James Hoban's life is a memorable Irish-American success story. In his boyhood he learned the craft of carpenter and wheelwright, and became an architect by profession and a builder by trade. Hoban came to America with high ambitions, and designed and erected many buildings; but what keeps his name alive today arises from one special commission—he was the architect of the White House.
Much about Hoban's life and personality remains a mystery. In his own time he was not the legendary figure he has since become. His personal and business papers, mostly lost in a fire in the 1880s, survive only in scattered drawings, public and legal documents, and newspaper notices. These sources reveal what is known of the details of his life.
Hoban's contributions to the early growth and development of Washington, D.C., as architect, builder, mason, captain of a militia company, civic leader, and pillar of the Roman Catholic community, maintain his memory and reputation to this day.