Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Activists to McHenry County—We Won’t Back Down! End ICE Detention at the Jail


Less than two weeks ago we gathered on Woodstock Square for an Abolish ICE in McHenry County Protest.  Now local activists are calling for a return to the Square this Friday, August 14 from 8:30 to 10 pm for A Vigil for an ICE Free McHenry County.

Event sponsors include Activists for Racial Equity, D156 LASO, Elgin Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Elgin in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter, Fox Valley Citizens for Peace and Justice, McHenry Direct Action, Standing Up Against Racism - Woodstock, and Occupy Elgin.   It will feature “multiple speakers and watch a visual art installation.  Masks are required and the city asks that we maintain 6 foot social distancing using the spray-painted circles on the lawn. Candles are not allowed, so please bring a flashlight, use the light on your phone, or bring a battery-operated candle.”


The Old Man addressing the Abolish ICE in McHenry County Protest on behalf of the Tree of Life Social Justice Team.  I called not just for abolishing ICE but also the Department of Homeland Security.
A main demand of the earlier Abolish ICE Protest was that the McHenry County Board act to cancel the Sheriff’s Department lease of a floor in the county Jail as an immigrant detention facility.  This week’s vigil will keep up the public pressure for justice.  That has been controversial ever since the Jail added another floor specifically to be leased out to other jurisdictions as a revenue stream.  At first overflow prisoners from other collar county jails or juvenile offenders were expected to fill the new beds.  But those rentals failed to either fill the beds or cover the county’s expenses including additional staff.  In 2004 the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the U.S. Marshalls service which is in charge of the custody of detained immigrants made an offer the Sheriff couldn’t—or wouldn’t—refuse to pay $95 a day per detainee and basically guarantee full usage of the facility.

The public enterance to the fortress like McHenry County Jail.  The Immigration Detention facility occupies the entire fourth floor..  Several demonstrations and vigils have been held by the jail over the years.

There was always some opposition on the Board to this scheme out of fiscal, not moral, concerns.  When the lease was last up for renewal there were questions by some Board members whether the payments actually covered expenses.  But the criticism was more about an internal Republican Party schism between old guard “moderates” represented by former Sheriff Keith Nygren, supporters of his political nemesis former State’s Attorney Lou Bianchi, and far right wing party insurgents.

Meanwhile local immigrant rights activists and groups have staged a series of marches, rallies, and protests both at the jail and on the Square in recent years, the first being a march from the Square to the County Administrative building as far back as 2007 led by Carlos Acosta of the old Latino Coalition, Maggie Rivera of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and the Rev. Dan Larsen of the old Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Woodstock (now Tree of Life UU in McHenry.)   It was a major theme of the Hate Has No Home Here rally in 2017, an immigrant rights event in 2018, both on the Square, and last summer’s Lights for Liberty rally and vigil at the jail co-sponsored by Indivisible Illinois, the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants (ICDI), LULAC, McHenry County Progressives, McHenry County NOW, Woodstock Pride, and the Tree of Life Social Justice Team among others.

Rev. Dan Larsen helping to lead McHenry County's first immigrant justice march from Woodstock Square to the County Government complex with Magier Rivera  and Carlos Acosta in 2007.

Immigration, like guns and abortion brings the rabid right wing to a broiling froth of rage.  The Illinois Minutemen was active in the county in 2008.  Recognized as a hate group by the Sothern Poverty Law Center’s Klan Watch, the group threatened vigilante militia action against local Latino communities.  Counter protests to their meetings and bad publicity led to the formal group fading away, but not its principle members or its hate-filled mission.  McHenry County leaders went on to win seats of the County Board and the McHenry County College Board, were an important cog in the far-right takeover of the of the McHenry County Republican Party, former Minuteman leader Diane Evertsen was elected to a term as GOP County Chairman.  That is how deeply ingrained anti-immigrant attitudes are ingrained in the party and it has been whipped up by the emergence of Donald Trump as essentially a white nationalist president.

