Thornton, William

Dr. William Thornton (1759-1828)

Dr. William Thornton was born in 1759 at the British Virgin Islands to a Quaker family. He was an American inventor, painter and architect. He also served as the first Architect of the Capitol and first Superintendent of the United States Patent Office. He was sent to England at age five to be educated. There was never any question of his pursuing the fine arts professionally. He was trained for a useful life, according to the Quaker ways. He became a practical physician and apothecary in Lancashire. In 1783 Thornton went to London to continue his medical studies. When he came back to America in 1789, Thornton submitted a design to the architectural competition for the Library Company of Philadelphia's new hall. His design won but was somewhat departed from during actual construction. Library Hall was described as the first building in the "modern classical style".
During his visit to Tortola between October 1790 and October 1792, Thornton participated on the design competitions for the U.S. Capitol and the President's House. The first his design for the Capitol had not been chosen. But one year later, he won the competion for the Capitol.

Important works

The Library Company Building, Philadelphia
United States Capitol, Washington
Prospect Hill, Baltimore
Octagon House, Washington
Tudor Place, Washington