Blog posts may be reprinted without permission,
provided a link to is included.

Category Archives: Architecture

Let us be smart about this. (5 of 7)

4. buildings. the greatest danger will be their over-building themselves, by attempting a large house in the beginning, sufficient to contain the whole institution. large houses are always ugly, inconvenient, exposed to the accident of fire, and bad in cases of infection. a plain small house for the school & lodging of each professor is best. these connected by covered ways out of which the rooms of the students should open would be best. these may then be built only as they shall be wanted. in fact an University should not be an house but a village. this will much lessen their first expences.
Thomas Jefferson to Littleton W. Tazewell, January 5, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders occasionally upset conventional thinking.
Building were the last of four specific areas requiring the University Visitors’ attention. A student of architecture and frugal with public funds, Thomas Jefferson had specific, counter-cultural thoughts:
No Big Buildings! Do not house professors, students and classrooms in one big, ugly, expensive, disease-incubating building, where a fire would wipe out the entire university.

Jefferson proposed one “plain small house for the school” itself and separate buildings to house each professor and students. Covered walkways would protect all as they moved from building to building. More structures could be added as the school grew, lessening expenses on the front end.

He proposed an academical “village.” It would be 20 years before the University of Virginia opened, but you can see Jefferson’s vision today in the original grounds of UVa.

“Thank you for  very excellent presentation.”
Executive Director, Associated General Contractors of Missouri.
Mr. Jefferson will make an excellent presentation for your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Architecture, Education Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

Was Jefferson GREEN?

…  I should ask the favor of you to select for me in Philadelphia 3. of the handsomest stoves, of the kind called Open stoves, or Rittenhouse stoves, which are in fact nothing more than the Franklin stove …  the Rittenhouse stove is the one commonly used in Philadelphia …  the taste is left to yourself … debit me with them in their account.
To Benjamin Henry Latrobe, November 3, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
All leaders have to stay warm!
Latrobe (1764-1820), America’s first professional working architect, emigrated from England in 1796. He quickly gained a following and was appointed by President Jefferson as Surveyor of Public Buildings in 1803. He also served as superintendent for the construction of the U.S. Capitol.

Jefferson wanted to improve the efficiency of the fireplaces at Monticello. Well-familiar with Latrobe and his design sense, he asked the architect to secure for him “3. of the handsomest stoves” in Philadelphia. They were to be Rittenhouse stoves, an improved design of the one created decades before by Benjamin Franklin. Both stoves brought in cold air for combustion, returned heated air to the room and slowed the exhaust of fumes and smoke.

Rittenhouse (1732-1796), noted mathematician, inventor, and astronomer, was the second president of the American Philosophical Society, the nation’s premier intellectual organization of scientists. Benjamin Franklin was one of APS’s founders in 1743, the year of Jefferson’s birth, and its first president. The third APS president, following Rittenhouse’s death, was Thomas Jefferson, an office he would hold and chererish for 20 years.

True to form, when Jefferson wanted something, he just bought it. He did not inquire the price of the three stoves, only directing the bill be sent to his agent.

“You are an amazingly talented man …
we are grateful for what you did for us.”
President, National Speakers Association
Your audience will be grateful for Thomas Jefferson’s message.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
1 Comment Posted in Architecture, Monticello Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

WHAT was he thinking?

to cover with sheet iron in ridges & gutturs
let the ridges be 6. I. high & 5. times that in span=30 I.
then the slope will be 16.15 and adding 1.85 I. for the lap the sheets of iron must be 18. I. wide
consequently 18 I. of sheet clears only 15. I. horizontal, and if the sheets cost 18. D. the square, the cost of a horizontal square will be as 15 I.:18 I.::18 D.:21.6 D
(note the thickest tin is 18. D a box of 100. sheets 16¾ by 12¼=142. sq. feet the thin tin is 18 D a box of 225 sheets 14 I. by 10 I.=220. sq. feet.)
method of doing it.
place your joists 30. I. apart from center to center. let them be …
Notes and Drawings … Iron for Ridges and Gutters, 30 September 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Every leader needs some escape the pressures of work.
This excerpt, atypical for Jefferson Leadership Blog posts, is a different look inside the mind of Thomas Jefferson. It is a small segment of a lengthy list of measurements and directions for fabricating new iron ridges and gutters for the roof of his beloved home.

