In 1793 President George Washington laid the cornerstone of the United States Capitol. This event initiated the construction of a building which the statesmen and political leaders of the day hoped would be a grand monument to the democratic ideals of the young nation. To the extent that this first national government building in the Capital City achieved its lofty objective was due to the creativity and vision of Benjamin Latrobe. He served as architect of the United States Capitol from 1803 to 1813 and again from 1815 to 1817.
In 1803 the Trustees of Dickinson College laid the cornerstone of the first building on campus, now called Old West. Latrobe worked on these projects- the Capitol and the College-simultaneously. Although they differ markedly in scale and function, Latrobe's "special touches" are evident in both.