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Benjamin Henry Latrobe

Latrobe - A Stan Klos Biography

LATROBE, Benjamin Henry, architect, born in Yorkshire, England, 1 May, 1764; died in New Orleans, Louisiana, 3 September, 1820. His ancestor, Henry Boneval de la Trobe, emigrated from France to Holland after the revocation of the edict of Nantes, entered the military service of the Prince of Orange, went with him to England, and was severely wounded in the battle of the Boyne.

 

At the age of twelve Benjamin was sent to a Moravian seminary in Saxony, and completed his education at the University of Leipzig. In 1785 he entered the Prussian army as a cornet of Hussars, and was twice wounded in severe actions. He resigned his commission in 1768, returned to England, and becoming an architect, was made in 1789 surveyor of the public offices and engineer of London.

 

Influenced by his political views, he came to this country after declining a crown surveyorship, and arrived in Norfolk, Virginia, on 20 May, 1796. He was engineer of the James river and Appomattox canal, built the penitentiary in Richmond, and many private mansions. He removed to Philadelphia in 1798, where he designed the Bank of Pennsylvania, the old Academy of art, the Bank of the United States, and other buildings, and was the first to supply Philadelphia with water, pumped by steam from the Schuylkill, in 1800.

 

In Baltimore he was the architect of the Roman Catholic cathedral and the custom-house. Thomas Jefferson appointed him surveyor of the public buildings in 1803, to follow Thornton, Hatfield, and Hoban, as architect of the Capitol, and he perfected Dr. William Thornton's designs, and altered those for the interior construction of the south wing, with the approval of the president. Of this, the corridors and committee-rooms, the stairs, and the lobby with its paneled dome escaped the flames when the Capitol was burned by the British in 1814, and still remain.

 

In the reconstruction of the north wing Mr. Latrobe planned a vestibule in which are six columns, each of which is composed of Indian cornstalks bound together, the joints forming a spiral effect, while the capitals are modeled from the ears of the corn. This forms a unique order of architecture, which he regarded as purely American.

 

Jefferson has been considered by many to be the designer of these pillars, but that Latrobe was their originator is proved by his letter to Jefferson, dated 28 August, 1809, in which he says: "These capitals during the summer session obtained more applause from the members of congress than all the works of magnitude or difficulty that surround them. They christened them ‘the corn-cob capitals’ --whether for the sake of alliteration I cannot tell, but certainly not very appropriately." See illustration. He also designed the tobacco-plant capitals of the columns in the circular colonnade in the north wing, and left drawings of a capital whose ornamentation is designed from the cotton-plant.

 

He was the first to utilize the Breccia marble of the Potomac in the columns of the house of representatives and the senate chamber. His suggestion as to the use of natural products as a feature of architecture was followed by his successors.

 

Mr. Latrobe was also engaged as engineer in constructing the original plan of the Chesapeake and Delaware canal, residing alternately in New Castle and Wilmington until 1808, when he removed to Washington with his family. In 1812 he became interested with Fulton in the introduction of steamboats on the western waters, and built the "Buffalo" at Pittsburg, the fourth steamer that descended Ohio river.

 

After the burning of the Capitol, Mr. Latrobe was called to rebuild it. He resigned this post in 1817, and was succeeded by Charles Bullfinch, who executed Mr. Latrobe's designs in changing the oblong hall of the old Capitol into a semicircle. At the time of his death he was engaged in erecting works to supply New Orleans with water.

 

--His son, John Hazlehurst Boneval Latrobe, lawyer, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 4 May, 1803, was appointed a cadet in the United States military academy in 1818, but resigned before graduation, on account of the death of his father. He then studied law with Robert G. Harper, was admitted to the bar in 1825, and has been in active practice for sixty years. In 1828 he was engaged by the Baltimore and Ohio railroad company to secure the right of way for the road, and has since been engaged as counsel for the company. He was the founder of the Maryland institute, and after its destruction by fire in 1835 assisted in its reorganization.

