The Neoclassical Backcountry: Architecture, Material Culture, and Hybridity in the American South, 1780-1830

Elliott, Jennifer Dianne, Department of History of Art and Architecture, University of Virginia
Nelson, Louis, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia
Edelson, Scott, Department of History, University of Virginia
Crane, Sheila, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia
McInnis, Maurie, Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, University of Virginia

Merchants introduced and disseminated genteel culture and the Neoclassical style to Early Republic Backcountry residents. As Europeans and others explored communities around the Atlantic Ocean rim during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they discovered local methods of basing one's worth held little value in other locations. The British elite formed an Atlantic culture – gentility – as a way of interacting and establishing political, economic, and social status. Americans living on the coast embraced gentility quickly while those living on frontier were resistant to these modes of interactions. Prior to the Revolutionary War, Europeans, American Indians, and Africans living on the American Southern frontier built shelters and made objects that followed the designs common to their place of origin. This largely politicallyand culturally-separate population created a landscape filled with log cabins, wattle-and-daub houses, and woodframe residences, and these persons employed many types of pottery, baskets, clothing, china, silverware, woven blankets, headdresses, hats, guns, knives, and agricultural tools. The Revolutionary War brought together the people dwelling in the Piedmont region with those living on the coast. Fighting for their land, their houses, their objects, their way of life fused these disparate peoples together. In the five decades after the Revolutionary War, Backcountry residents slowly embraced genteel culture, crafted houses and objects in the Neoclassical style, and participated in the Consumer Revolution by purchasing specialized goods. This dissertation explores how merchants used their houses to introduce the Neoclassical style, brought goods down the Great Wagon Road or made furniture to sell to their neighbors, and invested in a formal education to teach their children gentility. Dedication iii Over the past seven years, I have accumulated innumerable debts that cannot possibly be repaid. Projects such as these are not possible without foundations and archivists willing to share their resources. The Wintherthur Museum, Library, and Gardens; Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, American Philosophical Society, and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities all provided research fellowships during this process. The McNeil Center for Early American Studies offered me a scholarly home and funding for a semester as I began writing. Finally, the Department of History of Art and Architecture and the School of Architecture generously funded me at various points through this process. I offer my sincere thanks to the archivists at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts for their patience as I pulled every Backcountry furniture object file over the course of a summer. The archivists at Special Collections at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte were helpful too and always had a smile for me. Their knowledge of the area and of other sources were invaluable. I also offer my thanks to various tour guides and house curators at the Rosedale Plantation, Torrance House & Store, Latta Place, Inc., and the Mecklenburg Historical Association, all of whose efforts have long gone unnoticed. There are also many personal debts that I cannot repay. First, many thanks to my advisor, Louis Nelson, and secondary advisors, Maurie McInnis, Sheila Crane, and Max Edelson. Thank you for your time and care in helping me shape this dissertation and for teaching me. Thank you to Jill Baskin, Philip Herrington, Kate Crawford, Theeng Kok, Gretchen Kessler, Rebecca Phillips, and Jen Walkowski who have heard about sections and read paragraphs and chapters for four years now. Thank you all for your insights and your willingness to be sounding board as I bumbled through writing this dissertation. iv Thank you to Wesley, Miley, Sasha, and Kai. Your unconditional love, ever-present licks, demands for walks, and snuggling were critical to my writing process. Thank you to Dave and Lorraine Crosson, Michael and Marija Crosson, Rich and Marilyn Loeffler, Val and Don Domenici, Scott Loeffler, Heather Hahn, Kristin Neff, Genny Emberger Hartzman, Rachel Folk, Lauren Brensinger, Jessica Glowinski, Lizzie Sathe, Katharine Palmer, Jennie Copeland Carter, Alex Cernik, Mandy Miller, and the congregations at Peace Lutheran Church and Trinity Lutheran Church who have supported me. I offer my deep gratitude to my parents, who instilled a love of reading and learning in me young. There are no words to express how much I appreciate that gift. Your support has guided me to this achievement. Finally, thank you, Greg, for walking these last few years with me, from comprehensive exams to dissertation defense. You have seen me frustrated and elated in equal turns. Thank you for your patience, love, and support.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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