Leaving an Impression
Robert Mills was a great architect; some even consider him to be America’s first architect. There are many reasons people think this. But the main reason is that his life played a big role in the development of American history and American architecture. He is responsible for the creation of many famous monuments and even more buildings. His life was of a very unique importance in our country. Mills was born in Charleston, SC on August 12, 1781. Some of his family members consisted of his parents, William Mills and Ann Taylor. He also had multiple brothers (Bryan 2). His mother died when he was only eight so his father remarried later in life (Bryan 3, 10). Later Mills’ training started in Charleston when some of his brothers came back from Scotland with a book. The book was called The Modern Builder’s Assistant by William and John Halfpenny. This book is what sparked the family’s interest in architecture. After that Mills started to draw and design with the instruction of one of his older brothers (Bryan 6). “His first independent works were built in South Carolina while he was still working as a draftsman and clerk in Latrobe’s Washington office” So he was actually still under the influence of a mentor when he really started his career (“Documenting the Career”). Later in life Mills was able to get married. It took Mills quite a while to be able to ask the hand of Eliza Barnwell Smith in marriage (“Robert Mills, Architect”). Eliza was the daughter of General John Smith. He had to secure letters of recommendation before he could ask her to marry him. They were finally married on October 15, 1808. They were able to have four beautiful daughters (Ravenel 120). From the start of his career in 1802 to his death in 1855 Mills was constantly engaged in his practice in the profession of architecture. He worked in South Carolina, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and in Washington over the course of his career. He design more than fifty important works including houses, bridges, jails, courthouses, college buildings, churches, monuments, and government buildings of all kinds (“Robert Mills, Architect”). And in 1826 Mills actually published his Statistics of Charleston (Ravenel 105). But he is best known for his design of the Washington Monument. It took a long time to build because of lack of funds. The monument was at a height of 152 feet when Mills died in 1855. After that work on the monument was put on pause. Building resumed in 1878 when congress got the money together. The monument was finished in 1884 (“Architect Robert Mills”). From 1808 to 1815 Mills was in Philadelphia helping to design and engineer structures in Richmond. He was then in Baltimore from 1815 to 1820 building the city’s monument to George Washington. Then 1820 and 1830 he served on the South Carolina Board of public works helping to improve his home state (”Documenting the Career”). But in the 1830’s most of Mills’ commissions were received through his ties with the Jackson administration. Then in 1836 he was architect of Treasury Building and the Patent Building. He also designed other Public Buildings and Post Offices (“Documenting the Career”).
Mills had a big influence over South Carolina and America. And he was responsible for a lot of “firsts” in America. In 1804 Mills returned to Charleston to design the Circular Congregational Church. The church was finished in 1806. It is said to be one of the first churches in America that that has the pantheon –like auditorium form of a church (Ravenel 119). Mills was also the first to come up with a more practical jail which eliminated the use of dungeons. And his ideas were the first to be used for fireproofing America’s public buildings (“Architect Robert Mills”). “From 1820 to 1829 Mills dedicated his professional life to the improvement of public buildings in his home state of South Carolina” and having done this he left a large impact on the people of South Carolina (“Architect Robert...
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