U.S. Patent Office
1836 - City of Washington, District of Columbia
I am currently on assignment in Washington (more about with a future post), and had a chance to visit one of my favorite buildings designed by one of my favorite American architects for this post. Prior to designing the US Patent Office (currently serving as National Portrait Gallery and American Museum of Art), Robert Mills designed our country's first Washington Monument in Baltimore, circa 1815. Mills was a master of Greek revival designs - his buildings are successful on every scale, from the urban monument, to column capital and entablature profiles. Mills' work in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond and Washington helped to define a young country's language of building and established the necessary skills as that of professional status.
His talent for architecture was first noticed by Thomas Jefferson, who helped Mills by providing him access to books on Palladio, etc. Jefferson also recommended Mills to Benjamin Latrobe for whom Mills apprenticed in 1802. Mills won the 1836 design competition for the National Washington Monument, for which construction was started in 1848, but not completed until 1884. Robert Mills died in 1855.
Early 20th century photo of US Patent Office (from Historic American Building Survey collection).
View from within the South Portico. The South wing was built using sandstone from a Virginia quarry - as where the White House and original Capitol building both sealed with white paint to minimize erosion (hence "White House," by the way). The East, North and West wings were built using white marble quarried in Maryland. The basement level is clad with a Maryland grey granite.
North facade of South Wing - with segment of Sir Norman Foster's atrium design. It is unfortunate that the Museum felt the need to enclose this courtyard space. I have always thought that the simplicity of the courtyard and its plantings made it one of the most successful in Washington. Now, it's a bit of a cafe/party space.....
Columns with super-capitals in Lincoln Hall - a well-preserved space which hosted one of Abraham Lincoln's inauguration balls.
Plaster removed from load-bearing brick vaults in basement.