There is no greater symbol of America than its monuments-not only do they connect us with the past, but they also serve as landmarks for the guiding principles of our democracy. The White House, the Supreme Court and the Capitol symbolize the very essence of the idea of America-that power, if it is to last, must be shared. These structures, built according to classical orders of balance and beauty, remind us of the Roman Republican ideals which the founding fathers wished to overlay upon the young nation. The occupant of the White House knows best that one's time there is limited by the calendar and politics.
George Washington and Pierre Charles L'Enfant undertook the task of designing a capital city with the President's home as the central monument. The winning design was a gray sandstone Georgian Manor home by Irish born architect James Hoban. The home was begun in 1792, and John Adams, took up residence in November of 1800. Of this new "President's Palace," Adams wrote to his wife just one day after moving in,
I Pray heaven to bestow the best blessings on this house and
all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but the wisest men
ever rule under this roof.
Benford's view of Hoban's "President's House" is rare. The only earlier examples are architectural elevation drawings done by Samuel Blodget, Jr. c. 1800 (see Betty Monkman, The White House (New York, 2000), p. 50). The watercolor offered here is less a study than an image which reveres this new and important monument as a house in the county which is a living, working home and office for the American leader. Later images of the White House document achievements in the architectural changes made to the buildings over time, while the watercolor offered here celebrates the natural beauty and the historical significance of the original home and its surroundings.