A leaky roof was a continual problem at Monticello. So was a convenient water source for a home located on top of a hill, distant from springs and rivers. Eventually, a new roofing and gutter system minimized both problems, effectively shedding the rain from the roof and collecting it in cisterns. These notes may have been been part of Monticello’s evolution from both leaky yet water-deprived to dry but water at hand.

Take a brief look at the full text, available through the link above. Like me, you will probably understand very little of it. Also like me, you might be impressed at the complexity and specificity of his mind.

“You … enthralled our general session …
And our members loved it all.”
Director of Member Services & Education, Minnesota Rural Electric Association
Your members will love Thomas Jefferson.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
1 Comment Posted in Architecture, Monticello Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

Ugly, expensive or inconvenient? Fugettaboutit!

The most approved plan of an [military] Hospital [in Boston is] of 4000. square feet area, two stories … the rooms for the sick to be well aired …
Th:J. proposes to mr Gallatin that some such advertisement as the above be published in Washington where there are many architects who will probably compete for the premium. in the erection of public buildings, taste, convenience & economy should all be respected.
To Albert Gallatin, June 21, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Public leaders should have strict standards for spending public money.
Congress had approved $15,000 for a hospital for ailing seamen in Massachusetts. President Jefferson wrote to his Secretary of the Treasury about soliciting architectural designs from architects in Washington and offered a $50 premium for the winning design.

Worth noting is his request that ” the rooms for the sick to be well aired.” He ascribed to a theory of healing that included fresh air as a necessary component, one not considered by most medical practioners of the day.

Jefferson noted three factors that “should all be respected” in the design of public buildings:
1. Taste – a strong and lasting visual appeal
2. Convenience – a design that facilitates the building’s intended use
3. Economy – remembering that public money was being spent

Gallatin did not issue the specifications as written by his boss. Neither did he solicit designs in Washington but only in Boston, where he said local residents would more appreciate a building designed by one of their own citizens.

“My franchisees thoroughly enjoyed your portrayal of Thomas Jefferson.
I especially was impressed how well you tied in our meeting topics into your speech.”
Franchise Owner, Mail Boxes, Etc.
Mr. Jefferson will tailor his remarks to complement the theme of your meeting.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Architecture, Health Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Form must yield to function, unfortunately.

I cannot express to you the regret I feel on the subject of renouncing the Halle au bled lights of the Capitol dome. that single circumstance was to constitute the distinguishing merit of the room, & would solely have made it the handsomest room in the world, without a single exception. take that away, it becomes a common thing exceeded by many …the only objection having any weight with me is the danger of leaking … but as you state that it cannot be secured against leaking & that is more than a countervail for any degree of beauty sacrificed to it…
To Benjamin Henry Latrobe, September 8, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders must sometimes sacrifice pleasure to practicality.
Latrobe (1764-1820) was a professionally trained architect, Supervisor of Public Buildings in Washington City, and oversaw the construction of the U.S. Capitol Building. Jefferson, an accomplished self-taught architect, regularly contributed designs or ideas for public buildings.

The Halle au Bled was a grain market in Paris, and Jefferson loved its design! The circular domed roof was supported by wooden ribs with glass in between. The effect was continually changing light in the building’s interior as the sun moved across the sky. He insisted on the same design for the roof of the House chamber in the Capitol, to make “it the handsomest room in the world.”

The Paris roof contained 800 panes of glass with 2,400 joints. Latrobe could not guarantee a Capitol roof that would not leak. Reluctantly, the President relinquished his 20 year dream of having an American building with such a magnificent covering. Still, in another example of delegating authority broadly, he left the final decision on the roof to Latrobe.

