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As the ultimate goal of the Room Use Study is a more accurate depiction of George Mason through the material culture of the 18th-century Chesapeake, the project has zeroed in on extant clues which elucidate the man, his mind, and his taste. These clues exist not just in documents, but in the objects associated with Mason — his house, furniture, books, tablewares, clothing, or any of the other possessions which fill a lifetime. This chapter will examine the surviving evidence of this one wealthy Virginia planter's belongings.


Without a doubt, the single, largest enduring testament to George Mason's taste is Gunston Hall. Thanks to the perspicacity of Gunston Hall's Board of Regents in supporting a thorough architectural investigation of the house, in the last seventeen years, the building has yielded new insights into George Mason and the 18th-century Chesapeake society in which he lived.

Every house, given the opportunity, has the ability to speak of its own past, but, to be truly vocal, houses must have interpreters. In 1982, the Board of Regents took a very innovative step to let Gunston Hall speak. They hired architects, Charles Phillips and Paul Buchanan, to take a second look at a building which had been “restored” in the early 1950s when the house became a museum. Just two decades ago the term “restored,” when used in reference to an entire structure, conveyed a sense of finality. It signified that the physical fabric of a building had been examined and appraised, a process that was followed by structural and decorative accommodations made as a result of the study. Until the early 1980s previously “restored” sites might decide to investigate a nagging question or two about their buildings, but few appear to have considered reassessing the entire structure. For Gunston Hall, this bold stroke opened the door to a whole new interpretation. Thanks in part to the groundbreaking work at Gunston Hall, the field of historic preservation began to realize that innovative techniques and technologies offered new ways of analyzing previously examined buildings. In the process, the comforting sense of finality suggested by the term “restored” has receded, but it has been replaced by the excitement of discovery and an awakened understanding of the importance of the continuum of knowledge that is history.

Through their analysis of the physical fabric of Gunston Hall, Phillips and Buchanan (and after Buchanan's death, Phillips and Mark R. Wenger) have provided fresh revelations on George Mason's taste and preferences in household decor. Not all questions about the house have been answered; some await more research, either physical or documentary, and some await the development of even newer technologies. But a phenomenal amount of new information has come to light.

As research on the physical fabric of the house uncovered new findings on the original appearance of Gunston Hall, the Board of Regents decided to restore or recreate elements which evidence indicated had been altered since George Mason's time. Once that decision was made, perhaps it became inevitable that questions would arise about the accuracy of the collections and the decorative treatments in the rooms in which the collections are exhibited. Did these important elements of historic site interpretation come as close to reflecting George Mason's residence in the house as the detailed restoration of the architectural shell which surrounded them? The answer was no. So, in truth, the Room Use Study had its genesis in the innovative program of architectural research and restoration launched by the Regents in 1982.

The work of other researchers over the past two decades or so has also helped place the architecture of Gunston Hall into better context. The appearance of Gunston Hall was the product not only of George Mason, but of William Buckland and William Bernard Sears, two English craftsmen indentured to George Mason in the 1750s. Since the late 1970s, research by a number of scholars into the lives, skills, and work of this pair has contributed fresh insights on the building and its owner.(1) Studies of Chesapeake plantation architecture by several prominent scholars have elucidated the development of houses and outbuildings in the region. House plans, building materials, and exterior and interior decoration have been the subject of scrutiny along with the orientation of plantation structures in the larger landscape and the societal values encoded in their evolving forms.(2) The work of these scholars as well as the architectural investigations of Phillips, Buchanan, and Wenger have provided new perspectives on Gunston Hall as a structure.

Although Gunston Hall's one-and-a half story form speaks strongly of vernacular building traditions in the Chesapeake, its interior is extraordinary for the region. How extraordinary has only become apparent through Phillips and Buchanan's discovery that the house was more elaborately ornamented in George Mason's day than earlier research had indicated.

In contrasting Gunston Hall to other 18th-century Virginia houses, it is now evident that the formal rooms were highly embellished in an era when colonial Virginians tended to prefer a style called the “neat and plain” in their furnishings and houses. The term “neat” “connoted a substantial, workmanlike quality, a simple sufficiency, an absence of extraneous ornament,” while the term “plain” meant “unadorned, without patterning or elaboration.”(3) While much Virginia furniture and architecture was both “neat and plain,” many surviving examples are characterized by “neat” forms, i.e., simple and elegant, adorned with very restrained amounts of carving. This fashion was promoted, along with more “wrought” or ornamented styles like the rococo and chinoiserie, in British builder's and cabinetmaker's treatises and pattern books.(4) The architectural decoration of Gunston Hall frequently exceeds “neat.” Gunston Hall is unusual in Virginia for the inclusion of rococo, chinoiserie, and Gothic elements as well as for the abundance of carving in the southwest room on the ground floor.

Why Gunston Hall seems to have been more elaborate than most of its Chesapeake neighbors never may be entirely understood. Ultimately, however, the answer returns to George Mason. Whether George Mason was heavily influenced by the English-trained craftsmen who worked on the house, whether he had a personal predilection for ornamented interiors, or whether it was a bit of both, he was the patron. It was his house, and he was providing the funds; therefore, he had the final control. One way or the other, he endorsed the elaborate and unusual decorative treatments. The high level of architectural embellishment seen in the front passage and the two formal rooms on the west side of the ground floor was, in effect, a statement of wealth and power underscoring Mason's position as a member of the planter elite.

Aside from its decoration, the house offers other clues to Mason and his lifestyle. Architectural research has shown that George Mason made changes to Gunston Hall during his lifetime.(5) The alterations may be divided into two different time periods; the first set came during the construction of the house. While Mason seems to have intended from the beginning to build a service stair in or adjacent to the ground floor chamber, the staircase design was reconfigured entirely as construction proceeded. The entry to the first floor southwest room, the most highly finished room in the house, was moved, presumably to center the opening on the wall opposite the chimney-breast. On the second floor, Mason apparently toyed with the idea of including a gallery which overlooked the stair hall; however, he chose to build a storage closet or lumber room in the space instead.

Research also revealed modifications made after the Masons moved into the house in 1759. Phillips and Buchanan found that the land side porch was added sometime during the third quarter of the century. Evidence indicated that originally the land front of the house was probably adorned with a flat, Palladian-styled frontispiece, probably quite similar to the entrance of the Chase-Lloyd House in Annapolis, also designed by William Buckland. Since the river side of the house sports a rear porch dating to the original construction, the addition of a second porch may speak to Mason's love of sitting outdoors. It also sheltered the door on the north facade as well as providing another layer of control and elaboration at the front entrance. Visitors who sought to gain admission to Gunston Hall would have had to enter this impressive threshold with its classical ornamentation before they could even knock on the front door.

Paint analysis by historic paint consultant Frank Welsh has shed further light on later updates to Gunston Hall. Paint layering in the ground floor domestic rooms suggests that the ground floor Chamber, the Side Passage, and Little Parlor were repainted in the latter part of Mason's life.(6) Welsh's research also has raised several questions about other possible alterations. Did Mason remodel or redecorate around the time of his second marriage in 1780? Could the repainting be concurrent with the addition of the land front porch? Physical evidence has revealed that George Mason followed the fashion of the times in wallpapering several ground floor spaces. Given the vogue for wallpapers among the colony's elite after mid-century, it is a distinct possibility that even more of the house was papered. Two of George Mason's neighbors, George Washington and George William Fairfax, were ordering multiple rooms of wallpaper for their homes in 1757 and 1763 respectively.(7) The question then becomes if George Mason repainted his domestic rooms, but not his formal rooms, could he have added new wallpapers to the public spaces? Like many of the questions raised during the research and restoration process, there is no answer as yet. These questions (and certainly others still to arise) will inform future lines of inquiry. This chapter will highlight a number of these questions in order to mark them for continuing consideration.

Some reconfigurations to the house have so far defied positive dating. For example, originally, there was a column supporting the center of the double elliptical arch in the passage, which was replaced eventually with a pendant pine cone carving. When was this done, during construction or at a later date? Whenever they occurred, all these changes are significant for they represent specific choices, both aesthetic and practical, made by Mason and his family.

In order to listen more fully to what the house had to say, early on in the project, the Room Use Study team reviewed all of the documentary cards and summary reports in which the results of the architects' investigations were recorded. The team also studied the paint analyses submitted by Welsh as an integral part of the architectural detective work. Lists of questions were formulated based on the documentation. One list outlined social history and decorative arts questions, while a second concentrated on queries of a more purely architectural nature.(8) Using these lists, a continuing dialogue began between the architects, the Room Use Study team, and outside scholars. Looking for answers, the team met with Phillips and Buchanan to review their previous research. Answers to many questions and a great deal of additional detail were garnered from this day-long session.(9) A list of questions still to be investigated was prepared. These questions focused on such issues as the search for physical evidence of carpets and curtains, the possible existence of a lantern in the rear passage, a complete investigation of the lower recesses in the beaufats in the first floor southwest room, and the possible presence of curtains behind the glazed transoms in the ground floor chamber closets. A priority list of questions was then established by eliminating queries that were impossible to answer given the constraints of current technologies, time, and money.

Over the next few years, the Research Committee voted to fund the search for answers to the priority questions; many of these queries were investigated in concert with the quest for general information necessary to complete the restoration of the house. For instance, many questions concerning furnishings and decorative treatments in the ground floor Chamber were folded into the general research on the chimney-breast wall and the service stair enclosure in that room. This included further documentation of the stove pipe hole above the Passage/Chamber door and the corresponding hole in the chamber chimney-breast. Phillips and Buchanan also determined that there was no evidence behind the Chamber closet transoms for period curtains and that the tack holes and ghost marks suggesting the presence of wallpaper borders in the room were 19th century. In each space, further investigations helped to refine our understanding of the nature of Gunston Hall in George Mason's day. Looking at the house on a room-by-room basis, one can see how these investigations have provided new perspectives on the decoration of the rooms.


Phillips and Buchanan discovered that the front portion of the Passage was ornamented with fourteen Doric pilasters supporting a full entablature with carved metope medallions, providing the first real revelation that the house was more highly embellished than previously suspected. The pair also located a ghost mark of a carving across the fascia of the stair landing; the ghosting showed that the now missing carving was similar to the extant rococo carvings in the spandrels of the double elliptical arch which divides the front and rear portions of the Passage. In addition, the architects found evidence indicating that both the front Passage and the staircase walls were covered in wallpaper in George Mason's day. These findings presaged a new vision of decorative elaboration for the house. Given the presence of wallpaper, it is not surprising that Welsh found the woodwork in the room was originally painted white.(10) Following a survey of period houses which had documentation for original paints and wallpapers, William Graham and Margaret Pritchard of Colonial Williamsburg have advanced the theory that beginning in the mid-18th century, rooms with woodwork painted yellow, “stone,” white, and gray, usually had papered walls.(11)

The symmetrical formality of the front Passage's decorative scheme was further underscored when the presence of a dummy or false door came to light opposite the door to the Side Passage. Ghost marks also revealed that there were over doors above each of the interior doorways in the Passage. Unfortunately, the evidence only indicated the presence and not the design of the over doors. Loose “plinth” blocking now in the center of the pediments above both of the doors in the Palladian Room also led Phillips and Buchanan to speculate that these pieces once may have been consoles or brackets intended to top the windows in the front Passage; a circular ghost mark on the broad, flat surface of the “plinth” bracket made them wonder whether these pieces could have held busts. Unfortunately, again, there was no sure way to determine the original location and use of the brackets. Given the highly conjectural nature of both these features, currently, no plans have been made to restore the over doors or reinstall the brackets, however, it is clear that the room originally had an even more highly ornamented finish.

