Hoban, James


1824 MsDS by Irish-born architect, designed and oversaw construction of The White House and other landmark buildings



Autograph ID: 7091
Condition: Very good, light toning, skillful repairs to folds which are very slightly darker
Description: “(c. 1762-1831) Irish-born architect best known for designing The White House in Washington. Studied architecture at the Royal Dublin Society, he trained in the Irish and English Georgian style. After the Revolution, he emigrated to the US and established himself as an architect in Philadelphia in 1781. He went to South Carolina in 1792 and designed numerous buildings including the Charleston County Courthouse built on the burned ruins of the South Carolina statehouse in Columbia (it burned in 1865). In 1792 he won the competition to design the presidential mansion, later called The White House, with a design that included 2 stories and a raised basement, based on Leinster House in Dublin. Before construction, it was reduced to 2 stories, the lower floor for entertaining guests and the upper floor to house the President and his family. Hoban oversaw construction of The White House 1793-1800, the largest residence in the US at the time. In Nov. 1800, John & Abigail Adams became the 1st President and First Lady to live there. He worked on The White House again 1814-17 after the British burned it in the War of 1812, and rebuilt it exactly as before as a sign of the permanency of the American government. The White House of Hoban’s design has been enlarged since 1817 by additions of the North and South Porticoes and the West and East Wings. Hoban was also a supervising architect of the US Capitol, carrying out the design of Dr. William Thornton, and was Superintendent of the Capitol 1793-1802. Hoban designed the John Mason Residence, the War Department Building in Washington, and other public buildings and government projects, including roads and bridges. He also designed Rossenarra House near Kilmoganny in Kilkenny, Ireland in 1824. After the District of Columbia was granted limited home rule in 1802, Hoban served on the 12-member city council for most of the rest of his life, except while he was rebuilding the White House. Hoban designed the landmark Octagon House (a/k/a the John Tayloe III House) in 1802. He was also involved in the development of Catholic institutions in the city, including Geoprgetown University (his son was a member of the Jesuit community) St. Patrick’s Parish, and the Georgetown Visitation Monastery. Much about his life and personality are a mystery. His personal and business papers, mostly lost in a fire in the 1880s, survive only in scattered drawings, public and legal documents, and newspaper notices. Hoban’s contributions to the early growth and development of Washington D.C., as architect, builder, mason, captain of a militia company, civic leader, and pillar of the Roman Catholic community, maintain his memory and reputation to this day.

Rare 10 x 8 MsDS, Washington DC, August 1 1824, 2pp (one sheet) witnessing a mortgage indenture in the amount of $2,000 (almost $53,000 today) between Frederick Keller(1790-1832) and Raphael Jones (1788-1868), both of the District of Columbia, in the hand of, and signed by, Keller, also with signature as witness of Charles H. W. Wharton below that of Hoban. Documents signed by this eminent American architect are very hard to come by.

In 1981, Irish artist Ron Mercer created a portrait of Hoban for a postage stamp, and US designer Walter D. Richards, noted for his American Architecture Series, rendered the White House. A Sept. 29, 1981 dedication ceremony announced the stamp’s release. Ireland issued its Hoban stamp that day, but the US waited 2 weeks for the anniversary of the Oct. 13, 1792, laying of the White House cornerstone. During the stamp’s production, the US Postal Service raised the stamp prices from 18c to 20c, effective Nov. 1. To avoid a controversy over a short-lived 18c stamp, the USPS took the unusual step of issuing stamps in 2 denominations with the same design.”
Type: Document

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