Colonial Architecture in the Old Dominion

March 01, 2012

Colonial HouseA Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Educational Exhibition highlighting architecture of colonial Virginia is opening in Atkinson Museum on Thursday, March 1.  The exhibition will present photographs and descriptions of 23 significant examples of our state's architecture built primarily between 1636 and 1775.

Among the buildings represented in the striking black and white photographs are the Adam Thoroughgood House (ca. 1636-40) in Virginia Beach, Bacon's Castle (ca. 1655-70) in Surry County, St. Luke's Church (1600s) in Isle of Wight County, the Wren Building (1695-99) at the College of William and Mary, Stratford (1725) in Westmoreland County, the King William County Courthouse (1725), Rosewell (1726) in Gloucester County, and Shirley Plantation (ca. 1740) in Charles City County.

The exhibition is based on "Architecture in Virginia," a popular guide written by University of Virginia architectural historian, William B. O'Neal.   The book demonstrates that Virginia has often led the way in American architecture starting in the pre-Revolutionary era when population and power was concentrated in the eastern and Tidewater portion of the state.  Virginia's capital was Williamsburg before shifting to Richmond in 1780.

Virginians sought to be influential in the life of the new emerging republic and built particularly powerful examples of whatever styles they chose.  Their desire was nowhere more evident than in the architecture they chose for their principal public buildings and most stately residences.  

In conjunction with the exhibit, Dr. John Coombs, Associate Professor of History at H-SC, will speak on Wednesday, March 28, 4:30 PM, at the museum.  Sponsored locally by Hampden-Sydney's Fine Arts Department and the Atkinson Museum, the exhibit will be on view through April 30.  The Esther Atkinson Museum is open Monday through Friday, 12:30 to 5:00 PM.  For Saturdays and other times, call 434-223-6134 (http://www.hsc.edu/museum.html).