During their investigations of the front Passage, Phillips and Buchanan uncovered evidence for two types of household furnishings. A hole in the joist directly in the center of the front Passage ceiling indicated the presence of a hanging light fixture, probably a lantern. A large hole was found above the Chamber door indicating that at one point a stove must have been installed in the front Passage. A similar hole in the Chamber chimney-breast suggests that the stove pipe ran across the chamber several feet below the ceiling to vent in the chimney-breast. The floor to the south of the door to the Chamber also showed a large rectangular ghost mark and signs of charring, possibly from flying sparks, which led Phillips and Buchanan to suppose there might have been a support or platform for the stove in that location. A stove plate unearthed in an excavation in the north end of the central space in the cellar in 1975 offers a further tantalizing suggestion for the presence of a stove.(12) Based on stylistics, the stove plate tentatively has been dated to the late 18th century or early 19th century. However, further research is required to determine when the addition of a stove would have brought winter-time warmth to the Passage during George Mason's lifetime or whether it was installed after 1792.

Palladian Room

The Palladian Room is anything but “neat and plain.” In fact, it might be the most elaborate room to survive from pre-Revolutionary Virginia. As the original use of the room has never been determined definitively, this chapter will employ the term “Palladian Room,” a name assigned to the room in the mid-20th-century to reflect the fact that the decoration of the space relies on many classical motifs typical of English Palladianism. This chapter will examine what the architectural detailing and investigations say about the space and its decoration, while the next two chapters will discuss room use.

Results of the architectural detective work have shown that in every detail the Palladian Room is the best room in the house. First of all, it is lavishly carved. Borrowing not only from English Palladianism, but also including touches of the fashionable, more naturalistic rococo. The Palladian Room, like the Chinese Room and front Passage, has what was termed “modern wainscot” in the 18th century. Instead of having raised beveled panels, the dado in this room sports flat or flush boards which, as the name “modern” implies, were the new fashion at mid-century.(13) Rather than simple closets, the room has decorative buffets or beaufats (niches with shaped shelving recessed into the wall).(14) The black walnut entry doors were carved with an egg and dart motif, but only on the inward facing sides of the doors. The use of mortise hinges on these doors subtly underscored the refinement of the doors and the room. The floors in the room were blind doweled, a treatment substantially more expensive than the face-nailed floors in the rest of the rooms.(15) All in all, every detail of the Palladian Room expresses its hierarchy as the best room in George Mason's house.

While this room was famous for its elaborate woodwork prior to Phillips and Buchanan's initial investigation in 1983, their discoveries proved that it was even more highly embellished in the 18th century. Ghost marks and other clues disclosed that the chimney-breast originally had been graced by an overmantel which physical evidence suggested was quite ornate. Phillips and Buchanan located a portion of the original egg and dart fireplace surround that had been recycled in the door to the Passage; ghost marks reestablished the general outline of the overmantel which repeated the split pediment design of the over doors and beaufats; and sketchy ghostings indicated the existence of rococo consoles.

The two architects found that many smaller carvings also had been removed from the room over time. These included impressive pendant bowknot and bellflower drops on the pedestals of the pilasters flanking the windows and niches, rosettes in the circular frets over each of the two doors, several of the double acanthus carvings from above the pilasters on the doors and niches, small rosettes on the neckings of each pilaster capital, and twenty additional feet of guilloche, or double ring fret, outlining the windows.

Phillips and Buchanan's investigation, with subsequent work by Phillips, Wenger, Graham, and Welsh, confirmed that the sheath board walls were covered with wallpaper, not fabric. Important questions remain. Why do two of the three formal spaces in the house have thin sheath board walls used to support wallpaper? Did the type or cost of the wallpapers in these spaces differ from those mounted on plaster in the stair hall, Chinese Room, and Little Parlor? The rich ornamentation in the room begs other questions as well. Could the room have contained additional architectural embellishments composed of decorative plaster or papier maché? A number of wealthy Virginians, including two Mason neighbors, George Washington and George William Fairfax, installed papier maché ceiling decorations in their houses. (16) The Lewises at Kenmore in Fredericksburg chose to enrich their ceilings with plaster ornamentation. Unfortunately, as the original ceiling in the Palladian Room does not survive, only the chance recovery of a fragment of molded plaster or papier maché would provide that information. Recent scrutiny of the walls by Phillips, Wenger, and Graham seems to have ruled out evidence for carved wood or papier maché borders used to outline the edges of the wallpaper installation. There are no signs of any regular tacking patterns, and tacking was the method of choice for the application of papier maché or carved wood borders.

Continuing research has defined the paint scheme for the room. The woodwork, including the area between the baseboard and the chair rail, was painted white. However, the beaufats were given a polychrome treatment. The backs were painted a medium blue; the keyblocks, the shelf edges, and the carved moldings both at the base of the domed top and outlining the arch were painted a yellow ochre. Like all the ground floor rooms, the vertical face of the baseboard was painted a dark brown.(17)

Several questions also are associated with the beaufats. Thus far, no evidence has been found to suggest that these decorative niches were built with doors above or below. Although other 18th-century beaufats are known not to have upper doors, the open compartment at the bottom is highly unusual, leading the staff to continue questioning the possibility that there are hidden clues for the existence of lower doors. Barring that evidence, the question remains: how would these most unusual open recesses have been used?

Phillips and Buchanan found that all the fireboxes and hearths in Gunston Hall were basically identical in their construction. In contrast to most other details in the formal rooms, these features were quite simple. The upper edge of each firebox formed a segmental arch; the interiors were plastered; and the hearths were dry laid brick.

The ornate woodwork in the Palladian Room seemed to preclude curtains, and physical evidence corroborated the absence of window drapery. Curtains were the exception rather than the rule in formal rooms in rural 18th-century Chesapeake houses.

There is evidence for some carpeting in the room based on the presence of tack holes in the floors. But the possibility that the tack holes are 18th century is still under consideration. The fine quality of the flooring does lead one to wonder whether the floors of this room began life in George Mason's home uncovered by any carpeting.

Chinese Room

Reflecting the mid-18th-century rage for Chinese modes is the room that 20th-century architectural historians have titled the “Chinese Room.” Although not dripping in carving, as was the adjacent Palladian Room, the Chinese Room appears just as astounding. It is apparently the only surviving room to have a chinoiserie woodwork scheme from colonial British America. Other colonists probably did create rooms in the Chinese style; but, more than likely, they achieved a “Chinese” effect through the use of wallpapers, fabrics, ceramics, and furniture. Adorning a room with Chinese-inspired woodwork motifs in 18th-century America appears to be highly unusual, even when the design elements were classicized and rather restrained, as they are at Gunston Hall. A more lengthy discussion of 18th-century chinoiserie and its possible connotations follows in Chapter Three.

In this room, too, Phillips and Buchanan found clues to several missing woodwork elements and original decorative treatments. An 18th-century mantel and overmantel appeared to have been removed in the following century. Photographs from the Hertle period, ghost marks, and nailing blocks revealed that “hoods” or canopies had originally crowned the over doors and overmantel. They also saw fragmentary evidence for the existence of some sort of decorative fillet or band, which circled the entire room above chair rail. Currently, there are no hints as to the design of this missing detail. As the early plaster in the room showed evidence for wallpaper, the missing band could have been a carved wooden or papier maché border like those seen in a number of English great houses edging either fabric wallcoverings or wallpapers. These decorative moldings were usually held in place by tacks. As there are no nailing blocks in the brick wall above the chair rail and no original plaster in the area above the chair rail, it is not possible to confirm a tacked application.

The flooring in this room is largely original but of a lesser quality than the finely trimmed floors in the Palladian Room. There are thousands of carpet tack holes in the floor, suggesting the presence of a number of carpets over time. Again, like the Palladian Room, more work remains to be done in sorting out the possible existence of carpeting in the 18th century. Here, too, there is no evidence of 18th-century curtains, not surprising when one considers the decorative impact of the window surrounds themselves.

The woodwork in this room has been restored to its 18th-century color scheme, yellow ochre with a dark brown baseboard.(18) Phillips and Buchanan also took careful note of the doorway treatment in this room. The two black walnut doors into the room are both believed to be original. Given that both the entrance and closet doors in the Chinese Room retain original and identical pedimented door surrounds, Phillips and Buchanan predicated that the closet doors would have been made of black walnut as well. Indeed, a similar use of walnut trim and doors is seen in Peyton Randolph's Williamsburg residence.

The canopies or hoods capping the over doors and overmantel do suggest a tantalizing connection to the Chinese mode and to the original decor of the room. The canopies probably were devised to display a decorative jar, vase, or porcelain figure. Plate 67 from Edwards and Darly's New Book of Chinese Designs shows wall brackets of a similar design holding pieces of ornamental china.(19) Additionally, the mantel and the squared corners of the over windows were other locations for china vases or figures. Decorative ceramics certainly had a place in a limited number of gentry households in the Chesapeake as listings for “ornamental china” appear on Maryland and Virginia inventories.(20) In 18th-century England they were certainly all the rage and were displayed in fireplaces and on cabinets and the tops of door cases, mantels, and stands.(21) Interestingly enough, George Mason, Jr. (V) (MASON97) had twelve china images distributed among what are presumably the dining room, parlor, and a second floor chamber as well as eleven china and six glass flower pots in various ground floor rooms. It is tempting to wonder whether any of these might originally have stood under the canopies, on the mantel, or over the windows in the Chinese Room.

Ground Floor Chamber

The “Recollections” of George Mason's son John record in some detail the uses of the ground floor Chamber and the Little Parlor, the two principal rooms on the east side of the Passage.(22) These rooms, along with the Side Passage and the Service Stair, formed a suite of domestic spaces devoted to the use of the family, slaves, and servants. In both the ground floor Chamber and the Little Parlor, there is a marked change in the architecture. As tends to be the case in 18th-century gentry houses, the architecture of Gunston Hall directly reflects room function and hierarchy. The domestic rooms have the more old-fashioned raised beveled paneling. There is comparatively little carving and ornamental detailing. The effect is one of restraint, much more in tune with the “neat and plain” woodwork of most Chesapeake houses than the formal rooms on the other side of the passage.

