- A presidential inauguration is coming up on January 20,
2005, so this might be a good time to look at some of the arcana in Washington,
D.C. Such as the strange secrets of the District of Columbia's most haunted
spot-- the mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, known worldwide as the
- The White House, then known as "the President's
House," was the first public building to be erected in Washington.
In 1790, the Commissioners of the District held a competition, seeking
designs for the future executive mansion. A prize of $500 would be awarded
to the winning architect. Hundreds of hopeful American architects participated--including
Thomas Jefferson, who submitted his design anonymously. But the Commissioners
chose instead the blueprint of a young Irish immigrant, James Hoban.
- James was born in County Kilkenny, Ireland in 1758, the
son of Edward Hoban and Martha Bayne. In 1772, he went to Dublin and studied
architecture under Thomas Ivory. Eight years later, in 1780, he won a gold
medal from the Dublin Society for his "Drawings of Brackets, Stairs,
- Following the end of the War of the American Revolution
in 1783, James bought a one-way passage on a Dublin merchantman and sailed
to Philadelphia, then the USA's capital and also its largest and fastest-growing
city. On May 25, 1785, he took out an advertisement in the Pennsylvania
Evening Herald, offering his services as an architect.
- Projects were a little slow coming his way, so, in 1787,
James took the advice of several friends in his Masonic lodge and moved
to Charleston, S.C. There his career really caught fire. "From 1787
to 1792, he designed Savage's Green Theatre and a plan for an orphan asylum."
In 1790, he designed and supervised the construction of Prospect Hill,
the plantation house on Edisto Island, 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of
- On July 18, 1792, the Commission awarded James the $500
and invited him to "oversee and implement construction of the President's
- "Hoban based his design on the Leinster House in
Dublin (1745-1751)...Late Georgian in style, with a giant portico bisecting
a rectangular, three-story building, its facades were organized according
to a traditional Renaissance-derived palace type with the principal story
raised above ground, its tall windows surrounded by pediments marking its
- The building site was nothing to write home about. Both
the White House and Lafayette Square had been situated by Pierre L'Enfant
in "The Barrens," a scrubland notable for its panoramic south-facing
view of the Potomac River.
- Why had Hoban chosen the Leinster House for his model?
Well, to understand the answer to that question, you'd have to know a little
bit more about the history of Freemasonry in Jimmy's homeland, Ireland.
- The Leinster House is on Kildare Street in Dublin, just
south of Temple Bar and Trinity College. The neighborhood sure had its
share of celebrities in the Nineteenth Century. Living around the corner
from the Leinster House at 61 Harcourt Street was George Bernard Shaw,
one of the founders of the Fabian Society. At 62 Harcourt Street lived
Abraham Stoker, better known as Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. At
their favorite restaurant in Merrion Square, the wine waiter was none other
than Alois Hitler Jr., the older half-brother of the German dictator and
son of Austro-Hungarian customs official Alois Hitler, nee Schicklegruber.
Alois Jr., by the way, was arrested and charged with bigamy by the Irish
- The man who built the Leinster House was James Fitzgerald,
the 20th Earl of Kildare. He began construction in 1745, the year of the
civil war in Scotland which culminated in the defeat of "Bonnie Prince
Charlie" at Culloden. In 1747, James Fitzgerald married Emily Lennox,
the daughter of Charles Lennox, the Duke of Richmond, and a godfather to
King George II. As a result of this favorable marriage, James was made
Viscount Leinster in 1749 by George II and later the Duke of Leinster in
1766 by George III.
- (Editor's Note: The Duke's nephew was Lord Edward Fitzgerald,
who founded the United Irishmen and launched the ill-fated Illuminati uprising
- The Duke was also a key figure in Irish Freemasonry.
The original lodge papers of the Knights Templar Kilwinning Lodge No. 75
and the Grand Master's Lodge of Dublin disappeared during the 1790s. However,
in 1849, the Duke of Leinster claimed that a century earlier, on January
3, 1749, his great-grandad, James Fitzgerald, the 20th Earl of Kildare,
had founded the Grand Master's Lodge.
- Masonic historian Robert F. Gould wrote, "The loss
of the early records of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, though variously explained,
has never been satisfactorily accounted for."
- On April 26, 1779, James Fitzgerald and Dr. George A.
Cunningham of Dublin wrote to Thomas Arthur of Irvine, Scotland, Master
of the Mother Lodge in Kilwinning, and requested permission to "form
a Lodge of the same name in Dublin." This was the Kilwinning Lodge
No. 75, also known as the High Knights Templar of Ireland.
