Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Walk Through Your (Far-distant) Past




Celebrating Colonial Architecture

Topic Origin
The idea for this particular blog came from two books I picked up at the ‘Friends of the Library’ annual sale at my local library. Both are marked ‘withdrawn’--so they’re old  and perhaps oft-unread these days but irresistible nevertheless.

  • ·        Old Virginia Houses: The Mobjack Bay Country (Emmie Ferguson Farrar, 1955)

  • ·        American Colonial Mansions (Everett B. Wilson, 1965)

Chock full of black-and-while photographs with descriptive text, these and books like them are an author’s meat and drink while researching information to write credible settings.

What Is Colonial Architecture?
Obviously, the name tells you that this is the architectural style popular in early America, especially pre-Revolutionary America. But there are many kinds of ‘colonial’ architecture including French, Spanish, Dutch, German, Mid-Atlantic, and Colonial Georgian. Most of us visualize something like this whenever we think of a ‘colonial’ house--a style the English settlers based on their homeland. For more about each type, see this article

Hammond-Harwood House, 1774, Annapolis MD


The colonial style has endured over the years. Even today you can order the plans to build such a house. This site also shows floor plans which are helpful in visualizing where your characters will interact. Of course, you have to take the ‘two-bath’ amenity out of the equation since our ancestors trekked outside for the call of nature. Also, fireplaces in almost every room for heat and detached or semi-detached kitchens were the norm. The best place to find authentic floor plans is books containing photographs or sketches of same.

Colonial Architecture at Its Best
Williamsburg, Virginia, is probably the epitome of actual colonial architecture and life. Go here for photographs of historic exteriors and much more.

Through the Years
Like the antebellum homes in Monday’s blog, these old structures have been renovated and added to over the years. They’re big tourist draws and well worth the time. I enjoyed the colonial ambiance of Charleston SC a couple of years ago. While there, I picked up several books which offer a look at its very early history, including homes and buildings.

  • ·        Charleston Interiors (Preservation Society of Charleston, 1979)

  • ·        A Short History of Charleston (University of South Carolina Press, 1982, 1992)

  • ·        Charleston Then and Now (Pavilion Books, 2013)


Walking Back in Time
Besides just learning facts you’d never run across before, touring these old homes--either in books or in person--puts one in touch with her history. The English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote, “I am a part of all that I have met. . .” I’d add, we’re all part of what came before


Picture credit:  Fotolia: spiritofamerica

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