The Illinois Minuteman Project was an active anti-immigrant hate group.  It's local leaders became McHenry County Republican Party right-wing mainstays.
It wasn’t until this year with four Democrats on the County Board and the approval of at least bringing the question up by County Board Chair Jack Franks that Carlos Acosta, now representing District 5 was able to get a resolution to terminate the ICE contract onto the agenda. 

On July 28, two days after the Abolish ICE in McHenry County Protest, the Board’s Law and Government Committee took up Acosta’s motion.  It was an ugly scene.  Outraged opponents of the resolution complained that rescinding the contract had become “political” as if any issue brought by constituents to the Board wasn’t.  Jeff Thorsten of Crystal Lake representing District 2 scolded community members who came to speak on behalf of the resolution saying “the way you guys play ball sucks.”  Chuck Wheeler of District 4 parroted the claims of Trump supporting Sheriff Bill Prim who falsely accused most detainees in the facility of being criminals who are housed in comfortable conditions.  Only Acosta and District 2 Democrat Kelli Wegner supported the resolutions with Thorseten and Wheeler joined by Michelle Aavang (D-6), John Jung (D-5), Bob Nowak (D-1), and Tom Wilbek (D-1) to nix the measure.

But it was not the final word on the subject from the Board.  The whole Board will consider the measure at their meeting on Tuesday, August 18.  This week’s Vigil will help rally support for the measure.  In the meantime advocates are especially encouraging community members to contact their Board members but especially these:

They recommend to make sure the e-mails sent from the links are read, “include your own unique subject line (Shut ICE down, End ICE, etc.) and one unique sentence that shares why you believe ICE needs to go. This way, your emails won’t be marked as spam.” Phone calls can also be made and residents are encouraged to attend the meeting to make their views known.
Since the July 26 protest news reports have highlighted the urgency of abolishing ICE as well as ending the local contract.  Three detainees and one staff member at the Jail have now tested positive for the Coronavirus.  This comes after two inmates successfully sued to be released from custody because their health conditions put them at high risk if exposed.  Covid-19 is notoriously infectious in cramped jail or prison conditions and ICE has actually spread the infection by moving detainees from detention center to detention center.
Meanwhile a report by Buzz Feed News said that “There’s been a major increase in the use Of force against immigrants At ICE Detention Centers during The pandemic” siting instances of the use of pepper spray and  pepper balls in confined spaces at the Adelanto Detention Facility in California and other facilities.  More than 600 detainees have been subjected to these uses of force in at least 10 instances since March.  Detainees were kept in close spaces with gas still in the air for prolonged periods especially injuring or putting at risk those with respiratory problems and other conditions.  While there have been no reported incidents at the McHenry County facility these episodes highlight the essential cruelty of the detention system.
On Monday our local daily paper, the Northwest Herald ran a full page op-ed piece by members of the organizations sponsoring Friday’s vigil.  After outlining the experiences of trying to get the County Board’s Law and Government Committee to act they wrote:
The McHenry County community is not comfortable profiting off the backs of detained immigrants who build the country, day in and day out.  ICE is a vehicle for tear, racism, xenophobia, and internal terrorism.  Enough is Enough.
Join us Friday to show ICE and the McHenry County Board that we won’t shut up, go away, or back down.

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Funt Family Dynasty of Gotcha and Candid Camera

Bill Cullen, Durward Kirby, and Alan Funt on the 1960s CBS version of Candid Camera.

On August 10, 1948 Alan Funt premiered Candid Camera on ABC Television.  It was a reality show before that was a thing.  Since then the program has had as many lives as six cats but has been aired regularly on network TV, in syndication, as a special segments on Jack Paar’s Tonight Show and Gary Moore’s variety program, and in numerous specials.
At the center was always show creator Alan Funt, who adapted it from a radio program called Candid Microphone and/or his son Peter.  The concept was simple—Funt filmed ordinary people without their knowledge, often when set up in some kind of prank or ruse.  It was a durable premise.

