Latrobe, Benjamin Henry

Latrobe, Benjamin Henry

(Benjamin Henry Boneval Latrobe) (lətrōb`), 1764–1820, American architect, b. Yorkshire, England. He is considered the first professional architect in the United States. Latrobe received his training both in architecture and in engineering in England and Germany and then practiced successfully in London. He came to the United States in 1796. He practiced there and in Richmond until 1799, when he went to Philadelphia. In 1803, President Jefferson appointed him surveyor of public buildings. Besides building residences in Washington, Philadelphia, and other cities, Latrobe did much monumental work and introduced Greek forms, an important element of the classic revival. His design (1799) for the Bank of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia was modeled after a Greek Ionic temple. This building and his Roman Catholic cathedral in Baltimore (1805–18)—the first cathedral built in the United States—make a group expressive of the best monumental architecture of the time. Other works are St. John's Church in Washington, D.C. (1816) and the penitentiary in Richmond, Va. (1797–1800). His design for "Sedgeley" (1800), a residence near Philadelphia, is supposed to be the first executed example of the Gothic revival in the country. After the burning of the Capitol he was engaged, from 1815 to 1817, in rebuilding it. Latrobe's son Henry had been sent to New Orleans to construct the city's waterworks after his father's design, but he died of yellow fever in 1817. In 1818, Latrobe sailed to New Orleans to complete the project, bringing his family overland in 1820. He too died of yellow fever. Latrobe's other sons were John H. B. LatrobeLatrobe, John Hazlehurst Boneval,
1803–91, American philanthropist, b. Philadelphia; son of Benjamin H. Latrobe. He studied law, and from 1828 until his death he was regularly retained as counsel for the Baltimore & Ohio RR, but he appeared in many independent cases.
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 and Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 1806–78, an engineer, b. Philadelphia. He served (1847–75) as chief engineer of the Baltimore & Ohio RR, laying out the line between Washington and Baltimore.

Bibliography

See Latrobe's diary of his trips to New Orleans and his stay there, Impressions respecting New Orleans (ed. by S. Wilson, Jr., 1951); study by T. Hamlin (1955).

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Latrobe, Benjamin Henry

(1764–1820) architect; born in Fulneck, Yorkshire, England. Having trained in England as an engineer and then as an architect with Samuel Pepys Cockerell, Latrobe enjoyed a successful practice there before emigrating to America in 1795. His early work included the monumental Greek Revival Bank of Pennsylvania (1798–1800) and the earliest American city water system (1799–1801), both in Philadelphia. Latrobe was appointed surveyor of the U.S. Capitol (1803–17) and supervised the construction of William Thornton's plans, making interior alterations; after the burning of the Capitol by the British in 1814, he submitted new designs. He designed numerous other buildings in Washington, D.C., mastering the Federal style and spearheading the popularity of Greek Revival public architecture in America. His largest building was the Cathedral of the Assumption, Baltimore (1805–21), the first vaulted church in the U.S.A.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.