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Virginia Architecture in the Seventeenth Century   By:

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VIRGINIA ARCHITECTURE IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

By

HENRY CHANDLEE FORMAN

Ph.D. (Fine Arts), A.I.A.

With Drawings and Photographs by the Author

VIRGINIA 350TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION CORPORATION

WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA

1957

COPYRIGHT©, 1957 BY HENRY CHANDLEE FORMAN

Jamestown 350th Anniversary Historical Booklet, Number 11

Dedicated to Singleton Peabody Moorehead

INTRODUCTION

In the green, southern land which today comprises the Commonwealth of Virginia, there flourished three centuries ago the fine art of architecture, and it is with that subject the art of building in good design, with sound construction, and for the proper use that this brief essay is concerned. But it is deplorable for one interested in the subject of historic preservation to have to relate what time and man have done to seventeenth century Virginia architecture; there is so very little left compared to what formerly existed. If it has not been man himself with his so called "improvements," his neglect, and his vandalism, it has been fire, the weather, and the insects which have caused widespread obliteration almost a clean sweep of the structures of those times.

Nevertheless, by means of careful studies of a few existing buildings, of several foundations under the ground, of artifacts and manuscripts, of old prints and photographs and even of relevant material found in Britain, we possess today enough data to make a goodly outline of the subject. Set forth here are the principal styles of architecture in Virginia between 1600 and 1700, with some account of their origins and their development.

[Illustration: PUNCHED BRASS KEY ESCUTCHEON 2 5/8" long, from the "Bin House," Jamestown]

The writer has endeavored to approach this task with understanding and sympathy, for which he is qualified. He has lived on the Jamestown road in Williamsburg and has Jamestown in his blood; he has written and lectured much on Virginia; is currently a registered architect in that Commonwealth; and on both sides of his family traces his descent back to the seventeenth century Chews, Brents, Ayres, and Skipwiths, who, living along the banks of the James River, saw much of the architecture described herein. In the preparation for this little work, two incidents stand out as being important and essential: in 1936 he was a house guest of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities and lived in its "Malvern Hill" reproduction at Jamestown while he made studies of the ruins on that property; and in 1940 he stayed several nights on the Pamunkey Indian Reservation, near West Point, as guest of those Virginia Indians, while he made a study in art and archaeology in part preparation for the doctorate.

This work is protected under the copyright law of the United States of America, and no part of this work may be taken or used in any fashion whether text or illustration without written permission from the publishers and the author.

We commence the fascinating story of the early architecture of Virginia by describing the first architectural style which ever flourished there a style about which most people know little and most school children nothing.

VIRGINIA ARCHITECTURE IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

I

FIRST IN VIRGINIA: AMERICAN INDIAN ARCHITECTURE

When the first English colonists arrived before Jamestown Island, Virginia, on May 13, 1607, there was already in existence an indigenous architecture which had been flourishing in that land for hundreds of years. It is true that that particular kind of architecture, American Indian, was, by and large, a perishable wooden one; nevertheless, the subject may not be ignored by stating that it did not exist. This Indian art of building forms an important chapter in the early history of Virginia.

For thousands of years the Indian a light brown man, with brown or black eyes, and straight, blue black hair was the owner of what is now the United States of America... Continue reading book >>




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