A study of Port Royal, Virginia, 1740-1840

Kuranda, Kathryn Marie, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia
Zabel, Craig, School of Architecture, University of Virginia

The purpose of this thesis is to examine the organization and development of Port Royal, Virginia, during the period 1740 to 1840. The broad pattern of Port Royal's development is representative of eighteenth century mercantile towns established through private petition of the Virginia General Assembly. These towns developed as a consequence of Virginia's eighteenth century tobacco economy and share similarities in plan, settlement pattern and architecture.

This study is divided into four chapters covering the following topics. Chapter I, "Historical Context'', examines the economic, political and social conditions which created a demand for commercial centers specializing in the trade of tobacco during the eighteenth century. This chapter demonstrates how these conditions created a climate conclusive to town development in the Port Royal area. Chapter II, "Organization and Settlement", traces the history of Port Royal. This discussion includes an analysis of the town's plan and settlement pattern. Chapter III, "Architecture", analyzes the architectural evolution of the town. A catalog of extant structures built between 1740 and 1840 preceeds this discussion. Chapter IV, "Conclusion", examines the decline of Port Royal in the late eighteenth century and evaluates the town's historical significance within the context of eighteenth century town development in Virginia.

Research into the history of Port Royal is frustrated by a low survival rate of eighteenth and early nineteenth century documents related to the community. The loss of public records can be traced to the occupation of Port Royal by the Eighteenth Regiment of the Veteran Reserve Corps for several months in 1864. During this time the town served as a major supply depot for the Army of the Potomac. Although minimal physical damage occurred in the town, public and private documents pertaining to Port Royal and surrounding Caroline County were destroyed as a result of the occupation.

Three primary sources offset the loss of official papers. The first source is the inventory of structures cataloged in Chapter III. The second major source includes the records of the Virginia Mutual Assurance Society for Fire Protection of Buildings dating between 1796 and 1857. A complete list of Mutual Assurance documents related to the town is found in the Appendix of this paper. The Appendix also includes representative examples of peri od policies. The third primary source is found in a set of drawings of Port Royal executed in the 1930's by Arthur A. Shurcliff, a Boston, Massachusetts, landscape architect who served as a consultant to the architectural firm of Perry, Shaw & Hepburn during the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg. The four sheet set of drawings was undertaken to document comparative examples of eighteenth century landscaping during the landscape restoration of Colonial Williamsburg (Fig. 1-4).

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Architecture, Domestic -- Virginia -- Port Royal, Architecture, Colonial -- Virginia -- Port Royal, Dwellings -- Virginia -- Port Royal
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