Biographical / Historical
Robert Mills (1781 1855) was born in August, 1781, in Charleston, South Carolina. After completing grammar school he took classes under architect James Hoban.
Hoban left in 1792 to supervise construction of the President's House in Washington (which he designed). About 1799 Mills moved to Washington and began work as a draftsman of plans for the Capitol under Hoban. For about a year, Mills presumably lived with Thomas Jefferson, studying architecture from his library.
In 1802 Mills entered his first professional design competition for the design of South Carolina College, but did not win. From 1802 1809, Mills worked (with sporadic interuptions from assorted commissions) with Benjamin Latrobe, who was at the time the acting federal engineer of the Chesapeake and Delaware region. Under Latrobe he worked as a draftsman on the design of the U.S. Capitol and the Baltimore Cathedral.
In 1814 Mills received national recognition when he won the competition for the design of Baltimore's Washington Monument. He supervised its construction until 1820, when he moved back to South Carolina to become the civil architect for the state, designing several courthouses and jails throughout the area.
Mills moved back to Washington in 1829. In 1836 he won the competition for the design of the Treasury and began a long career as an architect for the Federal Government. It was during this time that Mills designed the buildings he is most widely known for: the Post Office and the Washington National Monument. He also supervised construction of the Patent Office and submitted preliminary designs for the Capitol extension and the Smithsonian Institution. He served under seven Presidents, retiring in 1851.