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Incidental Architect : William Thornton and the Cultural Life of Early Washington, D. C. , 1794-1828

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Incidental Architect : William Thornton and the Cultural Life of Early Washington, D. C. , 1794-1828 by Brown, Gordon S., 9780821418628
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  • ISBN: 9780821418628 | 0821418629
  • Cover: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 7/5/2009
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While the majority of scholarship on early Washington focuses on its political and physical development, inIncidental ArchitectGordon S. Brown describes the intellectual and social scene of the late 1700s through the lives of a prominent couple whose cultural aspirations served as both model and mirror for the cityrs"s own. When William and Anna Maria Thornton arrived in Washington, D.C., in 1794, the new nationrs"s capital was little more than a raw village. The Edinburgheducated Thornton and his accomplished wife brought with them the values of the Scottish Enlightenment, an enthusiasm for the arts, and a polished urbanity that was lacking in the little city emerging from the swamps along the Potomac. Thorntonrs"s talents were manifold: He is perhaps best known as the original architect of the Capitol building, but he also served as a city commissioner and as director of the Patent Office, where his own experimentation in steam navigation embroiled him in a long-running dispute with inventor Robert Fulton. In spite of their general preoccupation with politics and real estate development, Washingtonrs"s citizens gradually created a network of cultural institutions-theaters, libraries and booksellers, music venues, churches, schools, and even colleges and intellectual associations-that began to satisfy their aspirations. Incidental Architectis a fascinating account of how the cityrs"s cultural and social institutions were shaped by its earliest citizens.

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