George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, 27 November 1794

To the Commissioners for the District of Columbia

Philadelphia 27th Novr 1794.


The enclosed letter was put into my hands last night. The writer of it is a gentleman of character, & known I believe to some of you. Whether such a professional character as Mr Hatfield is described to be, is wanting for public purposes in the city, is with you to decide. I mean nothing more than to transmit the information wch the letter contains.1

In any event, the writer of, or the Gentleman to whom the letter is directed, might wish to know your sentiments on the subject thereof. With esteem I am Gentlemen Your Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

ALS, owned (1969) by H. Bartholomew Cox; ALS (letterpress copy), DLC: GW; LB, DLC:GW.

1GW enclosed a letter from John Trumbull to Jonathan Trumbull of 23 Sept. (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received, 1791–1802). John Trumbull, then in London, had heard “that one of the principal architects at the new City has been lately dismissed” and wrote to recommend George Hadfield (c.1764–1826) for the post. Hadfield had just returned from three years in Italy, awarded as a prize by the Royal Academy, and had not yet settled into “any work which He cannot quit.” His “Talents & Knowledge in Architecture” were “superior to any of the young men his cotemporaries,” and he was considered by Benjamin West, among others, “to possess the Theory of Civil Architecture, more perfectly than any young man in England.” Lacking wealth and connections, Hadfield had been receptive to Trumbull’s suggestion that he go to America, “provided decent terms are offerd him.” Trumbull concluded, “On the whole I know no man equally qualified, who is likely to be tempted by any thing we have to Offer.” If GW or the commissioners would give Trumbull authority, he would engage Hadfield, “who I believe will prove a valuable acquisition to our Country.”

Hadfield eventually was engaged to superintend construction of the Capitol Building, a post he occupied from October 1795 to May 1798. After that dismissal, he continued to practice architecture in Washington, D.C., designing many buildings, including City Hall.

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