"Smile, you're on Candid Camera became a pop culture catch phrase.

Many broadcasters and celebrities co-hosted various incarnations of the program.  The longest uninterrupted stretch on network TV aired on CBS from 1960 to ’67 and featured Arthur Godfrey the first season, the Garry Moore Show’s announcer Durward Kirby from 1961 to 1966, and former Miss America Bess Myerson for the final season of the run.  These are the classic episodes most remembered by Baby Boomers.
Because he filmed on the East Coast instead of California, the people captured on the lens seemed all the more real—often bundled up in heavy winter coats, eating at greasy spoon diners—the site of many gags—and often talking in thick accents.

Woody Allen flummoxed a steno temp with nonsence dictation in a Candid Camera bit.
Sometimes celebrities like Buster Keaton helped set up gags, but most frequently it was Funt himself, who looked so ordinary that no one ever seemed to recognize him.  Other episodes simply let the camera’s roll.  One hilarious bit was filmed from behind a two-way mirror in a high school boy’s restroom—surely impossible to do these days—which caught the teenagers carefully combing and fussing with their elaborate pompadours and duck tail hair styles.
Other co-hosts over the years have included John Bartholomew Tucker; Dorothy Collins of Your Hit Parade; writer Fannie Flagg, who had worked behind the scenes on the show in the ‘50’s;  Phyllis George, another former Miss America; actress Betsy Palmer; and comic actress Jo Ann Pflug.
After Alan died in 1992, Peter took over the franchise.  There were a number of TV specials and a return to the CBS line-up from 1996 to 2001 with Suzanne Summers as co-host.  The show moved to basic cable PAX network until 2004 with Dian Ruiz Eastwood, wife of Clint Eastwood as co-host. In 2014, the show returned in a new series with hour-long episodes on TV Land, but this incarnation only lasted a single season.  Peter Funt returned as a host, joined by actress Mayim Bialik.

Peter Funk and The Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik co-hosted the final version of Candid Camera  on TV Land cable network in 2014 66 years after it first ran on ABC-TV.
The show is currently out of production and re-runs are no longer in syndication, although Peter Funt continues to try to revive the franchise. 
The format, however lived on in a number guises including Ashton Kushner’s Punked, Howie Mandel’s various vehicles, Betty White’s senior citizen version Off Their Rockers on NBC, and several low-rent cable rip-offs.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Third Party Blues— The Free Soilers Fall Short

An anti-Free Soil cartoon shows party leaders as warlocks brewing up a poison pot.

The history of third party movements in this country is strewn with failure, futility, and frustration.  Yet often they set the stage for great change to come.  That was certainly true of the first important third party, the Free Soilers born on August 9, 1848 at an outdoor convention in Buffalo, New York’s Court House Park.
The party arose from the bitter debate about the status of territories recently obtained by conquest in the Mexican War.  Southern zealots wanted the whole territory including parts of Texas, New Mexico (including the future Arizona), California, and parts of the future states of Colorado, Utah, and Nevada open to slavery without reservation.  Northern states had enough power in Congress to block that.
Northern Democrats, always seeking accommodation, officially advanced the doctrine of Popular Sovereignty—letting the citizens of the new territories decide their status by popular election. 
This outraged anti-slavery Northern Whigs and a minority of Democrats centered on Up State New York. These factions endorsed the Wilmot Proviso an 1846 proposed rider to an appropriation bill for the costs of negotiating a peace with Mexico.  The Proviso would have banned slavery in any territory to be acquired from Mexico.  Although it was defeated, advocates hoped to resurrect it in some form.

