stairs c, the center of the circle of the Lanthorn Draw ab ac & bc. If innumerable horizontal lines parallel with fg be drawn, they will be interpreted by ac abc in two points which shall be the foci of eliptical sections of the dome, untill at c the foci coincide At that point therefore the horizontal section will be a circle. The manner in which the courses of the bricks exhibit the process of construction is very singular & striking, and I should have had great pleasure in showing it to You.

The Wall at the presidents house is compleat from the South Eastward to the Treasury, & on the northside from the North point Eastward about d of the distance to the Treasury. The Wall on the North is built 6 f. 6 inches high & with the coping would be 7 feet high. It looks low, & I think it should be carried two feet higher. The Wall on the Eastside from the Treasury Southward will be too low I fear at all events, for F street is so high. that a 10 foot Wall would be overlooked. The Gardner must probably plant out that view. Will you be pleased to direct me in these respects.

Three of the Columns of the West Offices are set. But I am unfortunate in my choice of Shaw & Birth for Stonecutters. They are worthy honest Men & good citizens, but want energy, & arrangement.—I cannot change this Year. I hope to get up both Colonnades.

The road progresses rapidly.—

In a few days, I will report further & am with the highest respect Yrs. faithfully

B Henry Latrobe

The Influenza has laid up many of our hands

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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