To the Commissioners for the District of Columbia
Philadelphia June 8th 1792
The bearer of this, Mr James Hoben,1 was strongly recommended to me by Colo. Laurens and sevral other Gentlemen of So. Carolinia when I was there last year, as a person who had made architecture his study, and was well qualified not only for planning or designing buildings, but to superintend the execution of them. He informs me that he intends to produce plans of the two buildings next month agreeably to the advetisement of the Commissioners,2 and is now on his way to view the ground on which they are to stand. I have given him this letter of introduction in order that he might have an opportunity of communicating his views & wishes to you, or of obtaining any information necessary for completing the plans. But as I have no knowledge of the man or his talents further than the information which I recd from the Gentlemen in Carolina you must consider this letter merely as a line of introduction for the purposes mentioned.3 With estem & regard I am Gentlemen Yr most Obed. Se[rvan]t.
Df, in Tobias Lear’s hand, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent; LB, DLC:GW.
1. James Hoban (c.1762–1831), who was born and educated in Ireland, moved to the United States shortly after the Revolutionary War and settled briefly in Philadelphia before moving to Charleston, South Carolina. During his career as an architect, he designed South Carolina’s first statehouse in Columbia and the President’s House in the Federal City, and he served as supervising architect of the U.S. Capitol. Hoban also commanded a company of militia in the federal district.
2. “An Advertisement for the President’s House,” which was drafted by Thomas Jefferson in March 1792, offered “A Premium of 500 dollars, or a Medal of that value . . . to the person who before the 20th. day of July next shall produce . . . the most approved plan . . . for a President’s house to be erected in” the Federal City (Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 23:227–28).
3. On 17 July, in GW’s presence, the commissioners awarded Hoban first prize in the competition to design the President’s House, and on the following day they hired him to supervise the execution of his design (see Commissioners for the District of Columbia to GW, 19 July, and GW to the Commissioners, 23 July 1792).