Mills, Robert

One of America's earliest native architects, Robert Mills was born in Charleston, SC in 1781. Educated in Charleston, he moved to Philadelphia, PA at the beginning of his career, working as an assistant to Benjamin Henry Latrobe.

His early work included hospitals, university buildings, and churches, typically of the Greek Revival style, emphasizing symetry and a fine sense of proportion. His early work in South Carolina, Philadelphia, and elsewhere led to his appointment by President Jackson, to the position of official architect of public buildings in Washington, DC. Some of his best known works include the Washington Monuments in both DC and Baltimore, MD, the Treasury, the Old Patent Office, and the wings of Liberty Hall in Philadelphia.

The original design that Mills submitted for the Washington Monument in DC was significantly more elaborate than the simple, clean structure that was finally built. Surrounding the base of the immense obelisk, he envisioned a Roman-style pantheon with columns around the circumference, and a grand entrance. Begun around the time of his death, budget cuts, bickering, and the outbreak of the Civil War caused the structure to take many more years to complete, sitting half-finished for 25 years.

Robert Mills died in 1855 in Washington, DC.

My own personal interest in Mills started when learning in school about the architecture of my hometown. Mills is the archetect of the church I went to as a kid. He also designed several other local buildings, including our original courthouse. Both buildings are gorgeous, although the courthouse has been left in the poorer part of town as the town expanded north.

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