James Hoban

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James Hoban
James Hoban circa 1800 - Crop.jpg
Waxen bas-relief on glass of Hoban, c. 1800
Died8 December 1831
Alma materRoyal Dublin Society School of Drawing in Architecture (later the National College of Art and Design)
BuildingsThe White House
Belcamp House
Charleston County Courthouse
Rossenarra House

James Hoban (1755[1] – December 8, 1831[2]) was an Irish-American architect, best known for designing the White House.


Dublin Society offices and studios at 112 Grafton Street where Hoban would have learned draughtsmanship.

James Hoban was a Roman Catholic raised on Desart Court estate belonging to the Earl of Desart near Callan, County Kilkenny, Ireland. He worked there as a wheelwright and carpenter until his early twenties, when he was given an 'advanced student' place in the Dublin Society's Drawing School on Lower Grafton Street, Dublin. He studied under Thomas Ivory.[3] He excelled in his studies and received the prestigious Duke of Leinster's medal for drawings of "Brackets, Stairs, and Roofs" from the Dublin Society in 1780. Hoban was an apprentice to Ivory, from 1779 to 1785.

Following the American Revolutionary War, Hoban emigrated to the United States, and established himself as an architect in Philadelphia in 1785.[4]

Charleston County Courthouse, Charleston, SC (1790–92), James Hoban, architect.
Hoban's amended elevation of the White House (late-1793 or early-1794).

Hoban was in South Carolina by April 1787, where he designed numerous buildings including the Charleston County Courthouse (1790–92), built on the ruins of the former South Carolina Statehouse (1753, burned 1788).[5] President George Washington admired Hoban's work on his Southern Tour, Washington may have met with him in Charleston in May 1791, and summoned the architect to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (the temporary national capital) in June 1792.[6]

In July 1792, Hoban was named winner of the design competition for the White House.[7] His initial design seems to have had a 3-story facade, nine bays across (like the Charleston courthouse). Under Washington's influence, Hoban amended this to a 2-story facade, 11 bays across, and, at Washington's insistence, the whole presidential mansion was faced with stone. It is unclear whether any of Hoban's surviving drawings are actually from the competition.[8]

It is known that Hoban owned at least three slaves who were employed as carpenters in the construction of the White House. Their names are recorded as "Ben, Daniel, and Peter" and appear in a James Hoban slave payroll.[9]

Hoban was also one of the supervising architects who served on the Capitol, carrying out the design of Dr. William Thornton, as well as with The Octagon House. Hoban lived the rest of his life in Washington, D.C., where he worked on other public buildings and government projects, including roads and bridges.[10]

Octagon House, Washington, DC

Local folklore has it that Hoban designed Rossenarra House near the village of Kilmoganny in County Kilkenny, Ireland in 1824.[11]

Hoban's wife, Susanna "Susan" Sewall, was the sister of the prominent Georgetown City Tavern proprietor, Clement Sewall,[12][13] who enlisted as a sergeant at age 19 in the Maryland Line during the Revolutionary War, was promoted six months later to ensign and then severely wounded at the Battle of Germantown.[14]

After the District of Columbia was granted limited home rule in 1802, Hoban served on the twelve-member city council for most of the remainder of his life, except during the years he was rebuilding the White House.[15] Hoban was also involved in the development of Catholic institutions in the city, including Georgetown University (where his son was a member of the Jesuit community), St. Patrick's Parish, and the Georgetown Visitation Monastery founded by another Kilkenny native, Teresa Lalor of Ballyragget.

Grave of Hoban at Mount Olivet Cemetery

Hoban died in Washington, D.C., on December 8, 1831. He was originally buried at Holmead's Burying Ground,[16] but was disinterred and reburied at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C. His son James Hoban, Jr., said to closely resemble his father, served as district attorney of the District of Columbia.[15]


Little has been published to catalogue Hoban's architectural work.

  • Charleston County Courthouse, 82-86 Broad Street, Charleston, SC (1790–92).[17] Both this building and the White House were modeled on Leinster House, the current Irish Parliament Building, that in the 18th century was the home of the Gaelic Norman Fitzgerald Family, Earls of Kildare.
  • The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. – (1792–1800). Following the 1814 burning of the White House, Hoban rebuilt the Southern Portico for President James Monroe (1824), and the Northern Portico for President Andrew Jackson (1829).[18]
  • The Octagon House, 1799 New York Ave, Washington DC (1802)

Attributed buildings[edit]

  • "Prospect Hill" (Ephraim Baynard mansion), Prospect Hill Plantation, 2695 Laurel Hill Road, Edisto Island, SC 29438 – circa 1790.[19][20] (Attributed to Hoban.)
  • First Bank of the United States, Third Street, between Chestnut and Walnut Streets, Philadelphia, PA – 1795.[21][22] (Samuel Blodgett is the credited designer, but some attribute it to James Hoban.)
  • McCleery House, 1068 Thirtieth St. NW, Georgetown, Washington, DC, c. 1800.[23] (With many fine significant interior details, reportedly designed by James Hoban.)
  • The William John Edward House, Edisto Island, SC – completed 1810.[24] (Attributed to Hoban.)
  • "Baum-Taft House (Taft Museum of Art), 316 Pike Street, Cincinnati, OH – 1820.[25] (Attributed to Hoban.)
  • Oak Hill (James Monroe House) (President James Monroe mansion), in Aldie, Virginia – 1820. (Monroe sought the advice of both Hoban and Thomas Jefferson on the design of his mansion.)[26]
  • Rossenarra House, near the village of Kilmaganny, Ireland – 1824. (Attributed to Hoban).
  • Belcamp House – Belcamp College, Malahide road, Dublin 17, Built complete with "oval office" . The college was established around it in 1893 as a juniorate for the Oblate Fathers, It was built onto the original house but the house still stands intact today.

