James Hoban

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James Hoban and The White House

Is James Hoban the best Irish born architect ever? I will let you decide after you read his story. James Hoban was born in Callan, County Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1758 in a small house. His catholic parents worked as servants in Desart Court which was a grand mansion. Early on in his life he was disadvantaged because of the anti-Catholic Penal law.[1] The law stipulated Hoban was not allowed to go to school but he still managed to go to the Royal Dublin Society where he took architecture classes. Unfortunately, he was not able to land a job in Ireland. When the American revolutionary war ended, he decided to move to the United-States.

At first he lived in Charleston, South Carolina where he built the first South Carolina State House and the Charleston Theater. Wanting wanted more opportunities and being able to build something bigger, Hoban decided to move to Philadelphia. As soon as he settled there he put an ad in the paper saying "Any gentleman who wishes to build in an elegant style."(Heritage, p.38). Then he helped build the first Bank of America. He was not fully credited for that project because he had to share it with Samuel Blodgett who helped design it. A major event in James Hoban’s life happened when he met the first American president, George Washington. Having met Washington did not bring anything great to his career until the President got fed up with French architect Enfant. That was good for Hoban’s career because Enfant was supposed to be the one to build the White House but because he was too slow Washington decided to fire him. After firing Enfant, George Washington created a contest to decide who was going to design the White House. Since Washington had met Hoban and liked him, he decided to invite him to take part of the contest. Hoban and 15 other contestants, including Thomas Jefferson, designed what they thought would be the perfect president house. Hoban ended up winning the contest. Washington was not...
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