The colonial builder was limited both in materials and skilled workers. He had plaster, wood, and paper, but good plasterers were scarce; carpenters were the best craftsmen of the times, so the wood work of the colonial builder remains his chief title to recognition. It is said that much of the best interior work in the coast towns was done by ship carpenters who had left.
STRATFORD HOUSE, WESTMORELAND COUNTY, VA.
The Birthplace of General Lee, built in the 18th Century, of Bricks sent over from England their ships for a season. Desmond and Croly say: "Colonial architecture has well been defined as 'the carpenters' interpretation of the Renaissance.' In no other country was the carpenter permitted a rendering of the great classic revival.
THE HOME OP THOMAS JEFFERSON.
CLASSIC COLONIAL.. TYPICAL OF THE HOUSES OF THE SOUTHERN PLANTERS.
"The predominance of the carpenter rather than the mason, arising immediately from the great variety and abundance of native American woods, is from the start one of the most important facts connected with American architecture and to the present day it has not lost its importance. In structure and ornament the American house has been made largely - too largely - of wood. In colonial times, while a good tradition prevailed, the use made of the material was acceptable; but later when the craftsmen had deteriorated, the excessive importance granted to a building material that is flexible, cheap, and tempts the unwary into multiplying members and elaborating detail, was partly re sponsible for some of the most grotesque wooden mal formations which the world has ever seen. More over, our wood work, founded as it was upon forms that pertained properly to the masons' materials, has always betrayed a leaning toward a decadent principle, which has not been without a generally corrupting effect upon American practice."*
The Colonial architecture was characterized by carefulness in detail, by a considerable use of moldings as a finish for doors, windows, chimneys, and paneling. The staircases with their newel posts and baluster gave an opportunity for much fine work, the carving of which often showed much delicacy and skill. The paneling and the fireplace were sometimes the best features of the work. Desmond and Croly say: "The detail Was most carefully and elaborately worked. Often it is somewhat stiff and lifeless; but it is always moderate and correct; and occasionally it is of an exquisite and delicate simplicity. The Colonial is the one type of building in our architectural history which bears the mark of a definite style. It is strongly distinguished from every subsequent style of residence, because it was used in the colonies for something over a century; and because throughout all that time it prevailed absolutely. The owners of these Colonial houses were nothing more than ordinarily well-to-do men who had enough money to live in a pleasant and generous manner, but who very distinctly could not afford any considerable extravagances; consequently, while they built substantially they were also obliged to build economically. One of these old brick houses frequently took many years to erect, and required on the part of the owner and builder the utmost patience and the utmost ingenuity in overcoming obstacles. They did not have the benefit of expert assistance; there were practically no professional architects in the colonies until the very end of the colonial period; and they were engaged almost exclusively in the design of public buildings. The only assistance upon which a man who wanted to build could rely was that of trained mechanics, who were frequently imported for the purpose, and who naturally built according to rule. That under so many disadvantages the result was often so admirable, is most excellent testimony to the training of the eighteenth century hand craftsmen. They had been educated in a good school; they knew how to do certain things only, but everything they did was well done; and if their tradition and method of work had only survived for two or three generations, we Americans would have been spared a caution of ugliness - particularly in wood-work - which persists among American carpenters to the present day".
*"Stately Homes in America".
SHOWING COLONIAL DOORWAY.
A SOUTHERN COLONIAL COUNTRY HOME "Beauvoir," the Residence of Jefferson Davis.
MT. VERNON, THE HOME OF WASHINGTON Southern Colonial House.
HOUSE AT GLOUCESTER, MASS.
New England Town House with Gambrel Roof Photograph by E. Q. Sylvester, Boston.
BIRTHPLACE OF OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES A Colonial Gambrel Roof House of Greater Size and Pretensions.