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January 7, 2005 8:53 AM CST

A Premier Architect Had Some Strong Ideas for Change


Thomas Jefferson, who shaped much of the nation's architectural image, ranks among America's most important architects and the first American architect of international stature.

Jefferson stressed two values: durable brick and stone rather than wood for construction, and the Classical Orders of column for ornament. At an early point, he set out to reform the architecture around him in his native Virginia, and later he extended his attempt to this young nation.

In his only published work, "Notes on the State of Virginia," Jefferson clearly stated his feelings about the shortcomings of Virginia architecture. While his comments were directed to his native state, they could well have applied to most of the rest of the country. Specifically, Jefferson lamented the fact that the greater part of our building stock was constructed of wood rather than masonry. He wrote: "A country where buildings are of wood can never increase in its improvements to any considerable degree."

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