- Curiously, one of James Fitzgerald's ancestors was involved
with the original Knights Templar. According to The History of the Knights
Templar, Maurice fitzGerald invited the Templars to organize banking houses
in Dublin. A delegation of Templars under Roger le Waleis moved to Dublin
in 1204 from the order's stronghold at Templemore on Ireland's southern
coast. The Templar order was suppressed a century later in 1314.
- Reading this, your editor began to wonder if there were
any famous Fitzgeralds in American history. The first one to come to mind
was John E. Fitzgerald, also known as "Honey Fitz," who was elected
the mayor of Boston, Mass. in 1904. "Honey Fitz" was the maternal
grandfather of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917- 1963). But it is
not known for certain whether the Kennedys are directly related to the
- Nor, thanks to the missing papers, is it known if Edward
Hoban, father of the White House architect, was a member of the High Knights
Templar of Ireland, Kilwinning Lodge No. 75, whose grandmaster was James
Fitzgerald, the Duke of Leinster.
- But it is interesting that James Hoban, a Mason, chose
the Leinster House, the birthplace of Irish Freemasonry, as the model for
the USA's executive mansion.
- Another weird link with Freemasonry and the Knights Templar
came on Saturday, October 13, 1792, when a group of Masons, Hoban among
them, laid the cornerstone of the White House.
- According to researcher David Ovason, "A letter
submitted by 'a gentleman (of Philadelphia--J.T.)' offers the only surviving
eyewitness version of the Masonic cornerstone laying, which was held on
Saturday, October 13, 1792, when the Georgetown Lodge No. 9 of Maryland
gathered for the ceremony."
- The news story appeared in the Charleston City Gazette
for November 15, 1792 and reads, in part, "On Saturday the 13th inst.
the first stone was laid in the south-west corner of the president's house,
in the city of Washington, by the Free Masons of George-town and its vicinity,
who assembled on the occasion. The procession was formed at the Fountain
Inn, Georgetown...The Ceremony was performed by brother Casaneva (a typo--it
was Peter Casanave--J.T.), master of the lodge, who delivered an oration
well adapted to the occasion."
- According to the Gazette, "the inscription on the
brass plate," placed inside the cornerstone, "ran:"
- "This first stone of the President's House was laid
the 12th day of October
- 1792, and in the 17th Year of the Independence of the
United States of America."
- George Washington, President
- Thomas Johnson
- Doctor Stewart, Commissioners
- Daniel Carroll,
- James Hoban, Architect
- Collen Williamson, Master Mason
- Vivat Respublica.
- "All those listed were Masons, with the possible
exception of Thomas Johnson," Ovason points out in his book, and "the
brass cornerstone plate is still where it was laid in 1792. It was left
in place during refurbishments and investigations during the rebuilding
of 1948, at the express commands of President Harry S. Truman, who was
learned in Masonic matters. After his initiation in Belton Lodge No. 450"
of Independence, Missouri, "on February 9, 1909, Truman progressed
to Grand Master."
- (Editor's Note: Mr. Truman was a 33rd-degree Mason and,
by some strange coincidence, also the 33rd president of the USA.)
- Over the years, the legend has grown that the White House
cornerstone was laid on Friday, Columbus Day, October 12, 1792 by George
Washington. Actually, Washington was nowhere near the federal city bearing
his name that weekend. He was in Philadelphia.
- Nor was the cornerstone laid to commemorate the Tricentennial
anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the Americas. Did Lodge No. 9 get the
date wrong? Not likely. The cornerstone was laid to commemorate a very
special anniversary...Black Friday...the original "Friday the Thirteenth"...Friday,
October 13, 1307, the day the Knights Templar were overthrown in France.
- Exactly 485 years before Brothers Hoban and Casanave
laid the White House cornerstone, knights loyal to King Philippe IV attacked
Templar churches and strongholds all over France. It was the beginning
of the end for the Templar order.
- Eleven months later, on September 6, 1793, "three
Ancient York (Rite) Masons, then resident in the federal city, had submitted
a petition, praying for a warrant to convene and work as Masons. These
were James Hoban, C.W. Stephenson and Andrew Eustace. The petition was
granted, and Hoban became Master of the newly-formed Federal Lodge No.
- "Hoban spent the remaining forty years of his life
working in Washington, throughout which constructing, rebuilding and altering
the White House occupied much of his time."
