Thursday, October 1, 2009


The house at 423 Sixth St is known locally as the Carbery House, after Navy Yard architect James Carbery, who purchased in in 1833. Built originally in 1803 by Christ Church architect Robert Alexander, it had been rented to Architect of the Capitol Benjamin Latrobe.

While Latrobe was living here, he supervised the construction of the new U.S. Capitol building. Originally designed by Dr. William Thornton, Latrobe was called in to provide more professional supervision. In September of 1908, he got into an argument with the Clerk of the Works (construction superintendent) John Lenthall about the relative stability of the vaulted ceiling of the Old Supreme Court chamber. Latrobe, being a professionally trained architect in a time when that was quite rare, felt that it was premature to remove the struts. Lenthall disagreed, and so sure of his position was he, that he knocked the supports out while underneath them.

Inevitably perhaps, he was crushed to death by the falling debris, and in his dying breath he muttered a curse upon the building, which remains to this day.

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