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Houses of the Founding Fathers Artisan Hugh Howard

31st May 2012 History Books 19 Comments

When they declared independence in Philadelphia in 1776, they changed the course of Western history. But the patriotslandowners, merchants, and professional men who hailed from towns, cities, and plantations scattered along the eastern seaboardhad private lives too, quite apart from the public deeds we know so well. In this breathtaking volume, historian Hugh Howard and photographer Roger Straus examine the everyday lives of the Founding Fathers.

Houses of the Founding Fathers takes us on an eye-opening tour of forty stately eighteenth-century houses. We see the mansions of such legendary figures as Jefferson, Washington, Adams, and Hamilton, along with the homes of many other signers of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. At sites from Maine to Georgia, with stops in each of the thirteen colonies, the grand story of the Revolution emerges from unique and individual domestic perspectives.

Houses overlooking the sea, in busy townscapes, or atop mountains reveal these patriots tastes in architecture, furniture, and horticulture. There are tales of friends and enemies, murderous relatives, reluctant revolutionaries, adoring wives, and runaway servants. The founding families are brought to life in the rituals of birth and death, the food they ate, the archaic medical practices they endured, their household arrangements, and the way their slaves lived.

Houses of the Founding Fathers offers a penetrating look at the private lives of the men whose ideas ignited an insurrection against Englandand who helped create the modern world.

"The 40 houses and 48 people profiled in this lushly illustrated coffee-table book provide a sense of place for the American Revolution. Hugh Howard’s text peoples the bare rooms in the reader’s mind, and Straus’ photographs give the armchair traveler a good sense of what tourists experience, if not a complete historical accounting."
—San Francisco Chronicle (The San Francisco Chronicle )

"What a smart, elegantly conceived book this is! Hugh Howard and photographer Roger Strauss III walk us through the homes of our Founding Fathers, transporting us back in time. A real treasure!"
–Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge and The Boys of Pointe du Hoc

"The 40 houses and 48 people profiled in this lushly illustrated coffee-table book provide a sense of place for the American Revolution. Hugh Howard’s text peoples the bare rooms in the reader’s mind, and Straus’ photographs give the armchair traveler a good sense of what tourists experience, if not a complete historical accounting."
—San Francisco Chronicle

Houses of the Founding Fathers

  • 19 responses to "Houses of the Founding Fathers Artisan Hugh Howard"

  • Beverly OMalley
    5:17 on May 31st, 2012
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    Houses of the Founding Fathers

    This book is long overdue, and well worth the wait. The photographs and text, along with the history tidbits interwoven throughout give a real sense of the life and times of those men and women who created our country. The authors have gone beyond presenting the basic architecture styles to bring us into the everyday aspects of life of our Founding Fathers and their families. The perspectives and lighting of the photographs make us believe that ‘we are there’. The authors have obviously done their research and made this book easy to follow with timelines, facts, features, and explanations of how the houses came into being in the first place – and how they have fared over the past two centuries. For anyone interested in American History – this book is for you!

  • Panpan
    6:50 on May 31st, 2012
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    This is a highly informative, well documented book covering all aspects of the design and building of Thomas Jefferson’s home, plus insights into why things were done the way they were done, through Jefferson’s own notes, sketches and correspondence. Plus,the photographs are exquisite.

  • tinkerbellnme
    8:38 on May 31st, 2012
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    One of my favorite pleasures is visiting historic homes. Nothing gives you a sense of history and biography like entering the dining room or bedroom of the house of an historical figure and examining family portraits, admiring classical moldings, and peering through wavy eighteenth-century window panes at a garden topiary below. Aside from visitng old homes, the next best thing is paging through collections of them such as those found in this handsome volume by Hugh Howard and photographer Roger Straus III.

    The authors have visited the homes of forty of the luminaries of eighteenth-century America and given us not only magnificent color photos of the interiors and exteriors of these houses, but Howard has written elegant summaries of the owners’ lives, their political importance, and their domestic architectural tastes.

    What is unusual about Howard and Straus’ effort is the range of selection. There are the expected chapters on Mount Vernon, Monticello, and the homes of the Lees and Randolphs of Virginia, but the book also includes the residences of more obscure members of the nation’s founders such as Benjamin Chew of Pennsylvania, William Paca of Maryland, and William Whipple of New Hampshire, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

    This is not only a book for the coffee table, but one to be read with appetite and consulted on your next trip to America’s historic homes.

  • claptrap
    12:14 on May 31st, 2012
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    In their eye-opening volume, “Houses of the Founding Fathers,” author Hugh Howard and photographer Roger Strauss III, effortlessly bring each historic household to life through colorful details and well-chosen anecdotes, while taking us on a whirlwind photographic tour of 18th century residences and proprietors. “Houses of the Founding Fathers” crackles with beauty and style.