These rooms, indeed this whole side of the house, is built around the circulation patterns provided by the service stair and the side passage. These two features bespeak the growing trends towards the specialization of spaces and the segregation of slaves, servants, and messy family business from the formal spaces that marked the homes of the wealthy built at mid-century and after.

Aside from the role of the Chamber as command central for the mistress of Gunston Hall, it also was the best bed chamber located just off the front Passage. It is therefore not surprising that physical evidence suggests that the decorative impact of the room was a major concern of the Masons.

As with all the ground floor rooms, the chimney-breast wall was the focal point of the space. One major piece of woodwork is known to be missing from the room. While the mantel shelf and the frieze with its scrolls are original, the overmantel is not. Unfortunately, since the majority of the overmantel was removed during the last century, there was not enough original fabric remaining to shed light on the 18th-century design. Phillips and Buchanan discovered that a small fragment of the original overmantel, which had fallen behind the mantel, did contain the ghost of a molding. The ghost mark indicated that the chimney breast was adorned with molding in George Mason's time, although from the size of the fragment, it is not possible to tell what the molding looked like.

Also part of the chimney-breast wall are symmetrically placed closets surmounted by decorative fanlights or transoms. Phillips and Buchanan discovered that originally the transoms were glazed, adding a reflective surface to the chamber as well as letting light into the closets and discouraging dust. Investigations in 1993 ruled out the presence of early tack holes which might have supported a fabric backing on the rear of the transom, like those often employed on the insides of glass doors on period desk and bookcases.

The presence of an original black walnut entry door from the center Passage, and the discovery that extant black walnut window seats were still intact below later pine boards, suggests that these closets, as well as those in the Chinese Room, had walnut doors.

The black walnut doors and window seats would have provided a distinct contrast to both of the 18th-century paint schemes which Welsh postulates for this room. Initially, the woodwork was painted a grayish-yellow; however, when the woodwork was repainted later in Mason's lifetime, the room was updated by using verdigris, a deep green color, on the trim. And, not green paint either. The woodwork was glazed with several coats of verdigris suspended in varnish so that it glistened in the light.(23) The use of glazed green woodwork has turned up in several other gentry homes in the Chesapeake, including neighboring Mount Vernon and the Brush-Everard House in Williamsburg. A very fashionable color during the second half of the century, verdigris was a costly pigment, often used in the best rooms. Glazing only increased the expense.(24) It is interesting that Mason chose this finish for his best bed chamber and not for the parlor or dining room. It will be helpful to see in what other houses and rooms glazed verdigris is discovered in the future; it may prove an unusual treatment for a chamber. Here is evidence of George Mason not only repainting, but keeping up with fashion. It is interesting to speculate on the possibility that this change and others made to the house over time might have coincided with George Mason's second marriage in 1780.

Window curtains would have provided a further decorative addition to the room, and there is physical evidence for two separate, sequential sets of curtains. The first curtains are associated with the grayish-yellow paint and were held back with a single curtain pin screwed into the outside architrave (frame) of each of the two windows. The second set of curtains were apparently installed when the woodwork was painted verdigris. They were held up with a pair of curtain pins on the inside architrave of each of the two windows. As this strongly suggests an entirely different style of curtain, it is unlikely that the first set of curtains was merely rehung or even had a minor make-over. As curtains in bed chambers traditionally matched the fabric of the bed hangings, one is led to the conclusion that the whole room was redecorated at the time it was painted green. In the 18th century, fine bed hangings and curtains were quite expensive as was the glazed paint treatment. After piecing together all of the small details, the evidence suggests quite a fashion-conscious room. And, given the interpretive period selected for the site of 1780-1788, it is in this guise that the room will be recreated.

The presence of wallpaper in this space deserves future consideration. Welsh's findings show a discernable dirt layer on the finish coat of plaster suggesting that the walls were left bare for a time. Finishes analysis further indicates the presence of whitewash. What is tantalizing is the survival of a few small pieces of rag content wallpaper. These are apparently on top of the whitewash; however, there is no clue as to when the wallpaper was added, in the 18th or in the 19th centuries, as the top surface of the paper, which carried the color and pattern, is missing. The question is: would George Mason have added wallpaper to the Chamber during his lifetime?

Side Passage

Since 1988, Welsh has made several finds which reflect how the Side Passage was integrated into the ground floor decorative scheme. He discovered that the woodwork had two sequential color schemes paralleling those in Mother's Chamber. When the house was new, the Side Passage was painted that same grayish yellow of the chamber. When the space was repainted, it was redone in a gray green, the same paint used as a base for the bright green verdigris glazed second finish in Mother's Chamber. Welsh also found that the original transom above the door to the domestic yard is black walnut; however, it now appears that this feature was painted to match the other woodwork in the space.

Little Parlor

The Little Parlor, the room where George Mason worked as well as dined and relaxed with his family, is the space which seems to have suffered the fewest changes over time. In terms of decoration and use, however, several important discoveries did come to light. Two involve the chimney-breast wall. While the mantel and overmantel are the most completely original in the house, physical findings show that the space in the center of the overmantel probably contained a painting or a looking glass held in place by an applied molding. A plain panel has been set in the center of the overmantel until additional research provides enough information to permit the installation of an appropriate insert. Whichever treatment is correct, it will play a significant role in the decorative scheme of the room.

Investigations of the interiors of the closets flanking the chimney-breast revealed that there were shaped-shelves in the upper sections and no shelving in the lower portions. The lack of any paint evidence indicates the shelves were constructed of unfinished yellow pine. The presence of shaped-shelves and the counter-height board that forms the bottom of the upper recesses suggests that these storage units were probably thought of as beaufats and were used in concert with the service of family meals in the room as well as the storage of tablewares and other household equipage.

Paint analysis revealed that the woodwork in this room was originally light gray and the baseboard dark brown. This room, too, was probably repainted during Mason's lifetime, but here there was no dramatic change of color. The second paint finish was also gray, but with a heightened brown tone. The Little Parlor could have been papered in the 18th century as well. The piece of wood framing on the left side of the door opening to the Passage shows evidence of a layer of glue sizing above the first coat of paint; Welsh strongly suspects that this indicates the presence of wallpaper in the 18th century.(25) There is somewhat hazy evidence suggesting that there may have been an early curtain installation. The top of the window architrave has what appears to be a line of early nail holes similar to the line of nail holes on the top of the window surround in Mother's Chamber. There is no consistent evidence for other curtain fasteners like cloak pins. Lacking clear and understandable evidence, it will require additional consideration to determine whether it is likely that this room would have been curtained during George Mason's lifetime.

Second Floor

Over the centuries the floor plan of the second floor went through a number of permutations. Following investigatory work in 1982 and 1983, Phillips and Buchanan determined the original configuration, a center passage running lengthwise through the building east to west with four chambers on the north side and three chambers and one large storage closet on the south side.

The presence of a storage closet came to light with the discovery that there was an interior window on the second floor level of the east staircase wall. Looking for further clues to the motivation for installing a window in an interior wall, Phillips and Buchanan uncovered the scars of two shelves and their support brackets. The interior window facilitates the use of the closet by admitting light and air. At the same time, it avoids disrupting the symmetry of the river front facade which the addition of a window in the rear wall of the house would have required.

Interestingly, Phillips and Buchanan discovered that Mason had considered an earlier option for the space now occupied by the Lumber Room. Physical evidence led the pair to believe that Mason originally intended the space to be a gallery overlooking the lower stair hall, an idea that, in the end, was not executed. Aesthetically, the screen of square columns on the second floor landing may have tied into this concept. However, for unknown reasons, Mason chose to introduce a storage closet instead, a practical addition. The large number of storage spaces in the ground floor rooms, coupled with the presence of a large second floor closet, leads one to speculate on the importance of storage in the Mason household. Is this an evocation of the consumer revolution with its proliferation of household goods? More than that, though, is it an endorsement by George Mason and his family of this burgeoning desire for quantities of specialized household possessions?

Although the presence of some built-in storage in 18th-century gentry households in the Chesapeake was quite common, the large number of closets and beaufats at Gunston Hall (two storage units flanking each of the four ground floor fireplaces, a closet under the main staircase, and the Lumber Room) is uncommon. The Masons included an abundance of built-in storage in their house. It is interesting to note that Mattawoman, the Charles County, Maryland home of Ann Eilbeck Mason's parents, William and Sarah Eilbeck, was endowed with almost an equivalent number of storage units. It is not clear which structure was built first. Printed sources of the past few decades have attributed the date of Mattawoman to the 1730s or 1740s. A 1997 visit to Mattawoman (now called Araby) by Phillips, Wenger, and Graham has raised some serious questions about the ascribed dates. In an “educated guess,” based on more recent appraisals of Maryland architecture, the three architects thought it more likely that Mattawoman was built in the 1750s or 1760s. While further study of the architectural fabric of Mattawoman would yield a more definitive answer, since the house is privately owned, a thorough examination is unlikely to occur in the near future.(26)

Although the ornamentation of the second floor rooms is scant in comparison to that on the first floor, physical remnants and ghost marks proved the existence of unsuspected detailing and color schemes in the seven second floor chambers. Ghost marks of chair rails were discovered in the chambers. A piece of original chair rail for the second floor rooms, found embedded in the plaster on the second floor landing, served as a prototype for the restored chair rail. A remnant of the simple fireplace surround from the Southeast Chamber was discovered in the attic where it had been reused in the 19th century. The more elaborate mantel in the Southwest Chamber had been moved to the rare book library in the 1950s in the belief that it was not original to the house. Both of these pieces yielded evidence of original colors. The Southeast Chamber trim was painted an olive color while the Southwest Chamber was finished in a medium Prussian blue. Extant fragments of 18th-century woodwork showed that the baseboards were originally black.(27)

It is not possible to discern the possible presence of wallpaper in the second floor spaces given the lack of surviving 18th-century plaster and other documentation. However, keeping in mind the recent wallpaper research emanating from Colonial Williamsburg, the documentation of pale stone-color woodwork in the upper Passage does argue for the possible addition of wallpaper. Evidence of a polychrome decorative treatment survives in the second floor Passage doors which include original panels set in 1950s stiles and rails. The flat surface of the panels are painted Spanish brown (a reddish-brown) while the bevels are gray. It is interesting to note that, along with the domestic rooms on the first floor, the interior of the Service Stair seems to have been repainted during Mason's lifetime, a fact which came to light when Phillips and Buchanan discovered the original arched head of the doorway to the Service Stair intact under later layers of plaster.

