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JAMES HOBAN: Designer and Builder of the White House By Stewart D. McLaurin

On sale March 17, 2021
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The White House is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, yet few know the name or story of the man responsible for its design and construction: James Hoban.

A fascinating new book, JAMES HOBAN: Designer and Builder of the White House (White House Historical Association; hardcover), sets out to reveal who this elusive man was, what informed his craft, and the mark he left on this country, by tracing back to his roots in Ireland and by using his work on the White House as a window into his life and career. Edited by Stewart D. McLaurin, President of the White House Historical Association and with essays by the world’s leading scholars on James Hoban, the anthology will be published on St. Patrick’s Day 2021, a fitting day for the Irish Catholic subject who was responsible for building up the Catholic Church in Washington, D.C.

Born in 1755, James Hoban spent his childhood years in Desart, Cuffesgrange, County Kilkenny. His father was a tenant farmer on the estate of the Cuffee family at Desart Court, a grand Palladian country house dating from 1733. It was in the estate workshops at Desart Court that Hoban trained as a carpenter and wheelwright, until his move to Dublin as a teenager. Hoban studied at the renowned Dublin Society Drawing School during a time of great expansion for the city. It is without a doubt that his training at the school gave him the skills to practice as an architect and opened doors to an influential circle of developers, architects, and craftsmen who helped consolidate his architectural training before he left for America.

James Hoban’s first documented appearance in America is a notice he placed in both Charleston and Philadelphia newspapers in May 1785 advertising his carpentry services. He first settled in Philadelphia and shortly thereafter settled in Charleston, South Carolina, where he found success and quickly established himself within the fabric of the city. The connections he made there paved the way for meeting George Washington and receiving the commission to build the President’s House. By 1792, Hoban was at work on the building site, having won the competition for the design of the President’s House. Washington had placed him in charge of the entire project, with all carpentry, stonemasonry, and brickwork under his supervision. The resulting structure, accomplished in time for President John Adams to take residence in November 1800, fulfilled Washington’s vision and is today one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world.

With this anthology, the world’s most knowledgeable scholars on James Hoban introduce us to him, presenting the story of his life, influences, and work. Church records in Ireland and Washington, D.C., preserve the dates of his baptism and marriage. A stone monument marks the site of his grave. The monumental buildings known to Hoban that still stand in Dublin and in the Irish countryside provide a tangible connection to Hoban’s concept for the President’s House. Hoban’s surviving letters to the Commissioners for the District of Columbia further enrich the history. The Catholic churches he established, designed, and built throughout Washington, D.C. including St. Patrick’s Parish, reinforce the influence he had on growing the Catholic Church in D.C. Newspaper advertisements and census records remind us that the President’s House was built with enslaved labor and that Hoban himself owned slaves. These facts and more are illustrated in a catalog complete with beautiful photographs, sketches, newspaper articles, maps, and drawings help paint a fuller picture of his life and work.

"As the White House Historical Association celebrates its sixtieth anniversary, it is fitting that we celebrate the work of the elusive designer and builder who created the White House,” remarks this book’s author Stewart D. McLaurin, who is also the President of the White House Historical Association. “Together the Irish, British, and American scholarly perspectives presented in this volume provide a proper introduction to the man whose life’s work is known so well."

About Stewart D. McLaurin
stewart d. mclaurin has served as president of the White House Historical Association since 2014. He leads the Association’s nonprofit and nonpartisan mission to support conservation and preservation at the White House with nongovernment funding. Under his leadership, the Association has expanded greatly in mission, reach, and impact; fund-raising results; educational public programming and award-winning publications that teach the story of White House history; and related retail offerings inspired by history. For more than thirty-five years, McLaurin has held leadership roles with national nonprofit and higher education organizations such as the American Red Cross, Georgetown University, and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

About the White House Historical Association
THE WHITE HOUSE HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION is a private nonprofit, nonpartisan educational Association founded in 1961 for the purpose of enhancing the understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment of the Executive Mansion. All proceeds from the sale of the Association’s books and products are used to fund the acquisition of historic furnishings and artwork for the permanent White House collection, assist in the preservation of public rooms, and further its educational mission.

The White House Historical Association published its first book, The White House: An Historic Guide, in 1962. It was the wish of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy that such a book be written, and she participated actively in the editing. For nearly sixty years, the Association has continued to produce award-winning books on a wide range of subjects related to the history of the President’s House, from its architecture, gardens, fine and decorative arts to the presidents and first ladies who lived there over the years. The list includes titles that will appeal to history buffs and art lovers, connoisseurs and curious amateurs, scholars and tourists, adults and children.

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