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History Re-imagined: 5 Alternative Versions of the USA’s Most Iconic Building

In 1792 James Hoban won the world’s most prestigious design contest. The prize was to design the USA’s new center of power in Washington – a building that would later become known as the White House.

This one event secured Hoban’s place in the history books. But what happened to the other designers, and what would today’s White House look like if the judges had picked another winner?  HouseFresh decided to find out. Using design ideas from the architects who didn’t make the final cut, HouseFresh’s own creatives put together five alternative versions of the White House. 

Here’s a look at what they came up with.

Thomas Jefferson’s White House

The judges rejected Thomas Jefferson’s anonymous entry. So when he became US President in 1801, Jefferson made the executive decision to refurbish the White House. Jefferson added towering colonnades and many of the other architectural features we associate with that big house at 1600  Pennsylvania Avenue. If Jefferson had never won his first term, today’s White House would look completely different.

Philip Hart’s big plans

Philip Hart had big plans for the White House. But they never came true. According to the judge’s, Hart’s designs lacked the size, form, and elegance to look beyond the present day. Instead, Hart submitted a rather flat (and some would say boring) Edwardian style design that would have dated quickly.

Andrew Mayfield Carshore’s designs

Andrew Mayfield Carshore’s sketches took inspiration from the simple but elegant pre-revolutionary war style. Think tall, Georgian houses mixed with a dash of neo-classicalism. But the judges were less than impressed, stating that the proposed plans lacked the ‘requisite spark of imagination.’ Carshore didn’t take the rejection well. In fact, he didn’t design another building for the rest of his life.

Jacob Small’s designs

Jacob Small submitted four designs into the 1792 contest. The judges rejected all of them. Small based his versions of the White House on Mount Vernon, George Washington’s plantation estate house, and the Maryland State House in Annapolis. But Small’s lack of originality wasn’t the only thing that put off the judges. They thought Small’s maze-like interiors would have been awkward and confusing for White House staff to navigate. But Small does have one claim to fame. He designed the B&O Ellicott City Station in Baltimore. It’s the oldest working railway station in the United States.

James Diamond’s White House

Like millions of others, James Diamond left Ireland to build a better life in the United States of America. Within a few years of arriving at Plymouth Rock, Diamond owned his own construction and design company. Diamond credited the land of opportunity with much of his success and wanted to repay his new homeland by designing its center of power. Diamond’s magisterial plans included sophisticated design elements like ionic columns and ornate window frames. He set the White House around an open courtyard to create what Diamond described as a ‘grand effect.’ But all this sounded a little too ostentatious for George Washington’s taste.

The White House judges turned James Hoban into a name that will live forever and relegated many more into the dustbin of history.  The best-selling author Norman Vincent Peale summed up these quirks of history best. “A life and career turn on tiny hinges,” said Peale. “It’s the small matters and decisions that define destiny.”

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