Demolished buildings[edit]

  • Blodget's Union Public Hotel (a.k.a. Blodget's Lottery Hotel), site of the first General Post Office of the United States, northeast corner of 8th and E Streets, Washington, D.C. – 1783 (Demolished in 1856)[27]
  • Wye Hall (John Paca mansion), Wye Island directly opposite Wye Plantation, Maryland – circa 1787 (Demolished 1789)[28]
  • South Carolina State House, Columbia, S.C. – 1790 (burned 1865)[29][30]
  • The Charleston Theatre, New and Broad Streets, Charleston, S.C. – 1792 (Demolished)[31]
  • Northeast Executive Building, Fifteenth Street, near The White House (Demolished)
  • Market House (a.k.a. "Marsh Market"), Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventh Street, Washington, D.C. – 1801 (Demolished)
  • St. Patrick's Church, Corner of 14th and H Streets, NW, Washington, D.C. (Demolished. Now the site of the old Grand Lodge building)
  • St Mary's Chapel (a.k.a. Barry's Chapel), Roman Catholic parish church, 10th and F Streets, Washington, D.C. – 1806 (Demolished; its cornerstone was saved, and is now inserted in the outer wall of the Holy Name Chapel, the Church of St. Dominic.)


Numerous events were held around 2008 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of his birth.

In 2008, a memorial arbor to honor James Hoban was completed near his birthplace, and a major exhibition on his life took place at the White House Visitor Center.[32]

Dublin Made Him..., a one-day colloquium in honour of Hoban, took place on October 3, 2008, at the (RDS) in Dublin, Ireland.[33] It was presented by the RDS in association with the White House Historical Association, the U.S. Embassy in Ireland, and the James Hoban Societies of the U.S. and Ireland.

The Irish-American musical group Solas have a song "John Riordan's Heels/The Bath Jig/Hoban's White House" on their album For Love and Laughter. Group member Mick McAuley, like Hoban, is from Kilkenny, and named the song in Hoban's honor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ireland, Catholic Parish Registers, 1655–1915 (National Library of Ireland; Dublin, Ireland; Microfilm Number: Microfilm 05028 / 02 ed.). Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. 2016.
  2. ^ "Death". The National Intelligencer. December 9, 1831.
  3. ^ Birse, Ronald M. "Hoban, James". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/45956. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ Frary, page 27
  5. ^ History of the Charleston County Courthouse Archived 2012-10-16 at the Wayback Machine from HMdb.org
  6. ^ William Seale, "James Hoban: Builder of the White House" in White House History no. 22 (Spring 2008), pp. 8–12.
  7. ^ Bryan, page 194–195.
  8. ^ Commissioners of the District of Columbia, Record Group 42, National Archives, cited in Seale, pp. 10–16.
  9. ^ "James Hoban Slave Payroll". Archived from the original on 2016-08-01. Retrieved 2016-07-29.
  10. ^ Frary, page 28.
  11. ^ "Current Biography Yearbook 1989". 1990. p. 120. Archived from the original on 2021-09-25. Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  12. ^ "City Tavern Club V2's Tenant Handbook:History of the Club". 17 January 1981. Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  13. ^ "Archives of Holy Trinity Church: Marriages and Baptisms (1775–1805)" (PDF). Georgetown University Library. Holy Trinity Church. p. 46. Archived (PDF) from the original on 25 September 2021. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  14. ^ Steuart, Rieman (1969). A History of the Maryland Line in the Revolutionary War, 1775–1783. Society of the Cincinnati of Maryland. p. 128.
  15. ^ a b James Hoban, Architect of the White House: Civic Contributions and Family Archived 2017-08-11 at the Wayback Machine, White House Historical Association
  16. ^ Ridgely 1908, p. 259.
  17. ^ Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. SC-131, "Charleston County Courthouse"
  18. ^ McLaurin, Stewart (2021). James Hoban: Designer and Builder of the White House. The White House Historical Association. ISBN 9781931917964.
  19. ^ "National Register Form". Archived from the original on 2012-01-11. Retrieved 2011-09-28.
  20. ^ Edisto Island 1663 to 1860: Wild Eden to Cotton Aristocracy, Charles Spencer; p. 159
  21. ^ Baigell, Matthew (May 1969). "James Hoban and the First Bank of the United States". Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. 28 (2): 135–136. doi:10.2307/988511. JSTOR 988511.
  22. ^ American architecture 1607–1976, Marcus Whiffen, Frederick Koeper, p. 125
  23. ^ Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. DC-162, "McCleery House"
  24. ^ Edisto: A Guide to Life on the Island, Cantey Wright; pp. 35–37 (with photographs)
  25. ^ TR and Will; A Friendship that Split the Republican Party, by William Manners; p. 335
  26. ^ "Oak Hill". Nps.gov. Archived from the original on 14 January 2012. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
  27. ^ Keim's Illustrated Hand-book: Washington and Its Environs, De Benneville Randolph Keim, p. 153
  28. ^ Maryland: A Guide to the Old Line State, Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Maryland. p. 418
  29. ^ The Encyclopedia Americana: The International Reference Work, Volume 7; p. 336
  30. ^ Columbia: History of a Southern Capital, Lynn Salsi, Margaret Sims; p, 27
  31. ^ The Buildings of Charleston: A Guide to the City's Architecture, Jonathan H. Poston, p. 321
  32. ^ "The James Hoban Colloquium and Official Opening of the James Hoban Memorial Arbor, October 3–5, 2008". The James Hoban Commemoration. Archived from the original on 2010-04-21.
  33. ^ "Royal Dublin Society". Archived from the original on 2009-11-30. Retrieved 2008-08-19.


Further reading[edit]

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