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Peter Lenox (1770-1832) was a carpenter from Williamsburg, Virginia. In the early 1790s, Lenox moved to the developing site of Washington, D.C., and by 1797 had joined a crew of artisans working on the President's House. During Thomas Jefferson's presidency, Lenox continued work at the executive mansion and also handled special commissions from the President.
From 1802 to 1804, Lenox made extensive repairs and alterations at the President's House. He improved the ice house and added a cellar, stable, and shed. He also supplied a frame for Jefferson's Mammoth Cheese, constructed packing boxes, and built a coffin for an infant slave.1 Additionally, Lenox supplied Jefferson with most of the Venetian blinds at Monticello. All totaled, Jefferson paid Lenox nearly $400 over a period of seven years between March 29, 1802, and March 10, 1809.2
During James Madison's presidency, Lenox served as foreman and clerk at the President's House and was involved with restoration after the invasion of British forces in 1814. He served as chief carpenter and clerk of construction for the Capitol building from 1817 onward. Benjamin Latrobe was somewhat critical of the decision to put Lenox in charge at the Capitol, because he knew little about arched construction; Latrobe's skepticism was later borne out when several of the arches in the Capitol failed.3
Peter Lenox was an involved citizen of Washington, D.C., and helped direct the city's defense during the War of 1812. He held several civic offices and served on various corporate boards. At the time of his death in 1832, he owned substantial property in Washington.4
- Brown, Glenn. History of the United States Capitol. New York: Da Capo Press, 1970.
- Seale, William. The President's House: A History. Washington, D.C.: White House Historical Association, 1986.
- 1. See the editorial note following Lenox to Jefferson, June 27, 1812, in PTJ:RS, 5:178-79n. Editorial note available at Founders Online.
- 2. See Lenox to Jefferson, May 26, 1804, Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts, Massachusetts Historical Society; MB, 2:1069, 2:1076, 2:1088, 2:1093, 2:1118, 2:1139, 2:1153, 2:1158, 2:1228, 2:1242.
- 3. See Latrobe to Madison, March 14, 1809, in The Papers of James Madison, Presidential Series, ed. Robert A. Rutland et al. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1984), 1:48-49 (transcription available at Founders Online); Latrobe, Memorial to Congress in Vindication of His Professional Skill, December 8, 1818, in The Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, ed. John C. Van Horne and Lee W. Formwalt (New Haven: Published for the Maryland Historical Society by Yale University Press, 1984-1988), 3:1010-16.
- 4. See the editorial note following Lenox to Jefferson, June 27, 1812, in PTJ:RS, 5:178-79n. Editorial note available at Founders Online.