     He has been identified with the American colonization society since 1824, and for many years has been its president, and prepared the first map of Liberia, and united with General Harper (who named the territory Liberia) in giving the other names on the map by which the places are now known. He originated and devoted himself to the interests of the colony of Maryland in Liberia, founded by the Maryland state colonization society at Cape Palmas, to which the state of Maryland contributed $275,000, and which continued, under a charter, ordinance, and instructions prepared by Mr. Latrobe, an independent and prosperous government of colored people for more than twenty years, until it united itself to the elder government of Liberia proper.

     It was his conspicuous agency that led to his election, on the death of Mr. Clay, to be president of the national society in 1853. He is also the president of the Maryland historical society, which post he now (1887) holds. He was invited by the king of the Belgians to be present, as his guest, at the first meeting of the Association for the exploration of Africa, and is the president of the American branch.

     He is the inventor of the "Latrobe stove," called sometimes the " Baltimore heater," or the "parlor heater," of which in 1878 there were 30,000 in use in Baltimore alone, and which has since come into general use in the United States. In 1849 he was appointed a member of the board of visitors to West Point, and was chosen president.

     Mr. Latrobe is the author of various papers that he has read before the Maryland historical society, which have been published by that body, and he delivered an address on "The Capitol and Washington at the Beginning of the Present Century," in Washington, 16 November, 1881 (Baltimore, 1881). He has published "Biography of Charles Carroll, of Carrollton" (Philadelphia, 1824); "Justices' Practice " (Baltimore, 1825; 7th ed., 1880); "Scott's Infantry and Rifle Tactics," condensed (1828); "Picture of Baltimore" (1832); "History of Mason and Dixon's Line" (Philadelphia, 1854); " Personal Recollections of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad" (Baltimore, 1858); "Hints for Six Months in Europe" (Philadelphia, 1869): "Odds and Ends," a volume of poems (printed privately, Baltimore, 1876); " History of Maryland in Liberia" (Baltimore, 1885); "Reminiscences of West Point in 1818 to 1822" (1887); besides a series of children's books (1826) and four novelettes.

 

--Another son, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, civil engineer, born 19 December, 1807; died in Baltimore, 19 October, 1878, was graduated at St. Mary's college, Baltimore, in 1825, studied law, and was admitted to the bar, practicing in connection with his brother, John, in Baltimore. He then entered the service of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad company, and finally became its chief engineer, building the road from Harper's Ferry, across the Alleghanies, to Wheeling. He also built other roads, was consulting engineer of the Hoosac tunnel, and one of the advisory board to whom John A. Roebling submitted the plan of the Brooklyn bridge.

 

--John's son, Ferdinand Claiborne Latrobe, lawyer, born in Baltimore, Maryland, 14 October, 1833, was educated at the College of St. James, in Washington county, Maryland After serving as clerk in mercantile house in Baltimore, he studied law with his father, and was admitted to the bar in 1860. He was elected to the Maryland legislature in 1867, served till 1872, and was speaker in 1870-'2. In 1860 he was appointed judge-advocate-general, and assisted in reorganizing the Maryland militia under the act of 1868, of which he was the author. In 1875 he was elected mayor of Baltimore, serving three terms till 1881, and in 1883 he was again elected to this office, serving till 1885. During his term of office the supply of water by natural flow from Gunpowder river through a tunnel of seven miles inbred in solid rock was completed.

 

--Benjamin Henry's son, Charles Hazlehurst Latrobe, civil engineer, born in Baltimore, 25 December, 1833, was educated at the College of St. Mary in that city. He entered the service of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad company, and was also in the Confederate service. After the civil war he returned to Baltimore and adopted bridge-building as his specialty. His most remarkable works of this description, however, were in Peru, about a dozen in all; among them the Arequipa viaduct, which was 1,300 feet long and 65 feet high, and the Agua de Verrugas bridge, 575 feet long and 263 feet high. This structure was built across one of the deepest gorges in the Andes, and was, when erected, the loftiest structure of its kind in the world. It was framed in the United States, taken apart, and shipped to Peru, where it was erected in ninety days. Latrobe wrote an exhaustive report to the Baltimore authorities upon sewerage, which was reprinted and largely circulated.

