A celebration of the Irish and in particular the Kilkenny connection to Washington DC is scheduled for the US city on Saturday, September 30. It is the last in a series of 'mini-summer-schools' that has already taken place in Callan and Killarney and will include a number of presentations with Kilkenny associations.
Under the title ‘Green Hills, White Houses’, the day-long presentation organised by the James Hoban Societies of the United States and Ireland will feature speakers from both countries as part of a commemoration of the 200th. Anniversary of the completion of the rebuilding of The White House after its destruction by the British in the War of 1812.
That rebuilding was supervised by James Hoban, the Kilkenny-born architect who designed and built the original, as well as supervising work on the US Capitol and several of the other principal public buildings in the early phase of the city’s development.
The second rebuilding, from 1948 to 1952, was carried out by John McShain, the son of a Derry immigrant, whose Killarney home has recently been opened as a heritage attraction. McShain’s other Washington projects include The Pentagon, the Jefferson Memorial and the Kennedy Center.
The Washington DC event will take place from 10.00 am to 4.30 pm at the First Congregational Community Hall on G Street at 10th, adjacent to the Martin Luther King Public Library and opposite St. Patrick’s Church, which is on the site of an earlier building provided by Hoban as a place of worship for his immigrant workforce.
The scope of the presentations will range widely across Irish influences on America’s Constitution and Washington public buildings; early settlement patterns in the area by Irish immigrants; biographical studies of Irish employees of the first household and the early DC public sector; an interesting design variation in the 1817 reconstruction and a personal reminiscence of the 1952 rebuilding of the White House; political strategies in presidential visits to Ireland; and the creation of a DC-inspired global network of installations evoking a spirit of place.
The speaker panel includes well-known Washington historians Don Hawkins and Pamela Scott, leading Irish architect and conservationist Brian O’Connell; DC architect and environmentalist Travis Price; Irish-born American historian David Kilroy, whose father came from Callan; authors Robert Klara and Kathy Wycoff (who will speak on her Kilkenny-born great-great-grandfather, Martin Renehan), and architectural historian Andrew McCarthy.
The event is dedicated to the memory of William Brian Bushong (1953-2016), White House historian, and will also honor William Seale, the eminent authority on The White House.
The program is made possible by sponsorship from the family of the late Charles E. Greef, honouring his Kilkenny-born grandmother, Veronica Agnes Brennan; and from Brenock Inc. of Miami, Florida, a software company led by Manus Walsh, who, like James Hoban, is a native of Desart, near Callan in Co. Kilkenny.