Saturday, September 09, 2006

Bro. James Hoban, The Irish-Catholic Mason Who Built - then Rebuilt - The White House

Irish-American James Hoban (1762-1831) was born in County Kilkenny, educated in Dublin, and moved to America around the time of the Revolution. Settling in South Carolina, he became a noted designer of plantation houses. But he earned eternal fame for designing the White House, America's presidential mansion. His proposed design for the structure was chosen from a number of drawings submitted by other architects, one of which was initially put in charge of its construction. When that designer was said to have been thwarting Bro. Hoban's plans, Hoban himself was made superintendent of the project. Despite a lack of funding, Bro. Hoban's efforts permitted President John Adams to occupy the building in 1800 -- just nine years after Bro. George Washington had selected the site for the presidential residence.

After the War of 1812, when the British had burned the White House, Bro. Hoban's was called upon to reconstruct it. He ordered it painted white.

On 1797 Bro. Hoban was appointed superintendent of the executive buildings to be constructed, including treasury, State and War and Navy Buildings He also designed Blodgett's Hotel at 8th and E. Streets, N.W. He married Susanna Sewell in 1789 and by her had 10 children. He was a devout Roman Catholic as well as an ardent Freemason , it is not known where he was made. His freedom of action was due to the fact that Roman Catholic Bishop Carroll, stated in a letter dated 1794, that the prohibitory Papal edicts would not be enforced in his diocese. Under Hoban's leadership, a number of Irish Catholics and Scotch Presbyterians organized Federal Lodge No. 1 in Washington, D.C. of which Bro. Hoban was first Master. That Lodge participated in the laying of the cornerstone of the Capitol by Bro. George Washington. Bro. Hoban was also High Priest of the Royal Arch Chapter in 1799. He was also a captain in the Washington Artillery Company.

When the city was incorporated in 1802, he was elected to the City Council where he remained a member until his death on December 8, 1831. His body was interred in the graveyard of St.. Patrick's Church, but because of an ordinance prohibiting burials within the city, the Catholics purchased nearby Fenwick Farms to which his remains were removed along with others. In 1863, his body was exhumed by his grandson and reburied at Mt. Olive Cemetery. (Source: Freemasonry: A Celebration Of The Craft, and Coil's Encyclopedia of Masonry)



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