Celebrating the Irish Connection to Washington Saturday September 30, 2017

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Saturday September 30, 2017

First Congregational Community Hall, 945 G Street at 10th

10.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. 

Admission Free




John Riley, Session Chair:

Remembering Bill Bushong


Introductory Remarks and Presentation to William Seale 

on behalf of the James Hoban Societies of the US and Ireland



Joining the Green Dots: Some Observations on the Carrolls

 and their Early Settlement in the District of Columbia


Few early American families ever achieved the financial success of Maryland's Carrolls, and fewer without a president ever achieved their political significance. They spread and prospered for over a century under legal strictures intended to constrain their Catholicism, then produced a congressman, a senator, and the first American Catholic bishop soon after independence. Carrolls were at the center of the activities that brought the Federal City to the banks of the Potomac, and stayed to administer it in its infancy. Don's brief overview of their history will reveal their under-appreciated significance to the story of the Nation's Capital.


 Don Alexander Hawkins is an architectural historian, an expert on the mapping of the early Federal capital and its environs and a member of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City. 


An Early Greening: Jemmy Maher. John Foy and the 

Horticultural Landscape of a Developing City


In her presentation, Pamela will note the importance of ordered public spaces and horticultural pursuits in the early Federal Republic, and focus on the role of two major Irish figures in this regard: Jemmy Maher, and John Foy, pioneering Public Gardeners of the District of Columbia. 


 Pamela Scott is the doyenne of Washington architectural historians and has written extensively on individual buildings in the city as well as on the major public buildings and the work of the Corps of Engineers. 


 From Robert Shee’s House to Capitol Hill: 

The Cultural Trace of Representative Government as Endured in  its Buildings 


Brian will take the private house in Kilkenny used as the seat of the Irish Confederation Parliament in 1642 as the starting point in a discussion of how concepts of constitutional democracy interacted with principles of classic design to produce iconic buildings in both Ireland (the College Green Parliament Building) and America (the U.S. Capitol).


Brian O’Connell FRIAI is a Past President of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, and an architect in practice in Ireland on major public and private schemes. He holds a Master’s degree in  Urban and Building Conservation, achieved by thesis on Conserving the Parliament Buildings of Ireland. He has recently acted as advisor to the Commissioners of Public Works on the public response to the current conservation works to the seat of the Irish Oireachtas (Parliament) at Leinster House Dublin. He is a member of the Royal Dublin Society and is currently engaged on a scheme for a full historical reiteration of the Executive Mansion (White House), as it stood in the final year of James Hoban’s engagement (1829) to be located at the centre of a scheme of development in Tipperary as a functioning monument to Hoban in the land and region of his origin.



Fluffing the Phoenix’s Feathers: Flights of Fancy in 

James Hoban’s 1817 Reconstruction of The President’s House  

Andrew will produce evidence of new design ideas introduced by James Hoban on his approach to the 1817 Reconstruction and their rejection in favour of a more conservative approach; and also identifies some of the influences for the North and South Porticoes, the latter of which was Hoban’s final flourish in 1829, just two years before his death. 


Andrew McCarthy is a writer and historian. A 2006 graduate of Florida State University, he has previously written about James Hoban for White House History magazine. His architectural history research is geared mainly toward the Georgian and neoclassical styles of 18th century Britain and America. He lives in Tallahassee, Florida. 




Denis Bergin, Session Chair




There’s Someone at the Door: 

Martin Renehan – an early White House Gatekeeper


Kathie will outline the factors that led her to a long journey of discovery of her ancestor’s origins in Ireland, his journey to America and his progress from immigrant labourer to trusted confidant of Presidents as one of a handful of employees of the Presidential establishment.

Kathie Wycoff is a native of Washington DC and a North Carolina-based writer; she has researched and written a semi-fictional account of the life of Kilkenny-born Martin Renehan, her great-grandfather. 



A White House Reconstruction in Living Memory: 

John McShain, his Legacy and a Daughter’s Recollection


Robert will provide a unique perspective on John McShain’s reconstruction of the White House, and his role as ‘The Man Who Built Washington’, through the reminiscences of his only daughter, Sr. Pauline McShain SHCJ, now living in retirement in Pennsylvania, and a subject of extensive interview by Robert as part of the research for his book. 


Robert Klara is a New York-based writer on a wide range of popular subjects. He is the author of The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence.



From The White House to the Thatched Cottage: 

American Presidential Visits to Ireland and the Immigrant Narrative 


David will examine four US Presidential visits to Ireland (Kennedy in 1963, Nixon in 1970, Reagan in 1984 and Obama in 2011), indicating the personal and political factors at work in the planning of the itineraries, and setting them against a background of ‘immigrant narratives’ built around simple concepts of ancestral origin (the log cabin, the Ellis Island gateway) that have been used to gain political acceptance and advantage in US Presidential politics. 


David Kilroy is a native of Ireland and the son of a Callan-born father; he is Associate Professor of History at Nova Southeastern University in Florida and has a special interest in US presidential history. 


 From Mayo to Machu Picchu: Evoking a Spirit of Place in the 

Adventurous and Creative Tradition of James Hoban 


Travis will explain the idea that has inspired and driven a program built around a concept of research by students of the essential spirituality of diverse locations, in Ireland and elsewhere, and the transitioning of that insight into a physical installation, designed in full architectural detail and built by the students in an intense ten-day period.

Travis Price is an architect in private practice in Washington DC, a National Geographic expert lecturer. and an Adjunct Professor of Architecture at the School of Architecture and Planning of the Catholic University of America. He heads the Spirit of Place program, which involves students in designing and building creative installations; eight are in Ireland, including a memorial to James Hoban in his native place near Kilkenny, 



Other Contributors and Session Chairpersons 


Judge Irvin Condon is President of the James Hoban Society of the United States. He is a judge of probate in Charleston, South Carolina. 


Laurie Grace is President of the James Hoban Society of Ireland. He is a qualified archaeologist and a lawyer practising in Callan, Co. Kilkenny.


John Riley is the former director of the David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History and Vice-President for Education and Scholarship Programs at the White House Historical Association 


Denis Bergin has acted as Honorary Co-ordinator of the James Hoban Commemoration Program since 2002. He is a writer and editor who has lived and worked in Ireland, the United States and mainland Europe.