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James Hoban

Born: c. 1758 [1]
Birthplace: Desart, County Kilkenny, Ireland
Died: 8-Dec-1831
Location of death: Washington, DC
Cause of death: Natural Causes
Remains: Buried, Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington, DC

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Architect

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Architect of the White House

James Hoban was educated in his native Ireland, then immigrated to the new nation of America when he was 19. In 1792 he entered a competition to design an American Presidential palace, which, per President George Washington's wishes, was to have "the sumptuousness of a palace, the convenience of a house, and the agreeableness of a county seat". Nine entries were received, of which Hoban's design was judged the winner. The site for the mansion was selected by city planner Pierre Charles L'Enfant, and Hoban was paid $500. His design was inspired by Kildare House (now Leinster House), which was then headquarters of the Royal Dublin Society where Hoban apprenticed in architecture, and now houses the Irish Parliament.

Construction took about seven years, with most of the manual labor performed by African slaves and European immigrants. The first occupants of the White House were John and Abigail Adams, who spent their first night there on 1 November 1800. After British troops burned the White House, leaving only a charred shell, Hoban oversaw the building's repair and reconstruction, and had its external walls, which had originally been a light gray, re-painted white. Prior to this, the building had been called the President's Palace or the Executive Mansion, but since its new exterior coat of paint was applied, the building has commonly been called the White House. It has 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 28 fireplaces.

Hoban also designed the South Carolina capitol building, which was burned to the ground in the Civil War, and Aras an Uachtarain, the Irish Presidential palace. Robert Mills, designer of the Washington Monument, served his apprenticeship under Hoban, who was himself mentored in architecture by Thomas Jefferson. Hoban was a founding member of the First Federal Lodge of the Freemasons in Washington DC, and served on the City Council for the last three decades of his life, except for three years spent reconstructing the White House. Hoban owned slaves, but provided for their emancipation in his will.

[1] Some sources cite 1762, but Hoban was described as 73 years of age in obituaries published at his death, which would suggest his birth circa 1758.

Father: Edward Hoban (laborer)
Mother: Martha Bayne Hoban
Sister: Ann Hoban
Brother: Joseph Hoban
Brother: Philip Hoban
Wife: Susanna Sewell Hoban (m. 1799, d. 1822, ten children)
Daughter: Ann Hoban Ford
Daughter: Catherine Hoban
Son: Clement Hoban (d. infancy)
Son: Edward Hoban (Naval officer)
Son: Francis Hoban (Naval officer)
Daughter: Helen Hoban
Son: Henry Hoban (Jesuit priest)
Son: James Hoban, Jr. (attorney)
Son: Joseph Hoban
Daughter: Martha Hoban

    High School: Royal Dublin Society Drawing School, Dublin, Ireland

    US Official Superintendent Architect of the Capitol:(1793-1802)
    City Council Washington DC (1802-14, 1817-31)
    Freemasonry Federal Lodge #1, Worshipful Master
    Naturalized US Citizen 3-Sep-1791
    Irish Ancestry

Appears on postage stamps:
USA, Scott #1935 (18, depicting Hoban overlooking White House, issued 13-Oct-1981)
USA, Scott #1936 (20, depicting Hoban overlooking White House, issued 13-Oct-1981)

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