The areas shown in tan on this map of U.S. territorial growth include Texas and the lands acquired by conquest in the Mexican War.  The Wilmont Proviso would have banned slavery from all but Texas.  It was doomed to failure in Congress but its ardent supporters would form the nucleus off the new Free Soil Party. 
In the run up to the 1848 Presidential Race the Whigs, always an unstable coalition of former anti-Jacksonians, side-stepped the issue in their platform but nominated war hero Zachary Taylor, a Louisiana plantation and slave owner who was presumed to be sympathetic to the extension of slavery.  Although it later turned out that Taylor was not, outraged anti-slavery Whigs centered in Massachusetts and New England began to look for alternatives.
Meanwhile the Democrats nominated Michigan Senator Lewis Cass, the leading proponent of Popular Sovereignty leading to a similar crisis among anti-slavery elements of that party.
Opponents of the Free Soil Party--and they were legion--mocked its embrace of the tiny, largely symbolic abolitionist Liberty Party. A reluctant Martin Van Buren, third from left is shown being reluctantly shoved into the arms of Negros by Democratic Barn burners and Boston Whig snobs.
Things came to a head earlier in 1847 at the New York State Democratic Convention where the majority refused to endorse the Wilmot Proviso.  Almost half of the members of the convention, the so-called Barn Burners centered in heavily anti-slavery Up State, walked out.  But they did not entirely abandon the party until Cass’s nomination.
A meeting was called in Utica at which it was decided to invite anti-slavery Whigs and members of the tiny abolitionist Liberty Party to join the Buffalo Convention and form a new party.
Although the meeting was engineered by the Barn Burners and supporters of the old Albany Regency, the nation’s first state-wide political machine which had been put together by Martin Van Buren in the late 1820’s, the leading strategists at the convention became Ohio’s Salmon B, Chase, a Whig and erstwhile maverick Democratic Senator John P. Hale of New Hampshire.  Since his election to the Senate by a surprise coalition of minority Whigs and anti-slavery Democrats in the New Hampshire legislature in 1847, Hale had quickly established himself as the most voracious opponent of slavery in the Senate.  His experience led him to have faith in the possibilities of a fusion of the anti-slavery factions of the two established parties.
Although the Free Soilers were above all a party devoted to stemming the expansion of slavery, they were not quite the single issue party often portrayed in history.  Their platform adopted planks shrewdly designed to appeal to former partisans of the older parties.  On the one hand they endorsed Federal spending on internal improvements, a cause dear to Henry Clay Whigs and Westerners and on the other opposed protective tariffs, long a cornerstone of Democratic platforms.  They also advanced a proposal for disposing of government land in the West by homesteading.
Still, their party platform proclaimed, “...we inscribe on our banner, ‘Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor and Free Men,’ and under it we will fight on and fight ever, until a triumphant victory shall reward our exertions.”


The Free Soil Party Ticket of 1848--Martin Van Buren and Charles Francis Adams
The convention turned for the head of its national ticket to former President Van Buren, who had been ousted after one term by the Whigs who smeared him, unfairly, as an elitist fop and William Henry Harrison who aped the populism of Andrew Jackson.  The aging former Red Fox of the Kinderhook was a shrewd politician and saw a possibility of a comeback, or at least a vindication of his tarnished reputation.  But Van Buren had been strangely mum on the subject of slavery in national office, understandable as Andrew Jackson’s Secretary of State, second Vice President, and protégée.  As President he maneuvered for the annexation of Texas, which was bitterly opposed by anti-slavery factions.
But Van Buren announced he had always been an opponent of slavery’s expansion in his heart.  And hoping that a ticket led by a former President would give them instant respectability, the convention went along.
For Vice President the convention turned to a familiar family nameAdams.  Charles Francis Adams was the son and grandson of Presidents.  His father, John Quincy Adams was lionized by Massachusetts Whigs as Old Man Eloquent for his long post-presidential service in the House of Representatives as an outspoken anti-slavery man.  The studious young Adams was supposed to garner support among the Boston elite.
The new party gained some important support, notably from intellectuals like educator Horace Mann, who had filled John Quincy Adams’s House seat after his death; journalist and editor Richard Henry Dana, Jr.; Charles Sumner leader of Boston’s Conscience Whigs and future Senator;  poet/editor William Cullen Bryant of New York City; the Quaker Hoosier John Greenleaf Whittier; and Walt Whitman who became a Brooklyn party leader and editor of the Brooklyn Freeman, a party newspaper.