    Well-written and illustrated in three parts, “The Colonies Unite”, “A Time of War”, and “The Federal Era,” Strauss and Howard’s book is a probing examination of the great homes of early America during perhaps its most fascinating period.

    Gorgeous photographs of the houses monopolize the pages, but the author does feed the reader tidbits of information in his lively commentary.

    Some of Strass and Howard’s best pages are colorful portraits of the nation’s elite. We learn that Virginia Speaker of the House George Whyte’s coffee was intentionally poisoned with yellow arsenic. From his deathbed, upstairs, the signer of the Declaration of Independence cried out, “I am murdered!” — Three days later, he was dead. Whyte’s nephew was acquitted of the murder when the key witness — a slave — could not by Virginia law testify against a white man.

    As in Natchez: The Houses and History of the Jewel of the Misissippi and Thomas Jefferson: The Built Legacy of Our Third President, the author’s astute presentation of grand houses shows us why these domiciles of the founding fathers have so nobly survived to our own times.

    The best parts of the book occur when Hugh Howard shows us America’s less celebrated treasures — like General Knox’s Montpelier in Thomson, Maine, the Matthias Hammond House of Annapolis, Maryland and the Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

    This is a compelling and moving real estate album, and Hugh Howard is an author of proven qualities. He can write beautifully. Photographer Roger Strauss III has an eye for an image and a gift for capturing a view, such as the majestic setting of George Washington’s Mount Vernon overlooking the Potomac River. His subjects are grand on the world-class scale. While the houses are familiar, they rarely have been documented in such interesting detail.

    What more could one want to know about Germantown, Pennsylvania’s Cliveden? Benjamin Chew’s Georgian-style summer retreat was a classic five-bay, double pile, two-and-a-half story house, with a unique place in history. The strong stone mansion was transformed into a fortress by British troops during the Battle of Germantown on October 4, 1777.

    The book is a must for anyone claiming a love of historic houses, but it is also the perfect antidote for anyone who still thinks a clean chamber pot should be stored under the bed instead of its rightful place in the kitchen. As you peruse Mr. Howard’s entertaining and surprising text, you will never look at a ceiling medallion, an overmantel or a compass window, not to mention a great hall sporting all of the above, in the same way again. You will realize that you are looking, according to Mr. Strauss; at a combination of craftsmanship and style you will not find anywhere else.

    In “Houses of the Founding Fathers,” Hugh Howard provides a mesmerizing discourse covering everything and anything about the homes of the men that guided the American Revolution. We get the Corinthian columns, the carved mantels, the ornate ceilings, the Palladian windows, the twisting balusters, the shield-back chairs; the magnificence of it all.

    What makes this book worth reading, however, is not the author’s compilation of the varieties of architectural styles. Instead, its importance lies within the chapters; the author sketches the lifestyles of the households that dwelt there, the architectural expressions of the period’s elite, and tells the fascinating tales of the transformation in the fortunes of the elite. Clearly, he is there to show us a real sense of just who were William Wipple,Silas Deane and Sarah Livingston Jay.

    “Houses of Founding Fathers” is a skillful, absorbing, often moving contribution to the popular understanding of one of the few episodes in history to live on untarnished and undiminished in our collective memory; and rightly deserves preservation.

  • do me
    14:55 on May 31st, 2012
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    One of the clichés about Monticello is that few houses do so good a job revealing the personality of its builder. But clichés get to be such generally because there’s truth to them, and that’s definitely the case here. If Thomas Jefferson was one of the most interesting figures in American history (and I think that’s unquestionably true), then Monticello may well be one of America’s most interesting houses. And for this colorful book produced by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, we are guided through the house and grounds by people who know their stuff.

    Specifically, the chapters of this title are written by Monticello’s director of restoration, the curator, the director of gardens and grounds, and other experts associated with the Foundation. Large, colorful photos are accompanied by informed commentary and all the requisite history, as well as documentation of the decades of restoration work it has taken to get the house and grounds to its current condition. A book doesn’t make up for a visit in person — if anything, I wished for more photos of the interior, especially of the book room and “cabinet.” But for a general overview of the house, grounds, and collection, and an insight into the man himself, this book is hard to beat. I recommend it as a souvenir, as well as a nice companion to a Jefferson biography.

  • Tara Peterson
    16:34 on May 31st, 2012
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    No need to keep Monticello in memory alone! Return home to Monticello with this exquisitely photographed book produced by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. This is the keep sake sold at Monticello gift shops. Perfect size for a coffee table, but not too large or cumbersome. Spectacular glossy photos of both the interiors and grounds in all seasons! Some photos comprise entire page. Chapters include: Essay in Architecture; A Look Inside; Furnishing Monticello; The Gardens; The Plantation. Also a fantastic “amazon” price for this beautiful, high quality book. Definitely a MUST purchase!

