An Irish Man and the White House

Posted on 2 February, 2011 12:40 pm

This week on the Irish Quest Twitter and Facebook we asked:

Which famous building was designed by James Hoban of County Kilkenny?

a. Buckingham Palace b. Scottish Parliament c. White House

The answer, of course, is the White House.

If you’d been asked this question while playing Irish Quest board game, you’d have noticed a small, black dot next to the answer. This tells you that there’s more information to be found in the supplied Quest Quiz Book.

Simply look up the question in the book, and here’s what you’d find:

After training as a carpenter and studying architecture in Ireland, James Hoban emigrated to Philadelphia in 1781 and in 1792 won a competition to design what later became known as the White House, the home of the USA President.

Imagine winning a competition to design the home of the most powerful man in the world!

And yet, that’s exactly what happened to Irishman James Hoban, going from his childhood in a thatched cottage on the Earl of Desart’s estate in Cuffesgrange, near Callan in Co. Kilkenny, all the way to Washington DC.

His initial design seems to have had a 3-story facade, 9 bays across (like the Charleston courthouse). Hoban amended this to a 2-story facade, 11 bays across, and, at President Washington’s insistence, the whole presidential mansion was faced with stone.

Hoban lived the rest of his life in Washington, D.C., where he worked on other public buildings and government projects, including roads and bridges.

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