As a site, Gunston Hall has been fortunate in how much knowledge of George Mason and his domestic surroundings the house has surrendered. Evidence of missing architectural elements and carvings has disclosed a house with elaborate formal rooms, an indication of how highly George Mason must have valued the impression his public spaces made on friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike. Attention to fine details, like the mortise hinges in the Palladian Room doors, shows a man willing to consider and pay for extra touches which enhanced the silent hierarchal messages of his formal rooms. Here was a man who chose to take the architectural ornamentation of the ground floor spaces of his home to what was probably the boundaries of locally acceptable forms.(28) On the other hand, a fairly simple second floor, set under the eaves and lighted by dormer windows, suggests a message of limits on the showiness he wanted to project. Clues to the presence of wallpaper also reveal a man in concert with the new fashions of mid-century Britain and America. Paint and finishes analyses have indicated Mason's willingness to redecorate, at least part of his home, in favor of newer fashions and to refurbish the rooms in common use by the family. Like Mason's political writings, the house reveals a man of complex and sometimes competing urges and desires. It is exciting to consider that as new technologies are developed and new questions are raised, undoubtedly the house will have more to say. But, in the meantime, the physical fabric of Gunston Hall has provided much new food for thought and new directions for interpretation.


The written record which survives to tell the story of George Mason's house and its decor and furnishings is unfortunately quite thin. What does exist is therefore especially precious for it is tied inextricably to the man and his family.

One of the major thrusts of the study has been the search and compilation of Mason materials. Board members, staff, and outside scholars began to collect references to Mason possessions as far back as the 1930s and, to some extent, Louis Hertle did so before he gave the house to the Commonwealth of Virginia. As part of the research process, the Room Use Study team culled the Gunston Hall archives and files as well as published sources, such as The Papers of George Mason, in order to gather the relevant bits and pieces which others had previously unearthed.

In addition, each repository and set of records accessed were checked for Mason records. The Room Use Study team had assistance in this quest from Gunston Hall's librarians, the George Mason University Fellows, several interns, local history scholars, and former staff members. Wherever possible, the team looked at the original documents. Transcriptions of the period documents which list George Mason's household belongings will be found in an appendix of the full report and, in excerpted form, in the chart of furnishings recommendations in Chapter Six in this volume.

The Papers of George Mason were read cover to cover for several reasons. They provide a glimpse of the warp and weft of George Mason's life not only as a public figure, but, more importantly for this study, as a family man and a man of business. Furthermore, they indicate with whom he did business. The corpus of papers shows the evolution and the comings and goings of George Mason's family. Given the importance of The Papers, early on in the project, the Room Use Study team excerpted pertinent materials in a “family chronology.” Topics of interest included Mason's travels, patterns of life, family occurrences, business connections, visitors to Gunston Hall, and, of course, information on household belongings and stores. In considering an interpretive period for the house, this became immensely important. In coming years as the site develops the story of the Mason family from 1780 to 1788, it will be equally essential.

The Papers also yielded references to some of George Masons's household possessions. A 1780 invoice for a shipment of household goods from the mercantile firm of John De Neufville & Son is the largest single extant record of goods Mason acquired for his house.(29) Mason articles also are documented in surviving correspondence and legal documents. Some letters give direct references to items which would have been in the Mason household. A June 1, 1787 letter to George Mason, Jr. (V), written from Philadelphia where Mason was attending the Constitutional Convention, mentions both a desk and bookcase and a bookcase, the fact that there were papers stored in both, and the rooms in which the pieces were located.(30) Other smaller objects are noted as well. In a 1783 letter George Mason wrote to his eldest son, then in France, thanking him for the watch he sent to his stepmother Sarah Brent Mason; in George Mason's 1773 will, written almost twenty years before his death, he bequeaths two watches, one gold and one silver, to his two oldest sons.(31) Other household belongings are mentioned more obliquely. For instance, in 1791 Mason wrote his son John from Gunston Hall noting: “. . . The Mercury is now at 40 Degrees in Farenheit's thermomiter,” implying the ownership of one of these instruments.(32)

Another document of great import is the manuscript “Recollections” of George Mason's fourth son John, who penned a series of remembrances of what life was like at Gunston Hall during his youth. Aside from providing unparalleled information about room use in the Mason household, they also record the existence of an important family piece, a chest of drawers in which Ann Mason stored her youngest children's clothing as well as towels and some of her own valued possessions. Included in the passage, quoted in full under the Chamber section in Chapter Four, is a description of the drawer configuration which suggests a chest on stand. A further reference in John Mason's reminiscences divulges that Ann Mason kept a “small green Horse Whip— with a silver head and ring” in the south closet in the Chamber. John mentions it was nicknamed the “green” by the children. The story not only memorializes an item with obvious emotional impact for the Mason household, but establishes that Ann was enough of a horsewoman to own a nicely appointed whip and that she sometimes disciplined her children with the device. John's description of the north closet as the place where Ann Mason used to secure and dispense “. . . the smaller or more precious stores for the Table . . .” reflects on his mother's ability to conduct the household “with great regularity & system.” John Mason's “Recollections” also contain clues to George Mason's personal appearance for he describes the wigs his father wore until late in life and the caps he used to cover his shorn head — linen in summer and green velvet in “cooler weather.”(33)

The Room Use Study team pored over many types of Mason family records. A number of George Mason's belongings are mentioned in family wills and other documents. The best examples being a silver salver (a pedestal-footed stand) and a silver monteith (a bowl designed for rinsing or chilling wine glasses in water); both are mentioned in George Mason's 1773 will:

I also give and bequeath unto my Son George Mason my Gold Watch which I commonly wear, also a large Silver Salver, which being an old piece of family plate, I desire may remain unaltered. And I confirm unto him his right and a large silver Bowl given him by my Mother, in which all my children have been christened, and which I desire may remain in the family unaltered for that purpose.(34)

The salver and the monteith appear again in the December 10, 1796 will of George Mason's oldest son and namesake:

ITEM I give & bequeath to my son George Mason my Gold Watch which was given to me by my Father also a large Silver Bowl & a (large) Silver Salver both of them old pieces of family Plate. I also confirm unto him the gift of a Silver Beaker given to him by his grand Father Colo George Mason.(35)

The two silver pieces are probably those listed in the 1797 estate inventory of George Mason, Jr. (V) as “One large Silver Bowl & Salver.” Amazingly, both of these pieces appear to survive. The salver is a 1699 London piece. The monteith has yet to be examined for marks, but stylistically seems to be English from the first decade of the 18th century. Their dates lead one to believe they were purchased by George Mason's (IV) grandfather, George Mason (II), who died in 1715.

Currently, the salver and monteith are the only Mason objects for which there is such a conjunction of family records and surviving objects. Family documents do offer a few additional hints about possessions which probably were at Gunston Hall during Mason's lifetime. Some of the objects undoubtedly were at Gunston Hall, but not owned by George Mason. Included among these are silver beakers that George Mason gave two of his grandsons, the oldest sons of George, Jr. (V) and Thomson.(36) As it seems likely that both George, Jr. (V), Thomson, and their families lived at Gunston Hall until the late 1780s, the beakers probably were housed there as well.(37)

Family documents also permit a glimpse into the issue of women's inheritances and possessions. With some exceptions, what is passed down through the female lines is often lost to view. In the case of George Mason's second wife, Sarah, her father's will records:

...I give my daughter Sarah Brent the large Silver Tankard, Salver, and Two Porringers, which were her Grand Mothers, which I beg she will accept of tho' in small yet lasting monument of the sense I have of her merit & the care she has taken of me. (38)

It is more than likely that Sarah brought these family heirlooms with her to marriage. Like the Mason salver and monteith, these were items which engendered family sentiment and had not been remade to suit more up-to-date fashions. In this case, there also seems to be a link between two generations of women, Sarah and her grandmother. A similar transfer occurred in the Mason family. George Mason's oldest daughter Ann (Nancy) was willed “my tea chest with silver canisters” by her maternal grandmother, Sarah Eilbeck, in 1781.(39) Fifteen years earlier, the tea chest had been listed in William Eilbeck's probate inventory as “1 Shagreen Tea Chest wth Silver Cannisters” and valued at £20, an astounding amount of money.(40) Nancy undoubtedly had the tea chest at Gunston Hall until she moved to Maryland at her marriage in 1789. It is also tempting to speculate, but, at this point, impossible to ascertain, that the “1 Mahogany tall Chest of Drawers” valued at twenty dollars in an 1802 list of goods confirmed to Nancy Mason's personal ownership by her husband Rinaldo Johnson was the chest of drawers that John Mason so lovingly describes in his “Recollections.” If so, the chest was still likely to be part of the Gunston Hall furnishings at least until Nancy's 1789 wedding.(41)

Not surprisingly, various types of business records and accounts also yielded information on Mason's household possessions. Over the years, scholars of George Mason have hoped to find that he had one principal agent in his business dealings in Britain, a connection such as George Washington had with Robert Cary & Co. Thus far, no hints of such a relationship have come to light. Instead, Mason seems to have traded with a variety of merchants, and a number of their records add bits and pieces to the puzzle of his household belongings. They show that over the years George Mason bought miscellaneous household goods from assorted merchant firms in the region, including John Glassford & Co. at their Quantico or Colchester store in 1758 - 1760, their Colchester store in 1765 - 1766, and their Piscataway, Maryland store in 1766 - 1769; and Jennifer & Hooe in Alexandria in 1776 - 1778.(42)

A Huie Reid & Co. letterbook kept in their Dumfries store indicates that in 1790 Mason sold his tobacco crop at quite a high price to the Alexandria firm of “RSR” with the stipulation that he buy his “winter goods” from them.(43) Given the initials and the location of the firm, it was probably Robinson, Sanderson, and Rumney; however, the Room Use Study team has been unable to locate any records of that company, which might corroborate the relationship.(44)

Other firms and merchants with whom Mason dealt are recorded in The Papers; they include Wallace, Johnson & Muir; William Lee; John Fitzgerald; Hooe & Harrison (which evolved from the firm of Jenifer & Hooe mentioned above); David Ross & Co.; James Buchanan; Hunter, Allison & Co.; Thomas Ridout; Barnes & Ridgate; and Fenwick, Mason & Co.(45) Attempts were made throughout the project to locate and review extant records of these firms. Nothing startling appeared in the records that were uncovered, but obviously, there may be more materials out there. This search should continue in the future.

Most purchases with these firms are for no more than a few items. The exception is the goods Mason bought in the Glassford store in Piscataway, Maryland in 1766 and 1767. These acquisitions represent a fair number of household goods, including brass and glass candlesticks, gilt trunks, a warming pan, brass and iron “chaffing dishes,” butter pots, bed covers and other textiles, paper, chamber pots, box irons, brushes, cooking implements, scissors, compasses, jewelry, snuff, tea, tools, drinking vessels, and a variety of table and teawares, principally of glass, ceramics, and cutlery.(46) The purchases are a bit of a puzzle. The question is: why did George Mason buy so much from the Glassford store across the river in Piscataway? Mason did have landholdings in Maryland, including a Charles County property called Stump Neck. The contents of the 1792 estate inventory for the property suggest that it was being used solely for agricultural purposes, at least at the end of Mason's life. The credit side of the Glassford Piscataway store ledger does show that Mason had sold a large quantity of tobacco to the firm, and not only Maryland tobacco, but Virginia tobacco as well. He could have been striking a similar deal to the one noted by the Huie Reid & Co. factor in 1790. But, it is still unusual. Looking at the record of customers doing business with the Glassford store in Piscataway does not yield the names of other Virginians.

