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Bulfinch, Charles (08 August 1763–15 April 1844), civil servant and architect, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Thomas Bulfinch, a physician, and Susan Apthorp. Scion of long-established and wealthy colonial families, some members of which had been recognized amateur architects whose books were available to him, Bulfinch graduated from Harvard College in 1781. Apparently it was at Harvard that he learned drafting and the geometrical construction of linear perspective. After a period in the counting house of Joseph Barrell, where, as he later wrote, the “unsettled state of the time” produced “leisure to cultivate a taste for Architecture,” he spent the period from June 1785 to January 1787 on a grand tour of England, France, and Italy, “observing … the wonders of Architecture, & the kindred arts of painting and sculpture.” Described by Louis XVI’s director general of gardens and buildings as “un gentilhomme américain” who was already “plein de goût et de connaissance dan [ ...

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Thornton, William (20 May 1759–28 March 1828), architect, civil servant, and essayist, was born on the island of Tortola in the West Indies, the son of William Thornton, a planter, and Dorcas Zeagers. The senior Thornton died when his son was five years old, and the boy went to live with relatives in Lancashire, England. He served a medical apprenticeship in Lancashire, studied at the University of Edinburgh, and received a medical degree from the University of Aberdeen in 1784. After his graduation he traveled in France and the British Isles before returning to Tortola in 1786. Enamored of the republican ideals of the American Revolution, he emigrated to Philadelphia in 1786 and became a citizen of the United States in 1788. He established a medical practice in Philadelphia but soon abandoned it, finding the practice boring and the fees unsatisfactory. Thornton enjoyed a creditable income from his West Indies plantation, which allowed him to pursue his intellectual and artistic interests. His education and European background won him admittance to intellectual circles in Philadelphia, including election to the American Philosophical Society. Thornton married Anna Marie Brodeau, a well-educated and cultured girl of fifteen, in 1790. They spent two years on Thornton’s plantation on Tortola, returned to Philadelphia, and in 1794 made their home in the new city of Washington, where they resided for the remainder of their lives. They had no children....