Search form


“Benjamin Latrobe: America’s First Architect” Explores the Life of Early U.S. Architect Known for Iconic American Buildings, Airs January 18

WASHINGTON, D.C. — “Benjamin Latrobe: America’s First Architect,” a one-hour documentary, chronicles the life and work of early American architect Benjamin Latrobe and his lasting design impact on his country.  His work ultimately defined the first uniquely “American” architecture.  The special is hosted by noted architecture critic Paul Goldberger.  “Benjamin Latrobe: America’s First Architect” will be broadcast on PBS stations nationwide on Monday, January 18 at 10 p.m. ET (check local listings).

Latrobe, who lived from 1764 to 1820, is well-known for his work on the central portions of the United States Capitol building; the design of the Baltimore Basilica, the first Catholic Cathedral built in the United States; and his designs for the White House porticos.  His influence on the nation’s capital also included serving as the chief surveyor for the Washington Canal; designing St. John’s Episcopal Church, Decatur House and the main gate of the Washington Navy Yard; and consulting on the construction of the Washington Bridge across the Potomac River.  Other distinguished works by him include the Bank of Pennsylvania and the Fairmount Water Works in Philadelphia.

Latrobe’s tumultuous life was a series of creative triumphs, personal tragedies and constant re-invention.  “Benjamin Latrobe: America’s First Architect” explores his story from the early years in England, immigration to the young Republic and then his work on major constructions.  The production features extensive computer generated animation, interviews with architects and historians, and visits to the sites of Latrobe’s works.  Host Paul Goldberger is the Architecture Critic for The New Yorker, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism, and the author of several books, including UP FROM ZERO: Politics, Architecture, and the Rebuilding of New York (Random House, 2004).

“Benjamin Latrobe: America’s First Architect” is a production of Kunhardt McGee Productions and WETA, Washington, D.C.  Executive produced by Dalton Delan and David S. Thompson for WETA and Peter Kunhardt and Dyllan McGee for Kunhardt McGee Productions.  Directed by Michael Epstein.  Produced by Sabin Streeter and Michael Epstein.  Written by Paul Goldberger and Sabin Streeter.  Hosted by Paul Goldberger.  Funding for “Benjamin Latrobe: America’s First Architect” is provided by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Additional funding is provided by the Annenberg Foundation.
WETA Washington, D.C., is the third-largest producing station for public television.  WETA’s other productions and co-productions include “Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal,” the arts series “In Performance at the White House” and “The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize,” and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including the upcoming “Baseball: The Tenth Inning.”  Sharon Percy Rockefeller is the president and CEO of WETA.  More information on WETA and its programs and services is available at

Kunhardt McGee Productions has been making documentary films for more than two decades about the people and the ideas that have shaped U.S. history.  Working with PBS, HBO, and all the major networks, they have journeyed from Africa to the Middle East to the heartland of America, telling stories that inform, entertain and inspire.  Their productions and co-productions include “African American Lives” (PBS), “The Road to 9/11” (PBS), “The American President” (PBS), “Moments of Courage” (Discovery) and “JFK: In His Own Words” (HBO).  For more information, visit

# # #

Welcome back!

Connect with WETA

  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest

Press Contacts

Cecily Van Praagh