|White House, north portico |
by Benjamin Latrobe
|Latrobe's south portico before the |
Benjamin Latrobe was born in England in 1764. His mother had been born in Pennsylvania, and some sources speculate that his father may have been born here too. The family was devoutly Moravian and as was their custom, they sent their son to Germany at the age of twelve to complete his education. Eight years later, he returned choosing to become an architect. He spent the next several years of his life in London, learning his trade amidst an unprecedented building boom. A few of his structures still stand there today. Lots more did until the fire bombs of WW II destroyed many of them. He married and began raising a family, a son and a daughter. His wife died in childbirth as did their third child. Heartbroken in grief, his personal and professional life went into a tailspin to the point that his two children had to be put in foster homes. In 1796, he decided to make a clean break of it. He left them in England, and sailed for American. Word had it there wasn't a single professional architect in the entire new nation.
|The Hoban's White House before Latrobe's north portico|
Besides all this he was responsible for the rebuilding of both the White House and the U.S. Capitol after the British burned them. It was this comission which netted us today's twenty and fifty-dollar images. Latrobe was also responsible for the Catholic Cathedral in Baltimore, the Bank of the United States in Philadelphia, and a waterworks for New Orleans similar to that of Philadelphia. It was in conjunction with this that his twenty-year-old architect-engineer son, Henry, was sent south just before the War of 1812 to supervise the complex undertaking. While there, he came down with Yellow Fever and died. After the war, in 1820, Latrobe himself went to New Orleans to finish the project. Sadly, he too suddenly came down with the same deadly mosquito-borne disease and died. He was 56.