This section is from the book "The National Capitol. Its Architecture Art And History", by George C. Hazelton, Jr. Also available from Amazon: The National Capitol Its Architecture Art and History.
On consideration of the three plans presented by Capt Hobens for providing an apartment for the H. of Representatives of the U. S. that appears to me most to be approved which proposes to raise, to the height of one story only, the elliptical wall or arcade in the Southern wing destined ultimately for their occupation ; without carrying up at present the external square wall which is to include it.
The Commissioners June 2d 1801 of the City of Washington.
Washington to Commissioners.
Mount Vernon July 23d 1792.
Your favor of the 19th accompanying Judge Turner's plan for a Capitol, I have duly received and have no hesitation in declaring that I am more agreeably struck with the appearance of it than with any that has been presented to you.
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There is the same defect, however, in this plan as there is all the plans which have been presented to you—namely, the want of an Executive department; w, ought, if possible, to be obtained.—The Dome, which is suggested as an addition to the center of the edifice, would, in my opinion, give a beauty and grandeur to the pile ; and might be useful for the reception of a clock, Bell—etc.—The Pilastrade, too, in my judgement, ought (if the plan is adopted) to be carried around the semicircular projections at the end ; but whether it is necessary to have the elevation of the upper story 41 feet is questionable ; unless it be to preserve exactness in the proportion of the several parts of the building ;— in that case, the smaller rooms in that storey would be elivated sufficiently if cut in two, & would be the better for it in the interior provided they can be lighted.— This would add to the number of committee rooms of which there appears to be a deficiency :—
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Could such a plan as Judge Turner's be surrounded with Columns, and a Colonade like that which was presented to you by Maj. Hallet (the roof of Hallet's I must confess does not hit my taste) without departing from the principal of architecture, and would not be too expensive for our means, it would in my judgement be a noble and desirable structure. — But I would have it understood in this instance, and always, when I am hazarding a sentiment on these buildings, that I profess to have no knowledge in architecture, and think we should (to avoid criticisms) be governed by the established rules which are laid down by the professors of this art.
I think you have engaged Mr. Hoban upon advantageous terms ; and hope if his industry and honesty are of a piece with the specimen he has given of his abilities . . .
Commissioners to Thornton.
Georgetown 4th De 1792.
Your letter of 9th Ulto is now before us. We have to inform you that as none of the plans sent in for the Capitol met with our entire approbation, Mr. Hallet, a French artist was engaged to prepare one, which he tells us will be finished by the first of next month. As we shall then forward it immediately to the President, we think it will be best, for you, to lodge your plan with the Secretary of State, for the President's inspection, who, when he returns Mr. Hallets, plan will also send us yours. . . .
Washington to Commissioners.
Philadelphia, 31 January, 1793.
I have had under consideration Mr. Hallet's plans for the Capitol, which undoubtedly have a great deal of merit. Doctor Thornton has also given me a view of his. These last came forward under some very advantageous circumstances.—The grandeur, simplicity, and beauty of the exterior ; the propriety with which the apartments are distributed, and economy in the whole mass of the structure will I doubt not give it a preference in your eyes, as it has done in mine, and those of several others whom I have consulted, and who are deemed men of skill in architecture. I have therefore thought it better to give the Doctor time to finish his plan and for this purpose to delay 'till your next meeting a final decision. Some difficulty arises with respect to Mr. Hallet, who you know was in some degree led into his plans by ideas we all expressed to him. This ought not to induce us to prefer it to a better; but while he is liberally rewarded for the time and labor he has expended on it, his feelings should be saved and soothed as much as possible.
I leave it to yourselves how best to prepare him for the possibility that the Doctor's plan may be preferred to his. Some ground for this will be furnished you by the occasion you probably will have for recourse to him as to the interior of the apartments, and the taking him into service at a fixed allowance, and I understand that his necessities render it material that he should know what his allowance is to be.
I am, etc.
Philadelphia March 3d: 1793
This will be handed to you by Doctor Thornton of this City, who goes forward to lay before you a plan which he has prepared for the Capitol proposed to be built in the federal City.
Grandeur, simplicity and convenience appear to be so well combined in this plan of Doctor Thornton's, that I have no doubt of its meeting with that approbation from you, which I have given it under an attentive inspection, and which it has received from all those who have seen it and are considered as judges of such things.—
How far the expense of such a building, as is exhibited by the plan, will comport with the funds of the City, you will be the best judges, after having made an estimate of the quantity of materials and labour to be employed in executing it.—And to obviate objection that may be raised on this head, it should be considered, that the external of the building will be the only immediate expense to be incurred.—The internal work—and many of the ornamental parts without, may be finished gradually, as the means will permit, and still the whole be completed within the time contemplated by law for the use of the building.—