“The positive comments from our staff and members continued
long after the conclusion of Thomas Jefferson’s remarks.”
Executive Director, Maine Municipal Association
Mr. Jefferson’s wisdom will remain with your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Architecture, Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , , |

Who exactly is in charge here? Part 3

[This is the 3rd interchange in Jefferson’s internal dialog between his head and his heart, in his anguish over Maria Cosway’s departure. He reported the entire dialog to her in this letter.]

Head. … Harsh therefore as the medicine may be, it is my office to administer it … when our friend Trumbull … [told] us of the merits & talents of these good people [the Cosways], I never ceased whispering to you … that the greater their merits & talents, the more dangerous their friendship to our tranquillity, because the regret at parting would be greater.

Heart. … It was you, remember, & not I, who desired the meeting at Legrand & Molinos … The Halle aux bleds might have rotted down before I should have gone to see it. But you, forsooth, who are eternally getting us to sleep with your diagrams & crotchets, must go & examine this wonderful piece of architecture …You then, Sir, & not I, have been the cause of the present distress.
Thomas Jefferson to Maria Cosway, October 12, 1786

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders have to balance logic and emotion. Part 3
Jefferson’s logical Head said it was his job to tell Heart the hard truth. John Trumbull, a noted painter (his most famous work hangs in the Capitol and adorns the $2 bill, opposite the President), introduced the talented Cosways to Jefferson. Head advised against the friendship because of the pain that was bound to follow their separation.

Heart, in turn, blamed the whole mess on Head, who insisted they see the new marvel of architects Legrand and Molinos, the Halle aux bles, a Paris grain market with a circular dome roof. Examining the market at the same moment were the Cosways, and Jefferson was smitten with her beauty. If Head hadn’t put them to sleep every night thinking about architecture, they never would have gone to the market … or met the Cosways. In a variation of an old Flip Wilson line, Heart said, “The Head made me do it.”

Although his infatuation with Cosway didn’t last, his with the domed roof blossomed into love. He incorporated roof domes into many of his architectural designs.

Your Head and Heart will agree on the value Mr. Jefferson brings to your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

Leave a comment Posted in Architecture, Human nature Tagged , , , , , , |

The President’s recommendation open doors!

The bearer hereof, mr Mills, a native of South Carolina, has passed some years at this place as a Student in architecture. he is now setting out on a journey through the states to see what is worth seeing in that line in each state. he will visit Boston with the same view, and knowing your taste for the art, I take the liberty of recommending him to your notice, and of asking for him whatever information on the subject may be useful to his views while in Boston.
To Charles Bulfinch, July 2, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders nurture young talent.
Robert Mills (1781-1855) was almost 21 when Jefferson wrote this letter of introduction. Young Mills was already studying architecture and had helped build the President’s House in Washington City. Jefferson made his library available to Mills. Now, Mills was beginning an architectural tour of the states.

Charles Bulfinch (1763-1844) was a noted Boston architect. With very little university training available in America, the mentor-protege system was necessary to prepare young talented young men. By this letter, Jefferson introduced Mills to Bulfinch, asking the older man’s assistance in educating the architect-in-training.

Mills had a significant architectural career. Although modified considerably from his original rendering, Mills was the designer of the Washington Monument. That construction began in 1848, reaching a height of about 155’ by the time of Mills’ death. For several reasons, construction ceased and was not begun again for 20 years. Upon completion in 1884, it was the tallest building in the world, just over 555’.

Among the inscriptions on the nine-inch aluminum tip that caps the monument, facing the rising sun each day, are these words, “Laus Deo.” Translated from Latin, they read “Praise be to God.”

“Your talent and ability to tie the theme of our … Conference to his [Thomas Jefferson’s] presentation was amazing.”
North American Wildlife Enforcement Officers Association
Let Mr. Jefferson amaze your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Architecture, Education Tagged , , , , , , , , |

What does THAT building do for YOU?

