1700 - College of William & Mary, Virginia
The oldest college building in the United States isn't in Cambridge (Massachusetts Hall, 1718); the "Main Building" on the William & Mary campus has been in use as academic facility since it's completion in 1700. According to the 1794 writings of Hugh Jones: "...the building is beautiful and commodius, being first modeled by Sir Christopher Wren..." Originally called simply "College" was renamed for Wren in the 20th century. It burned and was rebuilt twice: 1716, 1869; large scale renovation/restoration projects were executed in the 1930's and again in the 1960's, and yet again in 1999-2000. The interior Great Hall and classrooms are still used as they were when Thomas Jefferson was a student (class of 1762).
Wren Building, W&M (HABS photo)
Buried away, among the many wacked-out facts learned while at architecture school - I always remember being told that the genius of Thomas Jefferson was unlimited. Included among his talents - that he could tie arteries and, in his day, was the only person in the commonwealth to have ice at his house in the summer time. I am now reading an interesting biography of Sir Christopher Wren and he seems to me the same sort of genius. Prior to creating some of the world's most brilliantly composed structures, he was well established as an astronomy academic and with a scientific interest in performing splenectomies on dogs. Even while his career as an architect was taking off, he held the posts of Professor of Astonomy-Gresham College, Savilian Professor, and Fellow of Royal Society while publishing on the following subjects: "Fabrick of Muscles" 1677, "Rectilinear Motion of Comets" 1667, and "The Geometry of Sailing, Swimming, Rowing, Flying and the Fabrick of Ships" 1670.
Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) is almost singularly responsible for the development of an English signature in Baroque and Mannerist architecture; his work (most prominently St. Paul Cathedral in London) places him along side Shakespeare and Dickens in the British cultural pantheon. During my most recent trip to London, as pilgrimage to Wren (and Hawksmoor) designed churches - I visited some exquisite jewels which I recommend going out of your way for, such as: St. Stephen Walbrook, St. James Garlickhythe, St. Clement Danes, and St. Bride's. Also very worth the journey down the River Thames, is the Royal Hospital and Naval College in Greenwich.
Royal Chelsea Hospital - 1692
St. Stephen Walbrook, London - 1680
Considering that rap stars and football players are more treasured by contemporary society than architects; maybe it's become the fault of such singular professionalism as architects that has led us astray. With such a current array of mediocre, uninspired, and ego-filled buildings - is it really difficult to imagine why the general public is so indifferent toward the "craft" and its practitioners? Anyone for a cheap splenectomy - I've the "hands of a surgeon."