This Massachusetts Free Soil rally featured former anti-slavery Whig, rising Party Star, and future U.S,Senator Charles Sumner.
The Free Soilers also ran candidates for Congress and for several state legislature seats.
The party was careful to pitch itself as moderate.  It did not attack slavery as a fundamental evil or advocate for its abolition where it was in force.  Instead it argued that the extension of slavery was a threat to Free Labor and that blocking expansion would eventually cause it to “wither away” even in the Deep South.  That drew the scorn of Abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison who charged that it was “white manism.”  Still, a lot of moderate slavery opponents were drawn to the party.
During the campaign it became apparent that things were not working out as hoped and planned. Of course the party had no hope in the South.  That region was split between Democrats supporting Cass, and Whigs in the corner of slave holding Taylor.  But Van Buren could not shake the elitist reputation so successfully hung on him damaging his appeal to northern voters, particularly in the big cities.  Worse, New England Whigs deeply distrusted him as Jackson’s former crony.  Many held their noses and voted for Taylor or sat on their hands in the election.
When the votes were counted the ticket of Van Buren and Adams got a respectable 291,501 votes and 10.1% of popular votes cast for a distant third place.  They failed to get a single electoral vote and were probably the margin of difference that gave the close race between Taylor and Cass to the old general.
On the bright side, the party won seats in Congress and enough state legislative seats so that in combination with liberal Democrats and anti-slavery Whigs they were able to elect candidates like Sumner to the Senate.  Although a small minority in both houses, the Free Soilers in Congress became an important voice in the national debate.
After the Compromise of 1850 most Democrats drifted back to their old party.  But a stalwart few remained steadfastly with the Free Soilers.
In the election of 1852 the Party offered little known John P. Hale for President and Representative George Julian of Indiana for Vice President.  The ticket garnered half of the popular votes won by Van Buren and just over 5% of the total.
Salmon P. Chase of Ohio led the remnants of the Free Soil Party into the new Republican Party and in 1860 was a major contender against Abraham Lincoln and others for the Presidential nomination.  Lincoln held his nose and appointed Chase as his Secretary of the Treasury.  
After Northern outrage against the Kansas Nebraska Act, most remaining Free Soilers followed leaders like Salmon P. Chase into becoming an important part, maybe even the backbone, of the new Republican Party, which in the four short years between its nominations of John C. Frémont in 1856 and Abraham Lincoln in 1860 became the first and only third party ever to achieve major party status.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Charles Bulfinch and The Foundation of American Architecture

Usually considered Charles Bulfinch's masterpiece the Massachusetts State House on the crest of Beacon Hill in Boston looked like this in 1827 shortly after its completion.  It still dominates the old city, its dome now shining with gold gilt.

Not only was he the first American born professional architect, he was the most important until the dawn of modernism and the technological revolutions of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.  He set the tone for both religious and public buildings and left his direct stamp on two great cities.
Charles Bulfinch was born in Boston on August 8, 1763.  His father Thomas was one of the city’s leading physicians and the family was prominent in social circles.  He grew up and came of age during the American Revolution rooted in the spirit of the city’s liberal Congregationalism and a sense of civic life and republican virtue.  He attended Boston Latin School and Harvard University graduating in 1781 following up with Master’s degree in 1784.
The next year his father sent him on the grand tour of Europe.  He met Thomas Jefferson who was serving as Minister to France.  Jefferson took the young man under his wing.  The two shared a passion for architecture, particularly the classic buildings of Rome.  In England he was impressed by the neo-classical style of Sir Christopher Wren, Robert Adam, William Chambers and the Palladian style being developed in Dublin.
Returning to Boston in 1787 his first venture was not as an architect, but as a businessman and investor.  He was a prime backer and organizer for Captain Robert Gray’s voyage on the Columbia Rediviva, the first circumnavigation of the globe by and American ship which helped set the stage for a golden age of Yankee trade.