LATROBE, Benjamin Henry, architect, born in Yorkshire, England, 1 May, 1764; died in New Orleans, Louisiana, 3 September, 1820. His ancestor, Henry Boneval de la Trobe, emigrated from France to Holland after the revocation of the edict of Nantes, entered the military service of the Prince of Orange, went with him to England, and was severely wounded in the battle of the Boyne. At the age of twelve Benjamin was sent to a Moravian seminary in Saxony, and completed his education at the University of Leipsic. In 1.785 he entered the Prussian army as a cornet of Hussars, and was twice wounded in severe actions. He resigned his commission in 1768, returned to England, and becoming an architect, was made in 1789 surveyor of the public offices and engineer of London. Influenced by his political views, he came to this country after declining a crown surveyorship, and arrived in Norfolk, Virginia, on 20 May, 1796. He was engineer of the James river and Appomattox canal, built the penitentiary in Richmond, and many private mansions. He removed to Philadelphia in 1798, where he designed the Bank of Pennsylvania, the old Academy of art, the Bank of the United States, and other buildings, and was the first to supply Philadelphia with water, pumped by steam from the Schuylkill, in 1800. In Baltimore he was the architect of the Roman Catholic cathedral and the custom-house. Thomas Jefferson appointed him surveyor of the public buildings in 1803, to follow Thornton, Hatfield, and Hoban, as architect of the Capitol, and he perfected Dr. William Thornton's designs, and altered those for the interior construction of the south wing, with the approval of the president. Of this the corridors and committeerooms, the stairs, and the lobby with its panelled dome escaped the flames when the Capitol was burned by the British in 1814, and still remain. In the reconstruction of the north wing Mr. La-trobe planned a vestibule in which are six columns, each of which is composed of Indian corn -stalks bound together, the joints forming a spiral effect, while the capitals are modelled from the ears of the corn. This forms a unique order of architecture, which he regarded as purely American. Jefferson has been considered by many to be the designer of these pillars, but that Latrobe was their originator is proved by his letter to Jefferson, dated 28 August, 1809, in which he says: "These capitals during the summer session obtained more applause from the members of congress than all the works of magnitude or difficulty that surround them. They christened them ' the corn-cob capitals --whether for the sake of alliteration I cannot tell, but certainly not very appropriately." See illustration. He also designed the tobacco-plant capitals of the columns in the circular colonnade In the north wing, and left drawings of a capital whose ornamentation is designed from the cotton-plant, he was the first to utilize the Breccia marble of the Potomac in the columns of the house of representatives and the senate chamber, His suggestion as to the use of natural products as a feature of architecture was followed by his successors. Mr. Latrobe was also engaged as engineer in constructing the original plan of the Chesapeake and Delaware canal, residing alternately in New Castle and Wilmington until 1808, when he removed to Washington with his family. In 1812 he became interested with Fulton in the introduction of steamboats on the western waters, and built the "Buffalo" at Pittsburg, the fourth steamer that descended Ohio river. After the burning of the Capitol, Mr. Latrobe was called to rebuild it. He resigned this post in 1817, and was succeeded by Charles Bullfinch, who executed Mr. Latrobe's designs in changing the oblong hall of the old Capitol into a semicircle. At the time of his death he was engaged in erecting works to supply New Orleans with water.--His son, John Hazlehurst Boneval, lawyer, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 4 May, 1803, was appointed a cadet in the United States military academy in 1818, but resigned before graduation, on account of the death of his father. He then studied law with Robert G. Harper, was admitted to the bar in 1825, and has been in active practice for sixty years. In 182.8 he was engaged by the Baltimore and Ohio railroad company to secure the right of way for the road, and has since been engaged as counsel for the company. He was the founder of the Maryland institute, and after its destruction by fire in 1835 assisted in its reorganization. He has been identified with the American colonization society since 1824, and for many years has been its president, and prepared the first map of Liberia, and united with General Harper (who named the territory Liberia) in giving