by Elizabeth Marsh
Home to the President, the White House is seen as the embodiment of all that is American. However, when one looks into the past of the White House, they’ll be surprised to find out that it was modelled on Ireland’s Leinster House by the Irish architect, James Hoban. Hoban was born in 1762 and grew up in Callan, County Kilkenny, where he practiced to be a carpenter and wheelwright. “With Lord Otway Cuffe’s consent, and possibly his patronage, young Hoban attended the Dublin Society’s Drawing School. Hoban surely excelled in his studies, as he received the prestigious Duke of Leinster’s medal for drawings of ‘Brackets, Stairs, and Roofs, & c.’ from the Dublin Society in 1780.” He eventually immigrated to the United States with the hopes of becoming a successful architect.
Hoban began his life in the United States in Philadelphia, and then South Carolina, where he worked with Pierce Purcell as architects. Hoban designed many buildings, such as the Charleston County Courthouse, the Charleston Theatre, and the South Carolina State House. James Hoban was influenced by Irish and English Georgian Style, as evident through his work. In 1792, after gaining recognition for the success of the State House, Hoban won a competition to build the White House, five hundred dollars, and land in the District of Colombia. The competition was held after the architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant was dismissed due to a lack of cooperation with commissioners. Hoban began building in 1793, and completed construction in 1801.
After the completion of the White House, James Hoban focused on business pursuits with his partner, Purcell. He was responsible as one of the main architects within the Capitol, and remained in Washington, D.C. for the rest of his life. Hoban was incredibly involved in supporting Catholic pursuits, and is attributed for designing St. Patrick’s Church.
Hoban married Susanna Sewell in 1799 and the couple had ten children. He passed away on December 8, 1831 and is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
The Irish American Heritage Museum will be hosting an exhibit opening in May 2015 from the White House Historical Association entitled “James Hoban: Architect of the White House.”
Encyclopaedia Britannica. “James Hoban.” Accessed 28 January 2015. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/268429/James-Hoban.
NNBD: Tracking the Entire World. “James Hoban.” Accessed 28 January 2015. http://www.nndb.com/people/633/000204021/.
Singleton, Esther. The Story of the White House: Volume I. 1907. Accessed 28 January 2015. https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=J-EyAQAAIAAJ.
The White House Historical Association. “James Hoban: Architect of the White House.” Accessed 28 January 2015. http://www.whitehousehistory.org/presentations/james-hoban-architect-white-house/james-hoban-architect-white-house-02.html.
 “James Hoban: Architect of the White House,” The White House Historical Association, accessed 28 January 2015, http://www.whitehousehistory.org/presentations/james-hoban-architect-white-house/james-hoban-architect-white-house-02.html.