It is also interesting to note that during the war years, Mason was doing business with the Maryland firm of Wallace, Johnson & Muir. Was this the continuance of strong business ties to Maryland or was the relationship spurred by the location of a branch of the firm in Nantes, France? Wallace, Johnson & Muir were able to trans-ship goods through the West Indies during the war years as was the firm of Hooe & Harrison with whom Mason also did business. A search of surviving Wallace, Davidson & Johnson records for the 1770s yielded wonderfully descriptive orders, but no Virginia clientele. As the name suggests, this firm was related to the Wallace, Johnson & Muir enterprise.(47)

During and after the Revolutionary War, George Mason ordered a number of items from American merchants who were living abroad or from foreign firms with apparent connections to local mercantile operations. De Neufville & Son, who were based in Amsterdam, had business ties to the Alexandria merchant firm of Hooe & Harrison.(48) On October 8, 1778, George Mason wrote to William Lee, agent for the Continental Congress in Europe and the brother of his friend Richard Henry Lee. He asked Lee, then in Nantes, France, to send blacksmith's tools, fabric, clothing, and bedding, some of which was probably intended for his slaves.(49) In 1784 he corresponded with Maryland merchant Joshua Johnson asking him to mark his silver or “plate” with either the Mason arms or crest as appropriate.(50) Presumably, he was ordering silver through Johnson, perhaps the tea sets made by London silversmith John Denzilow which date to 1784. Family history states that the tea sets were ordered as wedding presents for his children, and, indeed, three of the Mason offspring were married that year. The fact that George Mason almost certainly elected to give silver as gifts to mark important family occasions, as both the tea sets and the beakers seem to imply, does promote the idea that George Mason had a strong preference for purchasing silver objects to outfit his own home. Indeed, the careful transference by gift and will of the late 17th- and early 18th-century salver and monteith suggests this predilection for silver began much earlier in the Mason family.

Other types of miscellaneous records also yielded information on Mason's belongings. After nearby neighbors George William and Sally Fairfax emigrated to England in 1773, there was a sale of the contents of Belvoir, their plantation house. It was a popular sale, and many local residents bought items, including George Mason who purchased furniture, bedding, and six“pictures.”(51) Many people in the 18th century bought furnishings and other household goods at estate sales. Mason's purchase of items at the Belvoir sale raised another question. Did Mason buy goods at other sales? The records for Fairfax County, Virginia and Charles County, Maryland show no other purchases of second-hand furnishings by George Mason at other sales of household contents. However, he was in good company at the Belvoir sale; many of the local gentry bought items. Perhaps it was sentiment or perhaps the Fairfax connection lent great cachet to this particular sale. Or, possibly the Fairfaxes had especially fine furnishings. Interestingly, the objects George Mason chose to buy were not expensive.

Quite a number of records documenting George Mason's business transactions and purchases were encountered during the study. While many of these do not shed light on his household belongings or his taste, they do provide material for interpreting aspects of family or social history as well as Mason's agricultural and business enterprises. Some, like the account book of Alexandria tailor William Carlin, afford insights into George Mason's family life as well as his acquisitions and personality. Although the Room Use Study does not include an analysis of apparel, in the future, Gunston Hall will want to consider the types of clothing owned by George Mason and his family. The Carlin accounts certainly can be profitably exploited in interpreting the man and his taste; for instance, they show Mason ordering mourning clothing at the time of his first wife's death and a first suit of clothes for his son Thomas, newly “breeched” at age five.

These records also offer some clues to Mason as a member of the gentry. Mason and numerous other wealthy planters and townsfolk in the Alexandria area were patronizing William Carlin, a ready source of custom-made clothing. In the 18th century with its theatrical sense of self, a fine appearance was truly the embodiment of one's status. George Mason purchased clothing from Carlin throughout the 1760s and 1770s for himself, his sons, an unspecified “Serv[an]t” and James, a mulatto slave who was the planter's personal body servant.(52) Mason's 1772 order for livery for James from Carlin, like his use of crests on silver, indicates that he was concerned to use the symbols of wealth and family ties which would underscore his place in Virginia society.(53)

While the documentary record of objects owned by George Mason is rather sparse, it does provide a list of objects that Mason actually owned. And, taken as a whole, the list does tell tales. Some of the documentation, especially the merchants' records, includes prices which permit comparisons to other period purchases for the same type of goods. It confirms that Mason, like most gentry planters in Virginia, was buying British and European goods through local merchants and directly from abroad. In fact, the enumeration of Mason's acquisitions, in conjunction with a number of extant Mason belongings, does confirm his membership in the Elite category of homeowner as defined by Barbara Carson in Ambitious Appetites.(54) The documentary records show that Mason obviously placed great value on hospitality and entertaining. The “cream coloured” earthen ware and pewter items in the 1780 De Neufville order suggest he was filling in previously purchased sets of dessert, and possibly diner, wares. This order, along with an order Mason placed in 1786 attempting to buy a new tea set and a set of sized bowls, indicates he continued to replace and restock items that would allow his family to offer hospitable entertainment and to set fashionable dinner and tea tables.(55) While the site hopes that more period records of Mason's household belongings eventually will surface, the surviving documents do speak volumes.


Extant objects form the third branch in the stream of information which provide an individualized picture of George Mason's household decoration and belongings. Again, the amount is relatively small, but what survives is extremely important; they are objects with which he lived. They allow us to extrapolate information on Mason's taste. Was it avant-garde or conservative or somewhere in between? Within the parameters of gentry lifestyles, was Mason buying at the top end of the market, the lower end, or the middle? Did he follow the predilection of many Virginians for the “neat and plain,” or did he opt for more ornamented pieces? Were his household furnishings as unusual as the interior architecture of his house, or were they in line with what most other Virginians owned?

There are only a handful of objects which absolutely may be documented to George Mason's ownership.(56) These include the family Bible in which George Mason recorded his marriages, the births of his twelve children, and the death of his first wife and three of their offspring. Several pieces of jewelry, including a mourning ring memorializing Ann Eilbeck Mason, are obviously connected to the family by their markings and history. An affidavit written by John Mason in 1840 confirms that the earliest extant portraits of George and Ann Mason are 1811 copies of the images painted by John Hesselius in 1750, the year the couple married.(57) There are a number of books inscribed with George Mason's signature in the Gunston Hall Library and other repositories.

Other objects survive which almost certainly belonged to George Mason; however, the documentation is not as perfect. The silver salver and monteith mentioned above are in this category. While there is excellent written documentation for these pieces, the lines of descent through the family are not totally traceable. Also of note is a walnut writing table that was given to the Virginia Historical Society in 1880. It has a short documented line of descent as well as a family history recorded on a 19th-century silver plaque inlaid in the table top and in a letter from the Mason grandson who gave the table to the Historical Society. Perhaps the most intriguing is the fragment of a side chair, owned by the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), which descended in the Mason family with major alterations and only a general attribution to Mason ownership. A number of scholars, including Luke Beckerdite and John Bivins, have tied the chair to the work of William Buckland and William Bernard Sears, the two English craftsmen who assisted Mason with the building of Gunston Hall.(58) Given both connections, there is an extremely high probability that the chair was made especially for George Mason.

Aside from these few pieces, there are quite a number of other objects which have a history of purported ownership by Mason. The Room Use Study team has tried hard to pursue these objects. The first step was identifying as many of these pieces as possible. A search through the museum's catalog cards, the object files, genealogical charts, and a series of pertinent archival collections yielded a list of objects which various sources had connected to George Mason.

At the beginning of the project, letters were sent to all of the known Mason descendants. There were two types of letters. The first was a general letter explaining the project and requesting any information or leads on Mason objects or documents. The letter emphasized that the goal of the project was to gain a better understanding of George Mason's possessions and his taste through the knowledge of pieces he owned. Additionally, the letter asked about two specific items. One was the fragment of the Buckland/Sears' chair. A photocopy of a MESDA photograph of the chair was enclosed in the letter, which included a request that individuals get in touch with Gunston Hall if they had any knowledge of an intact chair from the set. The second item was a missing Mason account book known to exist in 1904 when several entries from it were quoted in a tour guide to Northern Virginia.(59) Unfortunately, neither request elicited a positive response.

The second set of letters targeted descendants or family lines who, according to various records, had belongings attributed to George Mason's ownership. In addition to repeating the text of the first letter, the letters asked about the specific object or objects. Over 900 letters were sent.

Several descendants were most kind and answered our query. Since that time staff members have made presentations and pleas at family reunions and have written follow-up letters regarding objects of particular interest; a number of 18th- and 19th-century family pieces were identified as a result. During the course of the study, leads materialized from other sources or descendants resurfaced after decades. Of course, this process will go on far into the future, as there is no way to tell what is still “at large.” The Room Use Study team and members of the Board of Regents are still trying to track down certain descendants rumored to have particular pieces.

After culling through all of the information, the team found that stylistically a number of pieces said to be owned by Mason were, without a doubt, too late. After excluding these objects from further research, a history was compiled for each object remaining on the list; the entries were organized using the inventory database nomenclature. Objects fell into three categories. The first included pieces in the Gunston Hall collection. Secondly, there are objects mentioned in correspondence and other documents for which there are photographs, good descriptions, and/or information from the owner. Finally, there are mystery pieces. Often noted only in passing in the records, mystery items have one or more of the following problems. No photos exist of the object; the available information is sketchy or incomplete; or the name or whereabouts of the owner is unknown.

In compiling a list of pieces which could have belonged to Mason, the team always gave objects the benefit of the doubt. So, quite a number of neoclassical (last quarter of the 18th and the early 19th century) pieces were initially included on the list. The team wanted to double check current thinking on the probable dates of each piece with recognized experts in the field of decorative arts. Through all this, the quest for family-associated objects, genealogical connections, and descendants' whereabouts continued. It is a search which will never end.

In 1997 the Room Use Study team began consulting curatorial specialists on the possible provenances and dates for any item with photos or reasonable amounts of descriptive information. For instance, one of the mystery items is a salt cellar. All that is known of the piece is that it is silver with a blue glass liner. As two curators confirmed that salt cellars with cobalt glass liners were made as early as the 1760s, this object will remain on the list, and the search for the current whereabouts of the piece will continue. For some categories of objects, there were numerous listings of possible George Mason belongings; these included tables, chairs, and silver associated with beverage or food service. Discussions with the various curators covered not only the possible provenance and dates of items, but apparent alterations and, given the history of the piece, the likelihood that Mason could have owned it. The exercise helped to determine whether or not the piece (or similar pieces) should be considered for inclusion in the Gunston Hall collection.

