Latrobe, Benjamin Henry

Latrobe, Benjamin Henry (Benjamin Henry Boneval Latrobe) lətrōbˈ [key], 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. Latrobe 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.

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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