Land, Labor, and State Building: Constructing the Virginia Capitol in Richmond

Tilley, Gwendolyn Mae, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Johnston, Andrew, AR-Architectural History, University of Virginia

Virginia’s historic Capitol Square is a complex landscape. Many scholars and historians oversimplify the realities of the early phase of construction on Capitol Square (1780-1800) and the stories of the stakeholders, landowners, and builders responsible for the site’s development. This thesis seeks to direct research on the early construction period toward the untold stories and complex relationships of individuals involved in the formation and construction of the new Capitol. By supplying a detailed picture of 18th-century Richmond labor practices, the Capitol's differences from later 19th-century building projects become clear. The story of early construction on Capitol Square reveals a diverse cast of craftspeople, material suppliers, and workers who maintained the new building. The involvement of enslaved workers, free blacks, apprentices, and women at the 18th-century Capitol is often missing in existing research. My primary argument confronts the notion of the simplicity of the project and seeks to highlight the messy creation of a beautiful building. A significant source in this project is a collection at the Library of Virginia which contain receipts and accounts from the Directors of Public Buildings from the early construction period. These documents inform scholars about the development of Capitol Square and provide a rare glimpse into the early construction period. While reviewing this collection, I have developed a research document to accompany this thesis. This document pulls names from the original accounts and investigates the craftsmen individually to connect them to their teams of enslaved workers, apprentices, and other associates. Alongside the Library of Virginia collection, additional primary sources such as the MESDA Craftsman Database, newspapers, and local records have been cited in the formation of this document. It is intended for this research document to serve as a guide or starting point for future researchers investigating the early craftsman population of Richmond or the later seasons of construction on Capitol Square.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Architecture -- Virginia -- Richmond -- 18th Century, Architecture -- Virginia -- Richmond -- 19th Century, Virginia State Capitol (Richmond, Va.), Capitol Square (Richmond, Va.), Virginia -- Capital and Capitol
Issued Date: