Gordon S. Brown

Retired diplomat Gordon S. Brown is the author of The Norman Conquest of Southern Italy and Sicily and Toussaint’s Clause: The Founding Fathers and the Haitian Revolution.

Listed in: Art History · American Studies · American History · Architecture History · Biography, Artists and Architects

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Incidental Architect · William Thornton and the Cultural Life of Early Washington, D.C., 1794–1828
By Gordon S. Brown

While the majority of scholarship on early Washington focuses on its political and physical development, in Incidental Architect Gordon S. Brown describes the intellectual and social scene of the 1790s and early 1800s through the lives of a prominent couple whose cultural aspirations served as both model and mirror for the city’s own. When William and Anna Maria Thornton arrived in Washington, D.C., in 1794, the new nation’s capital was little more than a raw village.

“At a 1962 Nobel Prize dinner President John F. Kennedy famously remarked that his guests constituted the greatest gathering of knowledge at the White House since Thomas Jefferson dined alone. He might have said, since Thomas Jefferson dined with William Thornton. Anyway, that is the impression one gets from Gordon S. Brown’s convincingly argued and gracefully written account of early Washington, D.C., and one of its most memorable residents.”

The Journal of Southern History