Bulfinch in the early 19th Century.
He used the profits from that voyage to set himself up as an architect.  It was uncharted territory.  Previously master builders designed buildings based on well-established styles and books of elevations and floor plans imported from Europe.  A few amateurs dabbled, mostly designing buildings for their own use.  No one was making a living creating new designs for clients—and nobody knew if it was even possible.
His first commission was for the Hollis Street Church in 1788.  When their original building burned, the congregation took a chance on you Bulfinch.  He built a fine, handsome, building with a neo-classical central columned pediment symmetrically flanked by matching towers.  Constrained by the budget of the church, the building was executed in wood.  But Bulfinch was clearly dreaming in stone and masonry.

Bulfinch's New North Church, now St. Stephen's Catholic Church, over looks a plaza featuring an equestrian state of Paul Revere.
Building churches in and around Boston would be a mainstay of his practice.  He was soon able to realize his vision in red brick with white plaster for his signature columns.  His designs became both simpler and more elegant, usually incorporating a central tower, often doubling as a clock tower and belfry and capped with a cupola or occasionally a spire.  Most of his church buildings have been lost but the New North Church in the North End built in 1804 still stands.  It has now been restored and is the home of St. Stephen’s Catholic Church.  A late example, regarded by many as among Bulfinch’s finest work is First Church, Unitarian in Lancaster, Massachusetts.   His style of church architecture was widely copied for decades in New England and wherever the New England diaspora settled.

The elegant  simplicity of First Church, Unitarian in Lancaster, Massachusetts show how the Federalist style grew out of neoclassic design.  
Bulfinch’s bread and butter in the early years of his practice was designing elegant homes for Boston’s elite in the fashionable new neighborhood of Beacon Hill.  Several still dot the area including two homes built for his friend and near contemporary Harrison Gray Otis, a leader of the Federalist Party and future Mayor of Boston. 
In fact, the association of Bulfinch with Boston’s leading Federalists gave a new name for the architectural style which he was evolving out of the neo-classical—the Federal style.  It also led to important public commissions and his own political career.

He married his first cousin Hannah Apthorp, a common practice among Boston’s in-bread elite, in 1788.  The young couple had two sons, Thomas Bulfinch future author of Bulfinch’s Mythology, and Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch who became a leading Unitarian clergyman and author.  The family aspired to live like Bulfinch’s wealthy clients. 

Unfortunately, despite impeccable breeding they did not have the fortune of the merchants and top lawyer/politicians like Otis.  They had to rely on his commissions, which even though he was in great demand, proved unreliable—many clients delayed payments or never paid in full, including his civic projects.  As a result he was periodically in financial straits.  He was even imprisoned for debt while working on the Massachusetts State House because the legislature dallied about authorizing his fees.  In 1811, while serving in public office he was jailed for the month of July in a prison he built himself.

Bulfinch’s public commissions began with the Memorial Column to the Revolution erected on Beacon Hill in 1789.  His election to the Board of Selectmen in 1791 would lead to more work.  But he was a busy and effective public servant during two stretches on the Board, 1791 to 1795 and again from 1799 to 1817 when he served as Chairman. The two terms were interrupted when one of his financial crises compelled him to concentrate on business.

Bulfinch's reconstruction of fame Faneuil Hall which had been the cradle of the Revolution in Boston included adding  third story, widening the building and moving the coupla from the center of the roof to one end.  The ground floor became a bustling market place.
During his second term he also served as Police Commissioner and took a major role in redeveloping central Boston including overseeing the of the remodeling and enlargement of Faneuil Hall in 1805, the construction of India Wharf, and the preservation as open land and planning of Boston Common as the city’s central park.  He also worked on drainage and sanitation improvement.  Much of the handsome central city enjoyed by tourists today on Boston’s Freedom Trail is owed directly to Bulfinch’s work and foresight.