But how is a taste in this beautiful art to be formed in our countrymen, unless we avail ourselves of every occasion when public buildings are to be erected, of presenting to them models for their study and imitation? … You see I am an enthusiast on the subject of the arts. But it is an enthusiasm of which I am not ashamed, as its object is to improve the taste of my countrymen, to increase their reputation, to reconcile to them the respect of the world, and procure them its praise.
To James Madison, September 20, 1785

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Well-rounded leaders have an appreciation for the arts and their value for improving the lives of their constituents.
Thomas Jefferson wrote from France, hoping to influence the design of the new state capitol building in Richmond, Virginia. He wanted a building based on the Roman-era temple Maisson Quarree, in southern France. He called that structure “without contradiction, to be the most perfect and precious remain of antiquity in existence.” (TJ to Buchanan & Hay, 1-26-86) He wanted to reproduce classic architecture in America to help stimulate his countrymen’s interest in the arts.       
While Jefferson loved his country’s devotion to republican principles, he found the arts in America to be almost non-existent. He wanted to change that. He was proudly enthusiastic to bring these arts-related values his fellow citizens:
1. To improve their culture through an interest in the arts
2. To raise their reputations as people who valued art
3. To earn both respect and praise from other nations

Thomas Jefferson desires to bring a well-rounded view to your audience.
Call Patrick Lee to schedule his presentation, 573-657-2739

1 Comment Posted in Architecture, Culture

What principles would guide your design?

I consider the common plan followed in this country, but not in others, of making one large and expensive [university] building, as unfortunately erroneous.  It is infinitely better to erect a small and separate lodge for each professorship, with only a hall below for his class, and two chambers above for himself; joining these lodges by barracks for a certain portion of the students, opening into a covered way to give a dry communication between all the schools. The whole of these arranged around an open square of grass and trees, would make it, what it should be in fact, an academical village, instead of a large and common den of noise, of filth, and of fetid air. It would afford that quiet retirement so friendly to study, and lessen the dangers of fire, infection and tumult … These separate buildings, too, might be erected … as the number of students should be increased, or the funds became competent.
… much observation and reflection on these institutions have long convinced me that large and crowded buildings in which youths are pent up, are equally unfriendly to health, to study, to manners, morals and order.
To the Trustees for the Lottery of East Tennessee College, May 6, 1810

Padover’s The Complete Jefferson, P. 1063-1064

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Thomas Jefferson decried the American practice of confining all functions of a university … classrooms, professors’ & students’ dwellings, study areas, & dining … into one large building. He proposed separate pavilions for each professor’s dwelling and classroom. Students would live in barracks (dormitories) nearby. Covered walkways would protect students on rainy days as they moved from class to class.
This letter was written 14 years before the University of Virginia opened. The original grounds of UVa, which look much the same today, reflect Jefferson’s vision.
His plan was also economical. Instead of one large expensive structure, necessary before any classes could be offered, multiple smaller buildings allowed for less up-front expense and staged expansion, as need and funds dictated.
The principles that guided Jefferson created an atmosphere that promoted, rather than hindered:
1. Health (& safety)
2. Study
3. Manners
4. Morals
5. Order

Thomas Jefferson has more for your audience.
Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739, to schedule his presentation.

Leave a comment Posted in Architecture, Education

Thomas Jefferson on Monticello

What is your “dream setting” for a house?
And our own dear Monticello: where has nature spread so rich a mantle under the eye? Mountains, forests, rocks, rivers! With what majesty do we there ride above the storms! How sublime to look down into the workhouse of nature, to see her clouds, hail, snow, rain, thunder, all fabricated at our feet! And the glorious sun when rising, as if out of a distant water, just gilding the tops of the mountains, and giving life to all nature!
Thomas Jefferson to Maria Cosway, 1786, 5506

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Jefferson had been in France and away from his beloved Monticello (Italian for “little mountain”) two years when he wrote this. He was as smitten with his home as he was with the recipient of this letter, the married woman he met in Paris. Widowed four years, he was captivated by the intelligent, perceptive, artistic Mrs. Cosway.
His infatuation with Cosway would fade. His love for Monticello never did. Just a year after this letter, he wrote to Dr. George Gilmore (5508), “All my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello.”

Learn more about Monticello and many other things Jeffersonian.
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak to your audience.
Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739

Leave a comment Posted in Architecture, Natural history (science), Personal preferences