  • waipsztd
    19:15 on May 31st, 2012
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    After visiting Monticello and being awestruck, I could hardly wait to visit again. This book makes me feel as if I am there again. The photography is superb and the text so engaging. I am in love with this book as much as I am Monticello itself. I highly recommend it!!

  • Sanitary iPad
    21:07 on May 31st, 2012
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    This book has not only stunning photos and info about the houses, but also tons of history. It’s like “If Walls Could Talk” for all of our founding fathers’ homes. Family life, politics, business, & more went on in these homes, and this book delves into all of it. However, it does ignore the slavery issue, since it isn’t PC to be reminded that most wealthy landowners, North & South, had slaves; including the founders.

  • Helper
    23:33 on May 31st, 2012
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    This is a wonderful book for those who have visited Monticello and want a “souvenir” and those who are admirers of Thomas Jefferson and want to know more about his personal life. He was a fascinating man and there is much to be admired.

  • Dr. Nick
    0:17 on June 1st, 2012
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    I have toured Monticello, and the stunning pictures in this tastefully put-together book does Monticello proud. Also the writings and diagrams within the book describing how Monticello came about, and something about the genuis patriot who designed it is very well done and most interesting. This book is well worth the price, and would make a wonderful gift.

  • Larry Cass
    2:42 on June 1st, 2012
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    This book is a gem of photos and text about all sorts of Americans and how they lived. Most impressed that it did not just cover the usual presidents

  • Gary Gaddy
    7:51 on June 1st, 2012
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    The book, “Houses of Our Founding Fathers” first became known to me as a Christmas gift from my son who is an Editor for National Geographic. He had a son at UVA ( who just graduated from the University of Virginia) and bought the copy at the Monticello Book Shop.. It is an amazing historical/pictorial volume for anybody who enjoys history! Since then, I have given many copies to special friends, who all love it! I bought several volumes from Amazon as the Monticello Shop is always “back-logged” on this particular volume. Very popular!!

  • Edna Patel
    11:54 on June 1st, 2012
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    I have really ejoyed this book. Much more than just a book about old houses. There is lots of interesting history. A very good value.

  • Peter Hvid
    12:35 on June 1st, 2012
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    This work successfully links the many unique qualities of Thomas Jefferson’s personality to the unique qualities of the home that he designed and spent most of his life building and rebuilding. All of the intriguing features of this home are covered.
    Anyone interested in this remarkable man and his home who is unable to visit Monticello in person should strongly consider this work.

  • Reese Starling
    18:09 on June 1st, 2012
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    This is a collaboration of various images of the homes in which many of the men that played a role in founding what is now The United States. The book does go into detail about the homes and shows pictures of the architecture. Every picture shown has a little description about what is shown. For people that have a very photographing memory this is a great book! The descriptions are well put together and get right to the point. I recommend this book for any one who is a history buff, especially someone who is into older homes.

  • Scott Bishop
    18:29 on June 1st, 2012
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    This book is many things. First, it’s a selective architectural survey of many of the homes of our most important founders. While not exhaustive, the selection of sites is representative of important examples in the late Georgian, Adam, and Federal styles throughout the East. Well placed side-bars bring the readers attention to other sites and personalities, such as a neighboring plantation, church, or an important visitor, that frame each of the feature sites in historical context. It’s a very nice touch that adds depth and beauty to the book.

    All the houses are beautifully captured by Straus’ stunning photography. Something potential buyers should know is that much of the photography is of the interiors, and there are few close shots of architectural details. This book is really intended for a general readership rather than for architectural historians.

    Howard’s text is really quite good, also intended for the curious reader rather than the serious history scholar. This is a book to be enjoyed rather than studied. It’s for casual browsing, but offers enough architectural and historical insight to be interesting to the well informed reader. There’s much more quality here than what we normally expect in a “coffee-table book.”

    Now, if I could just get Amazon to deliver this book to me undamaged…

  • Jo_Mamma
    19:45 on June 1st, 2012
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    Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, an essay in architecture, takes readers on a historical tour of the third U.S. president’s cherished home near Charlottesville, Virginia, through well-written text and gorgeous, full-color photography. The book includes floor plans and photographs of Jefferson’s original architectual elevations, as well as drawings of the finished building that we are most familiar with today. It describes Jefferson as art collector and plantation life on Monticello’s farms, and it explores the four seasons in Monticello’s gardens. Published in 2002 by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.

  • Tarra Forgie
    22:26 on June 1st, 2012
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    Much more than a coffee table book, it has superb pix, great stories with each house, and architectural detail as well. Many great interiro shots of rooms, etc. For the heft, quality, pix and presentation, the price is WELL worth it. Highly recommended.

  • Kyle Lyles
    10:35 on June 2nd, 2012
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    This is a superb book…and a great gift for anyone interested in our country’s history. The photographs by Roger Straus are excellent and “make” the book!

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