All of the information gathered as part of this process has been filed in a notebook which will become a permanent adjunct to the Room Use Study report. The notebook will provide an archival record of what was known about every object in question as of April, 1999.

The extant objects with a solid family history and a high probability of being George Mason's do show a proclivity for the “neat” or the “neat and plain.” One category, chairs, includes enough possible Mason pieces to indicate a hierarchy of objects. For instance, a pair of chairs loaned to Gunston Hall by Admiral Fitzhugh Lee and his descendants has a good line of descent and an oral tradition placing them at Gunston Hall. The chairs are British; they have red pine as a secondary wood which has led several scholars to suppose they might be Scottish, an interesting speculation given the strong connections that George Mason's father had with Glasgow and given that Mason traded with some Scottish-based merchants as well.(60) The crest rail and splats of the chairs have restrained, but fairly sophisticated carvings. In all likelihood these chairs would have been used in one of the formal rooms.

The carving on the legs of the MESDA chair fragment and the probability that the chairs were a special commission executed by William Buckland and William Bernard Sears, two of Mason's indentured craftsman, suggests that these, too, would have been used in a formal space.(61) The MESDA chair came down through the Ellzey/McCrary family who are direct descendants of two Mason sons — George Mason V of Lexington and Thomson Mason of Hollin Hall. The family still owns three chairs of a different design; these chairs, too, are tied by oral history tradition to George Mason. They have Roman numerals chiseled in their seat rails, the highest number being a nine, indicating the chairs were part of a large set, probably a set of twelve. The chairs are very much in the “neat and plain” style in that they have a simple splat design with no carvings, an indication they were used in one of the domestic spaces. Given that originally there was a large set, the chairs probably were found in the Little Parlor, which served as George Mason's office and the family dining room, or split between the Little Parlor and Chamber.

The number of times silver objects are mentioned in various Mason family documents leads one to speculate that the family held silver in high esteem, like many of the Virginia gentry. This suggestion seems to be corroborated when one sees that a large number of extant objects attributed to George Mason's ownership are silver. There are quite a few surviving pieces marked with the Mason coat of arms, crest, or the initial “M.” Often, though, the record is not very clear. Some of the silver descends through the family line of George Mason's brother, Thomson Mason of Raspberry Plain or a branch of the family in which cousins from both lines of descent married. Such pieces could descend from either George Mason (IV) of Gunston Hall or Thomson Mason of Raspberry Plain. Sometimes the relationship is even more convoluted. There is a set of 1761 London made silver-handled dinner and dessert knives and forks which has an oral history attributing ownership to either George Mason or George Washington. Thus far, the set appears to have no substantial links to Washington and his family. However, the exact line of descent in the Mason family is not readily apparent either as the cutlery was owned by a family descending from two of George Mason (IV)'s aunts and from two of George Mason (IV)'s children. What is clear is that in the 18th-century the Mason family as a whole liked and invested in household objects made of silver. They passed them on in their wills, and they appear to have given pieces to commemorate important family events like births and weddings. Again, with the exception of the earlier monteith, the Mason-associated silver also tends to be “neat” rather than “wrought.”

Other factors can make the line of descent a bit tricky to trace. For instance, a ladle made by Wilmington, Delaware/Philadelphia, Pennsylvania silversmith Richard Humphreys has been dated circa 1785. The piece descends in the family of George Mason, Jr. (V) of Lexington. On the reverse of the handle is a later inscription reading, “George Mason - Gunston Hall - Author of the Bill of Rights.” Obviously, the family believed it was owned by George Mason of Gunston Hall, but was it? Or, was it owned by George Mason, Jr. (V), who was just building his own house at this period on a nearby plantation property the family called Lexington? It is tempting to think that George Mason (IV) bought the piece during his sojourn at Philadelphia at the Constitutional Convention. But, even if this is true, was it for his own house or that of his son? A June 1, 1787 letter does reveal that Mason was asked to purchase wallpaper for his son's new house in Philadelphia.(62)

Since there are no surviving orders and few period references to large-scale pieces of Mason's furniture, it is difficult to say with any assurance where Mason was buying his major household furnishings. But, the extant objects do shed some light on the matter. The chairs with good Mason family connections were primarily regional, but the two chairs on loan from the Lee family are British-made and could well be Scottish. A mid-18th-century card table which descended in the Rumsey family through George Mason's son, Thomson Mason of Hollin Hall, also appears to be British. Family tradition relates that it belonged to George Mason who played cards on it upon occasion with his neighbor George Washington.

Not surprisingly, most of the extant family silver was made in Britain, primarily in London. This is a quite typical pattern for most Virginia planters. However, there are Philadelphia and later Alexandria-made pieces as well. The evidence inherent in surviving objects suggests that Mason obtained his furniture from a mix of sources. Just looking at the surviving pieces, there is a higher percentage of objects which come from the region followed by a number from Britain, whereas the reverse seems true of silver objects. Given the dearth of American manufacturing and the strength of the market in British and European wares, a majority of Mason's smaller-scale household belongings would have been imported goods.

There is one other category of objects with associations to George Mason and Gunston Hall—s archaeological artifacts. Since 1950 there have been a number of small scale excavations at Gunston Hall; all have unearthed some artifacts. Additionally, a small number of the many surface finds appear to be 18th century. All of the artifacts were surveyed in the summer of 1997, and a list was made of ceramics fragments with possible 18th-century origins.

Among the 18th-century ceramic sherds are a large number of pieces of salt-glazed earthenware representing at least four different patterns and forms, ranging from plates and dishes to tankards and hollowware, possibly a teapot. Clearly, white, salt-glazed earthenware was used in large quantities and probably for an extended period at Gunston Hall. It is possible that it remained in use in the kitchen and as servant/slave tableware after being replaced on the family's table by more fashionable ceramics.

Also discovered were a number of creamware fragments from a range of forms, including plates and serving dishes as well as possible sauce and fruit dishes. While the number of creamware sherds is considerably smaller than those of salt-glazed, the number and variety do support the hypothesis that George Mason's 1780 order with De Neufville & Son was intended to fill gaps in a dining service he already owned rather than intended as a separate dessert set. Even fewer in number are sherds of Chinese export porcelain. This is perhaps not surprising, considering the more durable nature of hard paste porcelain and the greater care undoubtedly given to these valuable ceramics. Among the items identified were fragments of several tea cups and bowls, some of which may have been punch bowls, as well as numerous fragments too small to suggest the form of the items from which they came. Nearly all the export porcelain fragments were blue and white, with several pieces being of the type described by scholars as Batavia ware, i.e., bowls and cups with blue and white interiors and brown exteriors. Clearly, over the course of his life, George Mason owned one or more sets of porcelain tea wares and probably a variety of porcelain punch bowls. Though it would be surprising if he did not also own export porcelain dinner ware, the evidence for such a set is inconclusive at this time.

Found in even smaller quantities were a few pieces representing ceramic types from the first half of the 18th century, such as Delft, Whieldon, Jackfield (black glaze on refined red or black earthen bodies) and yellow and brown glazed early Staffordshire wares. Also unearthed were fragments of Basalt (refined black stoneware) and white soft paste porcelain which may well date to Gunston Hall's interpretive period; however, further study will be needed to date these pieces accurately. Further investigation, including additional archaeological finds, will be required to determine the significance of the sherds. Indeed, no absolutely clear conclusions can be drawn from any of the already excavated materials except that full-scale archaeological investigations hold great promise for helping to unravel the mysteries of George Mason's household belongings.

There are limits as to what each type of clue architectural, documentary, and material culture can say about the interior decor and furnishings of Gunston Hall during George Mason's residence; however, taken together, the entire corpus of evidence begins to paint a picture of Mason's surroundings. When the inventory record of family members and the regional peer group is added to the mix, the image becomes clearer still. Using the statistics generated by the inventory database, the team has taken an in-depth look at every major category of household possession in the homes of elite Chesapeake planters. Ownership patterns were examined by looking at the percentage of ownership as well as the mean (average) and median (the mid-point in a series of values) for each type of household object. In comparing those figures to the preferences in household belongings inherently reflected in the five Mason/Eilbeck inventories, family trends become apparent. It is by piecing together all of the evidence that recommendations have been made for a more accurate refurnishing of Gunston Hall. However, the information goes beyond merely outfitting the rooms with the correct accouterments; it stretches to include the interpretation of life within the walls of Gunston Hall. The materials collected for this study will not only assist in re-establishing an 18th-century interior, but in the understanding of the lifestyle of George Mason and his family.

The “simple” low slung exterior of Gunston Hall deceives modern sensibilities. The uneducated 20th-century eye generally fails to see the message the house conveyed to the 18th-century viewer. Gunston Hall is not the full two or three story “great house” one associates with the grandeur of the Chesapeake elite. Indeed, the building mirrors a number of elements seen in many of the smaller vernacular house forms which dotted the Chesapeake — a low rectangular block with a central doorway, gable-ended with no or few openings in the gable ends, exterior chimneys, and one and one-half stories with dormers in the roof.(63) But, by period standards, at forty by sixty feet, the footprint of the house is very generous. The exterior displays a host of classical details which indicate a melding with academic forms not seen on Gunston Hall's simpler sisters. These included a full classical cornice, Aquia stone quoins, a classically-inspired pedimented frontispiece which Mason later expanded to a full porch. Both frontispiece and porch were composed of columns and/or pilasters flanking an early appearance of a Venetian door, a motif associated with Palladian forms.(64)

Additionally, the rear porch is composed of a five-sided Doric temple form attached to the rear wall of the house; two pairs of Gothic-arched openings flank a central rounded headed opening. Over the years scholars have proposed several pattern books as the porch's design source. However, whatever the inspiration, this is an early and unusual appearance of both a rear porch and the use of Gothic motifs in Chesapeake architecture. Although more fashionable in England, the Gothic detailing on the river side porch is another example of skirting the edge of locally acceptable forms. Mason certainly seems willing to have done so in several instances when it came to building his house.

Coming up the carefully contrived drive outlined by the four rows of black heart cherry trees described in John Mason's “Recollections,”(65) the 18th-century visitor saw an exterior which spoke of its Chesapeake origins, yet also gave an impression of wealth and taste that went along with classical architecture and a classical education. The references in the architecture and the landscape to the British design sources and the classics immediately bespoke George Mason's knowledge of current aesthetics and their underpinnings. In the very first view of the house, George Mason sets the tone for what one might expect from the interior.