The Old State House in Hartfoed, Connecticut seen year in an early 1950s  color postcard.

 He still had time for important commissions including the Old State House in Hartford, Connecticut in 1796 and the Massachusetts State House in 1798.  The later, constructed on the crest of Beacon Hill overlooking the Common, is often considered his masterpiece.  The impressive front façade is dominated by a colonnaded pediment sitting atop an arched stoa and flanked by arched windows.  It was surmounted by a dome caped with an acorn which was originally painted light grey to resemble marble.  The wooden dome leaked and in 1802 Bulfinch had it covered in copper by Paul Revere who had perfected a method of producing copper in large sheets.  The dome was famously gilded with gold in 1874 then painted over during World War II supposedly to prevent light glinting off its surface from becoming beacon to German bombers.  It was re-gilded at great expense in 1994 and gleams again over the city.

Other important commissions in Boston and New England included the Federal Street Theater (1793); the Tontine Crescent, a curved row of 16 townhouses around a central garden (1793–1794); the Massachusetts State Prison (1803); Boylston Market (1810); Harvard’s University Hall (1813–1814); and the Bulfinch Building of Massachusetts General Hospital (1818).

Bulfinch’s life was changed when as Chairman of the Board of Selectmen he entertained President James Monroe on his 1817 tour of New England.  The two men were constant companions during the President’s week long stay in the Hub of the Universe where his mission was restoring regional loyalty strained by the War of 1812 and reconciling his Democratic Republicans with the dying Federalists.  He found a willing partner in Bulfinch and the two also bonded over personal admiration for Thomas Jefferson who had mentored them both.

Within months Monroe called Bulfinch to Washington D.C. to become the third official Architect of the Capital replacing Benjamin Latrobe.  The position paid a handsome $2,500 per year plus the golden perk of “expenses” which rescued the architect from yet another financial emergency stemming from the depression of the New England economy caused by Jefferson’s Embargo of trade with European combatants and the War of 1812 which ground construction in Boston nearly to a halt.

Bulfinch left completion of the hospital to an associate, resigned from the Board of Selectmen and moved his family to the nation’s capital.

Bulfinch's redesign of the U.S. Capitol building which had been damaged by the burning of Washington in the War of 1812 included finishishing the two winks, connecting them with  central portion including the Rotunfs, the western portico and the low wooden dome..  The building looked like this until work began adding the larger cast-iron dome shortly before the Civil War.
He found a big job there.  The first task was re-constructing the Capital building itself which was damaged in the burning of Washington by the British in 1814. He completed the Capitol’s wings and central portion including the rotunda, designed the western approach and portico, and original low wooden dome, the one replaced by the present cast-iron dome in the mid-1860s.  He completed work on the Capital in 1829.

Bulfinch also doubled as Commissioner of Public Buildings and oversaw the construction of other public buildings in the city.  His vision of a harmonized Federal presence built around Jeffersonian neo-classic style and impressive stone construction not only preserved and extended the grand visions of Pierre L’Enfant for the city, but became a model for public buildings across the country for more than a century.

Bufinch designed the first home of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington.

 While in Washington he also designed All Souls Unitarian Church of which he was a charter member along with such luminaries as President John Quincy Adams and Vice President John C. Calhoun.  He also found time to work on commissions for distant projects, although he could not personally oversee the construction as was his preference.   These included the State House in Augusta, Maine in 1829.  He thus had his hand in the construction of three state capital buildings plus his significant changes and improvements to U.S. Capital.

This plaque adorns Bulfinch's birthplace home.
In 1830 Bulfinch and his wife returned to Boston where he lived in honored retirement.  He died there on April 15, 1844 at the age of 80.  He was laid to rest in the crowded burial grounds of Unitarian King’s Chapel.  His family later had his remains removed to a family tomb at Mount Auburn Cemetery, the final resting place of a who’s who of the Boston political, religious, and literary elite.