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wax sculpture of James HobanJames Hoban

designer of the President's Residence

James Hoban was born in Desart, County Kilkenny, Ireland, about 1758. Little is known about his early life except that he studied architecture at the Royal Dublin Society Drawing School. He emigrated to America in 1785, and established himself as an architect in Philadelphia. By April of 1787 he was in Charleston, South Carolina, where he designed numerous public buildings, including the Charleston County Courthouse. In 1789 he met and married Susanna Sewell, with whom he would eventually have ten children.

Hoban's drawing for the White HouseIn 1792, Hoban entered a competition to design a presidential residence. His design, inspired by Kildare House (now Leinster House), then the headquarters of the Royal Dublin Society and now of the Irish Parliament, was chosen, and he was awarded a prize of $500 and a commission as Superintendent Architect of the Capitol. He spent nine years supervising construction, during which time his original design underwent several modifications. He also contributed to the design of the Capitol building.

After the British burned the presidential residence during the War of 1812, Hoban oversaw the structure's reconstruction.

In addition to his work on what is now known as the White House and other Washington, D.C. structures, Hoban served on the City Council for thirty years, and was a founding member of the First Federal Lodge of the Freemasons. James Hoban died in Washington on December 8, 1831, and was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery.


Charleston, South Carolina
White House

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This page was last updated on 01/22/2015.

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