Without a doubt the ground floor interiors of Gunston Hall show a man who chose to invest in architectural embellishments and who valued the message that such a treatment conveyed. First of all, this is a man who had not one, but two, English craftsmen to assist with the design and construction of his house. Buckland was indentured to Mason as a “Carpenter & Joiner” from 1755 to 1759 at the annual salary of twenty pounds per annum and “all necessary Meat, Drink, Washing, Lodging,” quite a decent salary for a twenty-two-year old just finished with his apprenticeship. William Bernard Sears' son later wrote that his “. . . fathers passage to Virginia was paid by George Mason, who claimed his services until the amount was claimed by labor.” Based on the above quote, the presumption until recently was that Sears was indentured, probably with an annual salary just like Buckland. However, it now appears that he was twenty year old convict servant “Barnard Sears, carver,” sentenced to transportation to America for seven years for stealing clothing.(66)

Upon entering the Passage, one immediately sees the results of the collaboration of Mason the patron with his two English craftsmen. It is a commodious space, but, more than that, it is unusual for the Chesapeake in that the architectural ornamentation is quite elaborate. Not only is the front Passage embellished with a Doric entablature and pilasters, but both the double elliptical arch which divides the space and the stair brackets are adorned with naturalistic rococo carvings, a very up-to-date touch seen in few Virginia houses of this date.

Likewise, the other two rooms in the suite of formal spaces - the so-called “Palladian” and “Chinese” Rooms, are extraordinary. Looking at the Palladian Room in the context of other Chesapeake houses, there appears to be almost excessive amounts of carved ornamentation adorning the chimney-breast wall, the cornice, the windows, the doors, the chair rail, and even the molding at the top of the baseboard. The Chinese Room certainly has no extant peers; it seems to be most unusual in possessing a coordinated woodwork scheme in the Chinese fashion.

The formal rooms at Gunston seem without extant parallel. Again, here is Mason willing to go to the limit of regional taste. However, an interesting question arises: did Buckland's next major commission, Mt. Airy, the home of planter John Tayloe, II, have similar decoration? William Buckland worked for this elite Richmond County family after leaving Fairfax County in 1761. Unfortunately, the original Mt. Airy interiors were destroyed by a fire in 1844. No detailed descriptions of the Tayloe interiors have come to light except for a 1774 mention in the journal of Philip Fithian, tutor to the Carter family of Nomini Hall, which describes Mt. Airy as an “elegant Seat,” although “finished curiously.”(67) A few tantalizing survivals suggest that the interiors of the public rooms in Gunston Hall and Mt. Airy may have been quite similar. Several cornice fragments which survived the Mt. Airy fire are almost identical in design to the cornice in the Palladian Room, and two side tables, which scholars have identified as the work of Buckland and Sears, contain motifs which appear in the Palladian Room — the console brackets above the beaufats and the guilloche outlining the windows.(68) If more parallels in the designs of the two houses come to light, it might well be argued that Gunston Hall and Mt. Airy represent cases in which the affinities and abilities of the craftsmen heavily influenced the patron. In that case, the picture of George Mason would take on a slightly different focus. He becomes a man who, to a large degree, bought into the fashion ” design currents which Buckland and Sears had to offer. Had Fithian visited Mason, Gunston Hall, too, might have seemed “curiously finished” though “elegant” to the eyes of a tutor who hailed from a middling Presbyterian background in New Jersey and who had seen many “neat and plain” gentry dwellings on his trips out with Mr. Carter. However, it would have appealed to at least one other member of Virginia's gentry — John Tayloe, II.

What is apparent, though, is that George Mason seems to have been satisfied with his dwelling. The results of the recent program of architectural research have demonstrated that George Mason made only a few changes to the house during his lifetime. One was the addition of the front porch, which was even then based on the pre-existing frontispiece design. The second was the removal of the column centered on the double elliptical arch in the Passage and its replacement with a carved pendant, a change seemingly made quite early in the history of the house.

In April 1791, after staying the night with George Mason, South Carolina Senator William Loughton Smith wrote in his journal that Col. Mason's “. . . house is rather antient brick building, with a neat Garden, at the end of which is a high natural terrace with a command of the Potomac: The ground about is rough and unimproved.”(69) His description suggests that house was little changed and, indeed, out of fashion by the early 1790s. Unlike his neighbor George Washington, Mason did not significantly remodel the basic fabric of his house.

When George Mason built Gunston Hall, he was in his early 30s. At that point he seems very aware of fashion trends. He went to the trouble of hiring skilled English craftsmen who produced an exceptionally fine interior. He chose to decorate a number of rooms in his home with wallpaper, an up-to-date decorative statement at mid-century. And, Mason did not let time stand entirely still. Paint analysis indicates that he did redecorate the domestic suite of rooms on the ground floor and the interior of the Service Stair. The application of a new and fashionable green-glazed finish to the woodwork in the ground floor chamber and its coincidence with new curtain hardware suggests that not only did Mason repaint the room, but updated the textiles on the windows and the bed as well.(70) However, on the whole, Mason seems to have liked his original vision of the house for he tampered with it very little. He was not concerned as was Washington, a man much in the public eye and exposed to new surroundings, with constantly keeping up with the architectural fashions. Like many homeowners even today, he seems to have grown accustomed to his surroundings.

The Room Use Study also has thrown new light on the material culture of George Mason's home. In comparing the statistics of the ownership of large-scale furniture in Rural Elite households in the Chesapeake, the Mason/Eilbeck family group consistently falls at or below the average. As a group, they appear not to have perceived quantities of furniture as adding to their stature or comfort. The Masons also joined the majority of their elite peers in the Chesapeake in choosing to live without easy chairs and sofas. The only easy chairs to appear in family inventories do so after 1800. This form is listed in the 1800 inventory of Thomas, George Mason's youngest son, an 1802 listing of the personal possessions of George Mason's daughter, Nancy Mason Johnson, and the 1825 inventory of William, George Mason's second son.(71) It seems likely that the younger generation of Masons did begin to adopt this form when they set up housekeeping, a partiality not seen in the older generation and even in Mason's oldest and sickliest child, George Jr. (V).

However, this does not imply that the family cared little about their belongings and the statement they made. Their inventories do include all of the principal forms of furniture found in 18th-century gentry households, but they did not own any individual forms in depth. Like many of their contemporaries, they apparently chose to continue the prevailing practice of moving pieces from room to room as needed and of employing certain pieces of furniture for several different functions.

The surviving furniture associated with George Mason and other family members does demonstrate a preference for the “neat” and “neat and plain,” the dominant style in the Chesapeake in the mid- to late-18th century. However, several pieces attributed directly to George Mason's ownership do suggest that his furniture also followed the hierarchy which so clearly marks the architecture of the house. The Lee chairs, the MESDA fragment, and the Rumsey card table are all embellished with carvings.(72) Current scholarship suggests that these pieces of furniture were made for the formal rooms as opposed to simpler pieces produced for the domestic spaces.

Like many in the planter elite, Mason appears to have acquired both British and regionally made pieces. For example, the Lee chairs and the Rumsey card table were both seemingly made in England or Scotland. As the table probably dates from the 1750s and the chairs from 1760 - 1780, it suggests that, at least in his early years as a homeowner, Mason ordered furniture from Britain as did many others in Virginia's planter and merchant elite at the time. The papers of George Washington and Robert Beverley, to name just two wealthy Virginians, include numerous orders for English furniture following their move into new residences.(73)

Mason clearly exercised other options as well. In a class by itself is the MESDA chair fragment; evidence indicates it was part of a set which William Buckland and William Bernard Sears made especially for George Mason. The work of these two English craftsman appears to follow the precedent set in very wealthy British households where patrons hired “architects” like William Kent and Robert Adams, as well as many lesser lights, to devise not only architectural interiors but at least some of the furnishings to suit the rooms they designed. Scholarship currently holds that in America this type of working relationship was unusual. Since Mason easily could have ordered a set of chairs from a British source, as apparently he did with the Lee chairs, the Buckland/Sears chair carries with it the connotation that the piece was designed to be en suitewith the architecture found in one of the formal rooms of Gunston Hall. Furthermore, the set number “IV” carved into the seat rail of the fragment suggests that there were at least a set of six, since chairs usually were ordered in multiples of that number. Here is an example of furniture made on site whose probable intent was to echo the architectural decorations.(74)

Not surprisingly, several other extant pieces associated with George Mason are products of regional cabinetmaking shops, for instance, the three surviving McCrary chairs, which are the very model of the “neat and plain.” In keeping with the hierarchy of architectural detail and furniture seen in 18th-century houses, the style of these chairs seem allied to the simpler woodwork in the Little Parlor and the ground floor Chamber. Extrapolating from the “VIIII” carved into one of the seat rails, it seems likely that Mason ordered at least twelve of these chairs.

Generally, the Masons seem to have had a greater penchant for investing in the more portable forms of household equipage. As a family they certainly show a great predilection for silver, a trait exhibited by other gentry homeowners in the Chesapeake as well. Silver had several advantages. Silver reflected status; members of the elite would display silver on their sideboards and in their beaufats when guests came to dine. Furthermore, it was money incarnate. Silver could be easily converted back into cash or credit, a factor which probably appealed to men, like Mason, who appear to have kept careful track of their finances and who wished to avoid overextending themselves. Additionally, as the years passed, silver could bring the newest styles into a home, albeit on a smaller scale than architecture or furniture. The addition of smaller household objects in the latest fashion showed that one was style conscious despite a home filled with older tables and chairs. The Mason sauceboat made by London silversmith William Skeen in 1782/83 would have brought newer neoclassical styling to the family's dinner table.

In the realm of household equipage, especially items associated with dining and tea, evidence suggests that George Mason does seem to have bought in depth. Still in existence, and with a line of descent in the Mason family, are at least 36 pieces from a set of silver-handled knives and forks said to have belonged to George Mason. Decorated with leafage on the ends of the handles, they were made by London silversmith Jacob Horsley in 1761. From the number of extant pieces, it is likely that originally there was at least a set of twelve dinner and twelve dessert knives and forks. Two surviving orders show that Mason owned less expensive types of cutlery as well. He bought “½ doz. red wood knives and forks, 1 pr. carvers” and “½ doz. Breakfast knives and forks” from the Glassford store in Piscataway, Maryland in 1766.(75) Fourteen years later, he received “1 Doz. Strong buck horn handled Table Knives” and the same number of forks from the Amsterdam-based firm of John De Neufville & Son.(76) Mason is purchasing cutlery in a multiplicity of forms and materials. Presumably, the “red wood” and “buck horn” examples were for everyday dining and the silver for fine entertaining. Again, here is the hierarchy of use seen in the rooms, furniture, and equipage of most wealthy planter homes. The archaeological record, with its profusion of white salt-glazed stoneware fragments and smaller amounts of creamware and porcelain sherds, suggests a similar hierarchy of ceramics and possibly a switch from salt-glazed to creamware to suit newer fashions.

