Benjamin Henry Boneval Latrobe (May 1, 1764 – September 3, 1820) was a British-born American neoclassical architect best known for his design of the United States Capital, along with his work on the Baltimore Basilica, the first Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States. Latrobe was one of the first formally-trained, professional architects in the United States, drawing influences from his travels in Italy, as well as British and French Neoclassical architects such as Claude Nicolas Ledoux who is know as being a utopian (characterized by or aspiring to impracticable perfection).
Latrobe came to the United States in 1796, initially settling in Virginia where he worked on the State Penitentiary in Richmond. The Virginia State Penitentiary, since demolished, was Latrobe's first major public commission in America and a monument to the era's penal reform movement. Latrobe's elevations of the south front of the proposed prison building show an entryway and a "keeper's house" at the center of the ranges of cells. The plan reflects the Enlightenment's reliance on solitary confinement and surveillance as a means to reform prisoners. Throughout most of the eighteenth century, the reform of criminals was thought impossible, and thus public ostracism and severe punishments were routine. The reformers hoped that criminals could redeem themselves through penitence and solitary reflection. Latrobe's plan also called for the separation of male and female prisoners, a practice seldom followed in earlier jails. In completing his View in Perspective of the prison's solemn and imposing main entrance, Latrobe adapted elements from English architect George Dance's design for Newgate Prison, especially the stark festoons of chains bracketing the inscription over the passageway. (Who took the design of chains way too far? I really don't think the wearing of chains was Mr. Latrobes vision.) The design detail was, however, not included in the construction of the building, completed by Major John Clarke after Latrobe left Virginia in 1798. Only seven sheets of Latrobe's design for the Virginia prison survive. Latrobe then relocated to Philadelphia where he established his practice. In 1803, he was hired as Surveyor of the Public Buildings of the United States, and spent much of the next fourteen years working on projects in Washington D.C. Latrobe spent the later years of his life in New Orleans, working on a waterworks project, and died there in 1820 from yellow fever (yellow fever, transmitted through the bite of female mosquitoes. A safe and effective vaccine against yellow fever has existed since the middle of the 20th century and some countries require vaccinations for travelers. Since no therapy is known, vaccination programs are, along with measures to reduce the population of the transmitting mosquito, of great importance in affected areas. Since the 1980s, the number of cases of yellow fever has been increasing. The origin of the disease is most likely to be Africa, from where it was introduced to South America through the slave trade in the 16th century. That was very unfortunate and unfair illness for him. He was too fine a man and of high quality to be exposed to a viral illness. I would like to read the full investigation. I hope somebody payed for it.
He has been called the "Father of American Architecture". That name suits him well. A man of fine arts. In my opinion Mr. Latrobe had an eye for beauty and I think he was a great man with a natural talent or a knack which made him a one of a kind. I believe his talent is under appreciated, but his works, I mean Masterpieces aren't.