Benjamin West. Portrait of William Hamilton and Ann Hamilton Lyle , oil on canvas, 1745-1813 (Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia).

Benjamin West. Portrait of William Hamilton and Ann Hamilton Lyle oil on canvas, 1745-1813 (Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia).

William Hamilton

William Hamilton (1745-1813) was born in Philadelphia to a wealthy family of colonial lawyers and politicians. In 1766, at the age of 21, he inherited over 300 acres of land on the west side of the Schuylkill River. There he built a classical villa with a two-story columned portico overlooking the waterway. After the Revolution, Hamilton traveled to England and visited grand country estates.

By his return in 1786 he had determined to rebuild his house in the adventurously modern classical taste pioneered by British architects Robert and James Adam. He more than doubled the villa’s size, devising major additions to the east and west. The reworked first floor greeted the visitor with three social spaces of contrasting shapes leading from a domed vestibule. Full kitchen and service facilities were incorporated in a windowed cellar. At The Woodlands one finds the earliest full realization in this country of many of the characteristics of the Federal style, which would reign over American architecture for the next few decades.

Hamilton's Mansion

William Hamilton’s seat at The Woodlands was recognized throughout post-revolutionary America as a leading example of English taste in architecture and landscape gardening. As its centerpiece is Hamilton’s mansion-house, which stands as one of the greatest American domestic achievements of the eighteenth-century. More...

Hamilton's Landscape

Hamilton was an eminent botanist and plant collector, and made The Woodlands a New World model of contemporary English landscape gardening techniques. More...



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