cover image Orders from France

Orders from France

Roger G. Kennedy. Alfred A. Knopf, $39.95 (527pp) ISBN 978-0-394-55592-8

The French influence on U.S. architecture in the American Republic's formative years, as Kennedy demonstrates, went far beyond the modeling of Williamsburg, Va., on Versailles or the design of Washington, D.C., by Pierre-Charles L'Enfant. Enlivened by more than 150 illustrations, this absorbing, pleasantly rambling chronicle tells dozens of stories--of emigre French architects, adventurers, schemers and princes; of slave rebellions, wars, investment schemes, secret diplomacy; and of the American towns, forts, plantations, university campuses, houses and public buildings that bore a French stamp as a result of this cross-cultural interchange. French engineer Marc Brunel, protege of Aaron Burr, proposed the routes and techniques for building New York State's canals. And overlooking the Hudson River was Alexander Hamilton's estate, ``The Grange,'' full of Creole architectural influences. Kennedy, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, links building styles to the traffic in ideas, goods and technology. (May)