- Amazingly, Hoban was leading a double life. Not only
was he the founder of Washington D.C.'s first Masonic lodge, he was a pillar
of the city's Roman Catholic community. "He has been credited with
establishing the first Catholic church, St. Patrick's, in Washington in
1792 and in 1820 served on the committee to erect St. Peter's Church on
- Eight years earlier, following the exposure of Adam Weishaupt
and the Illuminati of Bavaria (southern Germany- -J.T.), Pope Clement VII
had banned Roman Catholics from joining Masonic lodges, arguing that lodge
membership was "an occasion of sin." Had Hoban been found out,
he would have been excommunicated by the Church.
- In 1799, Hoban "married Susannah Sewell of Massachusetts,
with whom he had several children. In 1802 he was elected to the Washington
City Council and served intermittently for many years. Hoban was also a
member of the Columbian Institute, founded in 1817."
- In the summer of 1814, Admiral Cockburn landed a British
army at Head of Elk, Maryland, and opened an offensive against Washington,
D.C. The Americans were defeated at Bladensburg, Maryland, and British
troops, under Gen. Robert Ross, occupied Washington. All of the federal
buildings were put to the torch, including the White House. But, midway
through the blaze, thunderclouds drifted in from the west, and a torrential
downpour dumped two inches of rain on the White House. The fire was extinguished,
and the mansion was saved.
- Immediately Hoban began work on restoring the White House
in every detail. In this he was assisted by his good friend and fellow
Mason, Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Six years earlier, Latrobe had tried to
persuade President Thomas Jefferson to make certain "improvements"
to the White House.
- In particular, Latrobe wanted to add two porticos to
the White House. One on the north side, which resembled the entrance to
a Greek temple. This is not at all surprising, given that Latrobe designed
the original St. John's Church, which stands across from the White House
on Lafayette Square and looks like the old temple of Athena Nike on the
Acropolis. But the south side portico was to be completely different, a
semi-circular structure reminiscent of an ancient solar temple.
- Hoban supervised the project, based on Latrobe's original
1808 design. The south portico was finished in 1824. Hoban completed the
north portico in 1829, two years before his death on December 8, 1831.
- It is the White House's south portico that faces the
sun and, more importantly, the 555-foot obelisk we now call the Washington
Monument. The obelisk stands at the exact center of the city, according
- If you were to draw a straight line from the White House's
south portico to the Washington Monument, and then continue that line in
the same direction, it would take you across the Potomac River to Alexandria,
Virginia...and the George Washington Masonic Memorial, which is an exact
replica of the original lighthouse that guarded the harbor of Alexandria,
- The George Washington Masonic Memorial had its cornerstone
laid on November 1, 1923. In the Roman Catholic calendar, November 1 is
All Saints Day, but to the Aztecs of Mexico it was "the Day of the
Dead," in which they honored all of the victims of the great flood
that ended the last "world-age."
- On November 1, 1950, a group of Puerto Rican nationalists
attacked the Blair House on Lafayette Square, trying to kill President
Truman, who, as you'll recall, was a 33rd degree Mason. Was this just a
coincidence? Or did some of those Puerto Ricans have a working knowledge
of la Masoneria?
- Bet on it. In Washington, D.C., there is more than meets
the all-seeing eye. (See the books The Secret Architecture of Our Nation's
Capital by David Ovason, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, N.Y., 2000,
pages 61, 62, 63, 64, 408 and 409; Talisman by Graham Hancock and Robert
Bauval, HarperCollins Publishers, Hammersmith, London, 2004, pages 449,
464, 465 and 473; Beautiful Washington D.C. by Gene Gurney, Crown Publishers
Inc., New York, N.Y., 1969, pages 56, 57 and 58; A Guide to the Architecture
of Washington D.C., edited by Hugh Newell Jacobsen, Frederick A. Praeger
Publishers, New York, N.Y., 1965, pages 68, 69, 70 and 71; Off the Beaten
Track-- Ireland by Rosemary Evans, Globe Pequot Press, Ashbourne, Derbyshire,
UK, 1993, pages 264 and 265; Modern Ireland 1600-1972 by R.F. Foster, Penguin
Press, London, 1988, pages 169, 179, 241 and 247.; and The History of Freemasonry,
Volume 4, by Robert F. Gould, John C. Yorston & Co., Publishers, New
York, N.Y., 1889, pages 557, 564 and 573.)