February 23, 2024
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SPONSORED: History in the making – new book tells how a Kilkenny carpenter became the man who built the White House

Few people in Ireland know the name of James Hoban but everyone knows the Kilkenny man’s most celebrated work.

The carpenter from Cuffesgrange is the man principally responsible for the design and construction of the White House. A new book tells the story of this son of a tenant farmer who trained to be an architect.

 left his home in DesartCuffesgrange, and moved to America where his talent flourished. He met President George Washington and won a competition to design the official home for future presidents of the United States.

 collaborated with Washington on the design and impressed the President so much that he put the Kilkenny man in charge of the entire project, with all carpentry, stone masonry, and brickwork under his supervision.

Work began in 1792 and was completed by 1800 in time to receive its first  occupant, President John Adams, who took up residence in November that year.

The remarkable story is told in James Hoban: Designer and Builder of the White House, published by the White House Historical Association.

It is the first time  Hoban’s life and work has  been chronicled in one complete volume. This book contains newly discovered details on his personal life and his architectural influences. It is an anthology which includes contributions by some of the world’s most knowledgeable scholars on James Hoban, who introduce us to the story of his life, influences, and work. The essays are followed by an illustrated catalogue of nearly 100 images of historic Dublin, Irish Country Houses, the White House, and sites known to James Hoban in America.

The book’s author is Stewart D. McLaurin,  president of the White House Historical Association, a  non-profit association established in 1961 with a mission  to  conserve the White House and open a window on the home of western democracy.

“As the White House Historical Association celebrates its sixtieth anniversary, it is fitting that we celebrate the work of the elusive designer and builder who created the White House,” says McLaurin. “Together, the Irish, British, and American scholarly perspectives presented in this volume provide a proper introduction to the man, his life and his  work.”

The book traces Hoban’s life from his youth in Kilkenny, through his journey to America, and tells how he was selected to construct one of the world’s most iconic buildings.

, born in 1755, spent his childhood on the estate of the Cuffe family where his father was a tenant. He trained as a carpenter and wheelwright in the workshops there, before moving to Dublin where he studied at the renowned Dublin Society Drawing School. It gave him  the skills to practise as an architect and opened doors to an influential circle of developers, architects, and craftsmen who helped consolidate his architectural training before he left for America.

James Hoban’s first documented appearance in America is a notice he placed in Charleston and Philadelphia newspapers in May 1785 advertising his carpentry services.

He settled in Charleston, South Carolina, where he found success and quickly established himself. The connections he made there opened the door for a meeting with George Washington.

Encouraged by Washington, he won a competition for  the commission to build the home of all future American presidents. And the rest, indeed, is history.

The book’s publisher, the White House Historical Association, is a private non-profit, non-partisan educational association. It has produced award-winning books on a wide range of subjects related to the history of the house, from its architecture, gardens, fine and decorative arts to the presidents and first ladies who lived there over the years.

James Hoban: Designer and Builder of the White House, is available to purchase from the White House Historical Association’s online shop. Shipping is free to Ireland now through June 21st. 

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