IMAGES of the besieged Capitol building in Washington D.C. have been beamed across the world in the last 24 hours, but few will have realised its historic links to West Yorkshire.

Local historian James Rhodes, who runs the Rhodes To The Past blog, has revealed the town of Pudsey has links to the Capitol building and many other historic buildings in the US capital.

And now, as violence and sadness sweeps over the building in 2021, the history books record yet another moment when the Capitol has been at the epicentre of political chaos.

The history

On August 24 in 1814, British soldiers invaded the city with the goal of destruction, retaliating against the American raids on British possessions in Canada.

The troops set Government buildings alight - including the White House and Capitol building – before retreating in the face of a tornado and torrential rain.

Before leaving, British soldiers extinguished the fires and many Americans branded the weather as the ‘Storm that saved Washington’ – despite the fact the storm likely made the damage worse.

In the aftermath of the attack, James Madison, the fourth U.S. president, turned to the Father of American Architecture, Benjamin Latrobe, to oversee the reconstruction of the city.

But Latrobe’s esteemed career had humble beginnings in the Moravian settlement of Fulneck.

The future architect was born on May 1 in 1764 and attended Fulneck school, a small independent day and boarding school.

At the age of 12, he was sent away to a Moravian school in Prussia and, in his late teens, served briefly in both the Royal Prussian Army and Austrian Imperial Army.

Mr Rhodes has told how he returned to England in 1784 and learnt his trade alongside Leeds-born engineer John Smeaton as an apprentice.

He later qualified as an architect, designing Ashdown House, the prep school attended by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Love and loss

The architect married Lydia Sellon, the daughter of a wealthy family and socialite of her day, and the pair had a daughter and son.

Latrobe lost his wife in 1793 to childbirth and, following a mental breakdown, ventured across the oceans for a new life in America two years later.

Arriving in March 1796 – following what Mr Rhodes described as a “terrible four-month Atlantic crossing during which he nearly starved to death” – he won the favour of several influential figures.

Future president Thomas Jefferson assigned him to the design of the State Penitentiary in Richmond, Virginia.

The Leeds historian writes: “Jefferson appointed Latrobe to oversee the construction of the Capitol Building and the White House portico but construction work was halted in 1812, when tensions between America and Great Britain led to the outbreak of war and the subsequent destruction wrought by the British. Latrobe fled the capital for Pittsburgh.

“It was from Pittsburgh that President Madison summoned Latrobe to repair the damage done by the British and to complete the projects he had begun in 1803. By this time, however, Latrobe was involved in numerous projects in several states and had to resign from his position in 1817.

“Nevertheless, his influence on the design of two of America’s most famous buildings can still be seen, not least the famous White House portico.

“Three years later, in 1820, Latrobe contracted yellow fever and died. It was a cruel irony because another of Latrobe’s great American achievements was the creation of a fresh water supply to Philadelphia which did much to relieve the suffering caused there by yellow fever.”

His grave can be found in Saint Louis Cemetery in New Orleans – buried alongside his eldest son and architect Henry Sellon Boneval Latrobe who had died three years earlier from the same illness.