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Building AmericaThe Life of Benjamin Henry Latrobe$
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Jean H. Baker

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190696450

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190696450.001.0001

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Capital Projects

Capital Projects

(p.72) 3 Capital Projects
Building America

Jean H. Baker

Oxford University Press

Chapter 3 covers Latrobe in early Washington, DC, his appointment as surveyor of public buildings, his relationship with Thomas Jefferson, and most importantly, his work on the US Capitol. Latrobe agreed to take over the poorly designed and unfinished Capitol building. During this time, President Jefferson’s practical requirements and artistic preferences collided with Latrobe’s sometimes excessive, expensive perfectionism and his commitment to Greek, not Roman, precedents. These differences in outlook tested but never destroyed their mutual respect because both men agreed on the larger enterprise of creating a heroic structure that would be a focal point of the nation. Throughout, there were constant battles with the budget and Congress. Later, Latrobe’s plans for a Washington Canal and better roads to connect the nation were admired—but never funded—by a fiscally reluctant Congress.

Keywords:   US Capitol, Thomas Jefferson, Washington Canal Company, William Thornton, masonry vaults, skylights versus lanterns, US Congress

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