The United States Capitol

Washington, D.C.

   

One of the world's best-known buildings, The United States Capitol, at Washington, D.C., was the creation of a succession of architects who were almost all Freemasons.  Originally designed by William Thornton (1759-1828), the work was completed by Brother Benjamin Latrobe (a pupil of the English architect Samuel Pepys Cockerell, 1754-1827) who also redesigned it after the War of 1812.  The flanking wings and the great dome were added later by Brother Thomas Ustick Walter. 

The cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol Building was laid with Masonic Honors on September 18, 1793 under the auspices of the Grand Lodge of Maryland.  At the ceremony, President George Washington presided.  Worshipful Brother Washington was assisted by R.W. Bro. Joseph Clarke, Grand Master pro. tem. of Maryland, Wor. Elisha C. Dick, Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22 of Virginia (Washington's home Lodge) and Wor. Valentine Reintzel, Master of Lodge No. 9 of Maryland (now Potomac Lodge No. 5 of the District of Colombia).

Benjamin H. Latrobe (1764-1820)  Sometimes called the "father of architecture in America."  b. May 1, 1764 in Yorkshire, England.  Educated in the University of Leipsic and entered the Prussian army; was twice wounded.  He returned to England, and, in 1789, was made surveyor of the public offices and engineer of London.  He arrived at Norfolk, Virginia on May 20, 1796, and soon became an engineer of the James River and Appomattox Canal, building the penitentiary in Richmond, and many private mansions.  He moved to Philadelphia in 1798, where he designed the Bank of Pennsylvania, Bank of the United States, and planned and installed the first water system in the United States.  In Baltimore he was the architect of the Roman Catholic cathedral, and customs house.  Jefferson appointed him surveyor of public buildings in 1802.  He designed the south wing of the U.S. Capitol, made alterations in the White House, remodeled the patent office, and drew plans for the Marine Hospital.  He also worked on the plans for the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, residing alternately in New Castle and Wilmington until 1808, when he moved to Washington.  In 1812 he went into partnership with Robert Fulton and Robert R. Livingston, to build steamboats for the navigation of the Upper Ohio River, but lost his fortune on the failure of the enterprise.  After the destruction of the Capitol by the British in 1814, Latrobe was engaged to rebuild it (1815-1817).  At the time of his death on September 3rd, 1820 he was engaged in the construction of a water system for New Orleans, La.  He was initiated in the Lodge of Antiquity No. 2, London, in 1788.  He served as Junior Warden of the same in 1789-90.  In America he affiliated with Jerusalem Lodge No. 54, Richmond, Virginia. 

Thomas U. Walter  (1804-1887)  Was the architect of the U.S. Capitol extension of 1851-65.  He was born September 4th, 1804 in Philadelphia.  Served his apprenticeship under William Strickland, the architect of the U.S. Mint, Philadelphia.  He began his practice as an architect in 1830.  While in Washington, D.C. he also designed the extensions of the patent office, treasury, post office buildings, the dome on the old capitol, the congressional library, and the government hospital for the insane.  He was an original member of the American Institute of Architects and was president of the same at the time of his death on October 30, 1887.  He was a member of Colombia Lodge No. 91, Philadelphia, Pa.

 

         

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