the other names on the map by which the places are now known. He originated and devoted himself to the interests of the colony of Maryland in Liberia, founded by the Maryland state colonization society at Cape Palmas, to which the state of Maryland contributed $275,000, and which continued, under a charter, ordinance, and instructions prepared by Mr. Latrobe, an independent and prosperous government of colored people for more than twenty years, until it united itself to the elder government of Liberia proper. It was his conspicuous agency that led to his election, on the death of Mr. Clay, to be president of the national society in 1853. He is also the president of the Maryland historical society, which post he now (1887) holds. He was invited by the king of the Belgians to be present, as his guest, at the first meeting of the Association for the exploration of Africa, and is the president of the American branch. He is the inventor of the "Latrobe stove," called sometimes the " Baltimore heater," or the "parlor heater," of which in 1878 there were 30,000 in use in Baltimore alone, and which has since come into general use in the United States. In 1849 he was appointed a member of the board of visitors to West Point, and was chosen president. Mr. Latrobe is the author of various papers that he has read before the Maryland historical society, which have been published by that body, and he delivered an address on "The Capitol and Washington at the Beginning of the Present Century," in Washington, 16 November, 1881 (Baltimore, 1881). He has published "Biography of Charles Carroll, of Carroll-ton" (Philadelphia, 1824); "Justices' Practice " (Baltimore, 1825; 7th ed., 1880); "Scott's Infantry and Rifle Tactics," condensed (1828); "Picture of Baltimore" (1832); "History of Mason and Dixon's Line" (Philadelphia, 1854); " Personal Recollections of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad" (Baltimore, 1858); "Hints for Six Months in Europe" (Philadelphia, 1869): "Odds and Ends," a volume of poems (printed privately, Baltimore, 1876); " History of Maryland in Liberia" (Baltimore, 1885); "Reminiscences of West Point in 1818 to 1822" (1887); besides a series of children's books (1826) and four novelettes.--Another son, Benjamin Henry, civil engineer, born 19 December, 1807; died in Baltimore, 19 October, 1878, was graduated at St. Mary's college, Baltimore, in 1825, studied law, and was admitted to the bar, practising in connection with his brother, John, in Baltimore. He then entered the service of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad company, and finally became its chief engineer, building the road from Harper's Ferry, across the Alleghanies, to Wheeling. He also built other roads, was consulting engineer of the Hoosac tunnel, and one of the advisory board to whom John A. Roebling submitted the plan of the Brooklyn bridge.--John's son, Ferdinand Claiborne, lawyer, born in Baltimore, Maryland, 14 October, 1833, was educated at the College of St. James, in Washington county, Maryland After serving as clerk in mercantile house in Baltimore, he studied law with his father, and was admitted to the bar in 1860. He was elected to the Maryland legislature in 1867, served till 1872, and was speaker in 1870-'2. In 1860 he was appointed judge-advocate-general, and assisted in reorganizing the Maryland militia under the act of 1868, of which he was the author. In 1875 he was elected mayor of Baltimore, serving three terms till 1881, and in 1883 he was again elected to this office, serving till 1885. During his term of office the supply of water by natural flow from Gunpowder river through a tunnel of seven miles inbred in solid rock was completed.--Benjamin Henry's son, Charles Hazleburst, civil engineer, born in Baltimore, 25 December, 1833, was educated at the College of St. Mary in that city. He entered the service of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad company, and was also in the Confederate service. After the civil war he returned to Baltimore and adopted bridge-building as his specialty. His most remarkable works of this description, however, were in Peru, about a dozen in all; among them the Arequipa viaduct, which was 1,300 feet long and 65 feet high, and the Agua de Verrugas bridge, 575 feet long and 263 feet high. This structure was built across one of the deepest gorges in the Andes, and was, when erected, the loftiest structure of its kind in the world. It was framed in the United States, taken apart, and shipped to Peru, where it was erected in ninety days. Latrobe wrote an exhaustive report to the Baltimore authorities upon sewerage, which was reprinted and largely circulated.

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