The Chesapeake region of eastern Virginia and Maryland offers a wealth of evidence for readers and researchers who want to discover what life was like in early America. In this eagerly anticipated volume, Camille Wells, one of the foremost experts on eighteenth-century Virginia architecture, gathers the discoveries unearthed during a career spent studying the buildings and plantations across this geographic area. Drawing on the skills and insights of archaeologists and architectural historians to uncover and make sense of layers of construction and reconstruction, as well as material evidence and records ranging from ceramics, furniture, and textiles to estate inventories and newspaper advertisements, Wells poses meaningful questions about the past and proposes new ways to understand the origins of American society.The research gathered in this cohesive and engaging collection views the wider history of the colonial and early national periods through the lens of lauded as well as previously unrecorded sites in the Tidewater and Piedmont regions. The subjects are equally wide-ranging, from the way domestic architecture articulates problems and possibilities that found forceful expression in the Revolution; to the values and choices made by those who lived in unprepossessing circumstances as well as those who built statement gentry houses intended to dominate the landscape. Other essays address the challenges of discovering historically accurate room functions and furnishings as well as the way Colonial Revival attitudes still dominate much of what is imagined about the early Virginia past. Taken together, these beautifully written and accessible essays will be essential reading for those interested in architecture, material culture, and the ways they reveal the complexities of the nation's history.
Camille Wells was most recently a fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.