Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Shamrock shakes, Van Morrison albums, stumbling around the local Irish pub till the wee small hours - what's not to like about St. Patrick's Day?

 This wood carving is the only known likeness of James Hoban

This wood carving is the only known likeness of James Hoban

Early America owes a great debt to Irish immigrants; no less than 9 signers of the Declaration of Independence and 4 signers of the Constitution were of Irish background - as was the father of the American Navy, John Barry.  Today however, let's take a moment to remember James Hoban, architect of the White House. 

Originally from Ireland's County Kilkenny, Hoban came to our shores soon after the revolution and established himself as one of the foremost Georgian style architects of his day. When George Washington had to select an architect for the White House after his dismissal of the irascible Pierre Charles L'Enfant, Hoban emerged as the clear choice. His work would be of the utmost importance considering the executive mansion was to serve as one of the main design fixtures of our new capital city. 

From the White House Historical Association,

Quarrymen, sawyers, brick makers, and carpenters fashioned raw materials into the elements of the vast structure...

...Pediments over the doors, wainscoting, and ornamental mantelpieces were installed, and a distinctive row of Ionic columns separated by arches crossed the Entrance Hall. In time, the parlors of the state floor were named for the colors of their décor: the Green Room [...] Blue Room [...] and Red Room.

The cornerstone was laid in 1793 and work continued until 1801. Until the Civil War, the house would remain the largest in the United States. Hoban would later return and help reconstruct the White House after its destruction at the hands of the British in 1814 - he would also assist in the erection of the U.S. Capitol.   

James Hoban's initial White House architectural sketch can be seen here. 

He had a large family (10 children - oh those Irish!) and would make his home in DC until the end of his days in 1831. He went to his grave revered and honored as a trusted leader amongst the capital city's swelling Irish population of the early 1800s.

His work still stands.  When next you find yourself in DuPont circle, visit his restaurant!