Robert Mills. Robert Mills, Baltimore, Md. letter to Eliza Barnwell Smith Mills, Philadelphia, Pa., 1815 May 3. Robert Mills family letters, 1813-1827. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
This small collection of Robert Mills family letters date from 1813 to 1847 and measure 0.2 linear feet. Found here are 38 letters between architect Robert Mills and his wife Eliza, two letters to Mills from other family, and nine letters to Mills from business acquaintances, including architect John Skirving and engineer Louis Wernwag. Also found are six letters to Mills' daughter Anna from various family members.
Scope and Content Note:
This small collection of Robert Mills family letters date from 1813 to 1847 and measure 0.2 linear feet. Found here are 38 letters between architect Robert Mills and his wife Eliza, the majority of which were written between 1813 and 1819, and generally discuss family news and health, his travels, finances, and their affection for each other. Also found are a fragment of a letter to Mills from his sister, Sarah, a letter to Mills from his mother-in-law, Ann Smith, and nine letters to Mills from business acquaintances, including architect John Skirving and engineer Louis Wernwag, regarding building projects. The collection also includes six letters to Mills' daughter Anna from her mother, Eliza, and cousins.
The collection is arranged into 1 series:
Series 1: Robert Mills Family Letters, 1813-1847 (Box 1; 12 folders)
Robert Mills (1781-1855) was born in 1781 in Charleston, South Carolina. As a teenager he studied pattern-books and learned the basics of drafting, and in 1800 he moved to Washington, DC, to work in the office of architect James Hoban. There he met President Thomas Jefferson who recommended Mills to Benjamin Latrobe. He was a pupil and assistant to Latrobe in Philadelphia until 1808, working on many architectural and engineering projects.
In 1808 Mills married Eliza Barnwell Smith and established his architectural practice in Philadelphia, receiving many major commissions. From 1815 to 1819 Mills lived with his family in Baltimore, Maryland, overseeing the construction of his commission for the Washington Monument in Baltimore. He also worked on several engineering projects in the city. After construction halted in 1819 due to an economic depression, he moved to South Carolina to become the Acting Commissioner of the Board of Public Works. In 1823 his position was abolished due to rising project costs, but he continued to work on individual commissions, and also published several books and pamphlets on South Carolina and engineering.
In 1830 Mills and his family moved to Washington, DC. There he directed alterations and restorations of the White House, Executive Offices, and the Capitol. After establishing himself with these projects he received many more commissions and was appointed Architect of the Federal Buildings. During this time his design for the Treasury Building was adopted, and he oversaw the construction of the U. S. Patent Office - now the Smithsonian Institution's Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture - and the Old Post Office, among other projects. His federal office was abolished in 1842, but Mills continued to work on independent building projects. In 1845 his plan for the Washington Monument in Washington, DC, which he had designed in 1833, was adopted and construction began in 1848. He lived in Washington, DC, until his death in 1855.
Additional Robert Mills papers are available at the South Carolina Historical Society and the Library of Congress. Also available are the Records of the Robert Mills Paper Project at the Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
These letters were purchased from Robert S. Gamble of the Alabama Historical Society in 1985.
Use of the original papers requires an appointment.
This collection is composed entirely of xerographic and photographic reproductions made for the Robert Mills Papers Project. The copies include correspondence, plans, federal legislation regarding proposed government construction projects, construction records, and material regarding people with a relation to Mills or one of his projects.
The material is organized into three series. The first is information relating to Mills' various projects, such as payroll lists; it is organized by state. The second consists of subject files on 163 individuals, all of whom have some relation to Mills. The last series is composed of reference and research materials from the project, including correspondence with various libraries and archives seeking material on Mills, ten reels of microfilm, and 46 diskettes containing typed transcriptions of the illegible documents included in the microfilm publication.
The documents included in this collection relate to the construction of Mills's buildings, but do not mention him specifically. Of all the papers collected for this project, this collection consists of copies of those documents that were not selected for microfilming. They are, therefore, not included in the microfilm publication.
The collection is divided into four series.
Series 1: Projects by state
Series 2: Individuals
Series 3: Reference Materials
Series 4: Camera Ready Copy
Biographical / Historical:
Robert Mills (1781 1855) was born in August, 1781, in Charleston, South Carolina. After completing grammar school he took classes under architect James Hoban.
Hoban left in 1792 to supervise construction of the President's House in Washington (which he designed). About 1799 Mills moved to Washington and began work as a draftsman of plans for the Capitol under Hoban. For about a year, Mills presumably lived with Thomas Jefferson, studying architecture from his library.
In 1802 Mills entered his first professional design competition for the design of South Carolina College, but did not win. From 1802 1809, Mills worked (with sporadic interuptions from assorted commissions) with Benjamin Latrobe, who was at the time the acting federal engineer of the Chesapeake and Delaware region. Under Latrobe he worked as a draftsman on the design of the U.S. Capitol and the Baltimore Cathedral.
In 1814 Mills received national recognition when he won the competition for the design of Baltimore's Washington Monument. He supervised its construction until 1820, when he moved back to South Carolina to become the civil architect for the state, designing several courthouses and jails throughout the area.
Mills moved back to Washington in 1829. In 1836 he won the competition for the design of the Treasury and began a long career as an architect for the Federal Government. It was during this time that Mills designed the buildings he is most widely known for: the Post Office and the Washington National Monument. He also supervised construction of the Patent Office and submitted preliminary designs for the Capitol extension and the Smithsonian Institution. He served under seven Presidents, retiring in 1851.
The colletion was donated by Douglas Evelyn.
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-633-3270.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
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