Although various interpreters of George Mason have depicted him as a curmudgeon,(77) when one looks at the accumulated documentation on Mason's belongings and the domestic life at Gunston Hall, it behooves one to show care in pushing that interpretation too far. In his “Recollections,” John Mason writes of his father that:

during these periods of Study, the Family never were in his Company but at meal times- . . . at such times he was not morose but often taciturn, and would leave the table early- and I have frequently known his mind- tho' always kind & affectionate to his children so diverted from the objects around him that he would not for days together miss one the Family, that may have been absent and would sometimes at table enquire for one of my Sisters who had perhaps been gone a week a visit to some Friend of which he had known but forgotten.(78)

This verbal portrait may have helped to fuel the interpretation of Mason as a moody man. However, John goes on to say that “. . . at other times and when not deeply engaged my Father was remarkably cheerful- with politicians and Men of Business fond of being ample in his conversation and with his Family and the young company that frequented the house unbending and jocular-”(79) Perhaps John includes the above description in defense of his father's reputation

as a difficult soul, a man who did not sign the Constitution, but, taken in toto, while it shows a man of great concentration and serious purpose, it also describes a gentleman who enjoyed company.

Mason may have been waspish in the political arena, or at least unwavering in his ideas, but the record suggests that he was also a gracious host who was aware of the role material possessions could play in augmenting hospitality and reflecting one's place in Virginia society. The documentary record of his household possessions, combined with surviving Mason pieces, indicates that throughout his lifetime, Mason continued to replenish his stock of tea and tablewares with fashionable pieces. Many Mason interpreters have concentrated too much on the former and too little on the latter part of John Mason's description.

A March 7, 1788 letter from George Walker to the Dumfries branch of the merchant firm of Huie Reid & Co. mentions visiting Mason to settle an outstanding account. Walker reports, after considering whether to visit George Mason or a Mr. Donaldson: “[I] went out to Gunston to — . . . but was detained so long on the Subjects of politics and the forming a Harbour here that I could not get farther than Alexa that night.”(80) Again, here is Mason's hospitable side; he adds a sudden visitor to his table. But he is also a host who surely had the political turmoil of the upcoming Virginia Ratification Convention much on his mind. To repeat John Mason's description, in this case his father does appear to have been “with politicians and Men of Business fond of being ample in his conversation.”

The extant record does show a man who over the years, welcomed many visitors into his home for overnight stays, like those of George Washington, James Monroe, Thomas Shippen, and William Loughton Smith.(81) Although the surviving documentation is unclear, undoubtedly many others lingered on more extended visits.

Evidence points to Mason as a man not given to extravagance, but who was generous with his family. Again and again in the surviving papers, he reiterates his concern for his family and their importance to him.

Looking to larger issues of inheritance, Mason's will, written almost twenty years before his death, outlined what each child would receive. Mason was careful to assure that each of his sons would have a plantation of his own. Slaves and money were also meted out to each child.(82) Oral history tradition and the extant 1784 neoclassical tea sets show a man who presumably commemorated family occasions like weddings and christenings with fairly substantial gifts of silver.

Glimpses offered by a number of miscellaneous surviving documents highlight the planter's willingness to purchase items of personal finery for the women in the family. In 1766 Mason buys “1 gold Brotch Set with Garnet” for 16 shillings from the John Glassford & Company store in Piscataway, Maryland for someone in the family; the following year he purchases “2 necklaces @ 3½ƒ” and “1 French paste do 12½” from the same source.(83) Two years later he asks Williamsburg-bound George Washington to buy “two pr. Gold snaps . . . for my little Girls; they are small rings with a joint in them, to wear in the Ears . . .”(84) In 1783 he receives a watch he has apparently ordered for his second wife, Sarah, from George, Jr. (V) who is in France. In a letter of March 1789 Mason asks John, who has set up business in France, to send “a piece of silk, a pattern for your sister Betsy,” but he adds “I would have it a handsome but not very expensive silk . . . If trimmings are necessary, they should be sent with it, and sewing silk to make it up.” He expresses the identical sentiment in July of the next year: “I would have it a handsom, but not a very dear Silk . . .”(85)

Other than the house, Mason's consumer choices seem to fit the mainstream of Virginia planter taste in subscribing to the aesthetic of the “neat and plain.” He valued land and portable goods over furniture; he followed the fashions, but always showed restraint. Mason seems more than pleased to see his family well adorned, but not to excess. Perhaps that was the ruling premise of his life, with one exception — the public suite of rooms in Gunston Hall.

Clearly, Mason wanted an elegant interior; otherwise he would not have obtained the services of two English craftsmen. But the result was out of the ordinary. It was more than “neat and plain.” Working with the Buckland and Sears, Mason was willing to extend the limits of acceptable Chesapeake architectural forms in his public rooms. As a man who placed high value on ideas and intellect, did Mason do so, in part, because he both respected and was fascinated by the knowledge and the architectural treatises and pattern books that Buckland had to offer. At the end of William Buckland's term of service, Mason wrote the following endorsement on the back of his indenture: “. . . during the time he lived with me he had the entire Direction of the Carpenters & Joiners Work of a large House; & having behaved very faithf[ully in] my Service, I can with great Justice recommend him . . . & I think a complete Master of the Carpenter's & Joiner's Business both in Theory & practice.”(86) In Mason's expression of confidence in Buckland's abilities, one also can read a certain enjoyment in the relationship of the two men. Furthermore, it is interesting that Mason mentions the young man's mastery of “theory” as well as “practice.” Features of Gunston Hall, including the Gothic porch, the Chinese-style woodwork in a public room, the quantity of decoration, and the plan itself, indicate the planter's willingness to experiment with English academic forms guided by the influence of his talented designer; the result was a building at the edge of traditional Virginia ornamentation.(87)

Mason, like most people, was multi-faceted. The study of his household appointments and decoration has focused new attention on many aspects of Mason's personality as well as his choices as a consumer. With luck, the Room Use Study will be like a pebble thrown in the water. While it will have immediate impact, as time passes, it should also have as a ripple effect in eliciting more information on George Mason as a homeowner. The results of the study take us ever closer to the Gunston Hall George Mason knew as well as offering the potential for future refinements when new documents and objects appear. For the meantime, the implementation of this major research project should present Gunston Hall with new and important opportunities to tell the story of a man who played a major role in the development of American democracy.

1. Major sources on Buckland and Sears are: Luke Beckerdite, “William Buckland and William Bernard Sears: The Designer and the Carver,” Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts, 8 (November 1982), 6-41; Luke Beckerdite “Architect-Designed Furniture in Eighteenth-Century Virginia: The Work of William Buckland and William Bernard Sears,” American Furniture 1994 (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1994 ), 28-48; Rosamund R. Beirne and John H. Scarff, William Buckland, 1734-1774: Architect of Virginia and Maryland (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1958); Conversations with John Bivins, 1986-1994; Bennie Brown, ed., William Buckland: Master Builder of the Eighteenth Century (Lorton: Board of Regents of Gunston Hall, 1977); Robert Dalzell, Jr. and Lee Dalzell, George Washington's Mount Vernon: At Home in Revolutionary America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 72, 104-108, 164-169, 178-180; Ronald L. Hurst and Jonathan Prown, Southern Furniture 1680-1830: The Colonial Williamsburg Collection (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1997), 264-269. Additional sources on Buckland are listed in the citations in Beckerdite's article “Architect-Designed Furniture. . .”, Beckerdite, American Furniture, 1994.

2. Just a sampling of influential works on 18th-century Virginia architecture from the last several decades include the following. Cary Carson, Norman F. Barka, William Kelso, Garry Wheeler Stone, and Dell Upton,“Impermanent Architecture in the Southern American Winterthur Portfolio 16 (Summer/Autumn 1981), 135-196; Edward Chappell, “Williamsburg Architecture as Social Space,” Fresh Advices (November 1981), I-iv; “Looking at Buildings,” Fresh Advices (November 1984), I-iv; Carl R. Lounsbury, ed., An Illustrated Glossary of Early Southern Architecture and Landscape (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994); Dell Upton, “Early Vernacular Architecture in Southeastern Virginia,” (Ph.D. diss., Brown University, 1980); Upton, “Vernacular Domestic Architecture in Eighteenth-Century Virginia,” Winterthur Portfolio 17 (Summer/Autumn 1982), 95-119; Upton, “White and Black Landscapes in Eighteenth-Century Virginia,” Places: A Quarterly Journal of Environmental Design 2 (Winter 1985), 59-72; Camille Wells, “The Eighteenth-Century Landscape of Virginia's Northern Neck,” Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Magazine 37 (December 1987), 4217-4255; Wells, “The Planter's Prospect: Houses, Outbuildings, and Rural Landscapes in Eighteenth-Century Virginia,”Winterthur Portfolio 28 (Spring 1993), 1-31; Wells, “Social and Economic Aspects of Eighteenth-Century Housing on the Northern Neck of Virginia,” (Ph.D. diss., The College of William and Mary, 1994); Mark R. Wenger, “The Central Passage in Virginia: Evolution of an Eighteenth-Century Living Space,” Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture II, ed. Camille Wells (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1986), 137-149; Wenger, “The Dining Room in Early Virginia,” Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture III, ed. Thomas Carter and Bernard L. Herman (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1989), 149-159. There are many additional important contributions by these and other authors too numerous to list.

3. Lounsbury, Glossary, 240, 277.

4. Graham Hood, The Governor's Palace in Williamsburg: A Cultural Study (Williamsburg: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1991), 188; Leroy Graves and F. Carey Howlett, “Leather Bottoms, Satin Haircloth, and Spanish Beard: Conserving Virginia Upholstered Seating Furniture,” American Furniture 1997, Luke Beckerdite, ed. (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1997), 281; Elizabeth A. Fleming, “Staples for Genteel Living: The Importation of London Household Goods Into Charleston During the 1780s,” American Furniture 1997, 349.

5. This report does not strive to chronicle all of the details of the architectural research and restoration of the 1980s and 1990s. The results of that work are recorded in a series of document cards, reports, memos, photographs, and drawings available in the Gunston Hall Plantation Library and Archives and administrative files. Likewise, this chapter will not footnote the architectural findings. Materials documenting both findings and hypotheses will be found in a series of summary reports produced by the architects after each major research trip, in a series of document cards (the cards record all available background information on each room and on individual features of that room; cards also document the findings of Phillips, Buchanan, and Wenger's investigation of each room and specific features of each room), and in a number of memoranda and reports by the architects and the craftsmen involved with the research and restoration. As yet there is no overall narrative of the research and restoration.

6. Frank S. Welsh, “Comparative Microscopical Paint and Color Analysis of Gunston Hall,” 1994, Gunston Hall Plantation Library and Archives, 9-17.

7. To Mr. Richd Washington, London, September 1757, Accounts and Financial Records of Mount Vernon, Financial Papers 1750-96, MssD., Library of Congress (Presidential Papers microfilm series 115 & 116); Colo. Fairfax to Robert Stark, 28 March 1763, George Mason Neighbors Papers, Gunston Hall Plantation Library and Archives.

8. All of the above mentioned records are part of the holdings of the Gunston Hall Plantation Library and Archives or the institution's administrative files.

9. Audio-cassette tapes and notes taken by Mickey Crowell and Susan Borchardt of this 19 August 1992 session are on file at Gunston Hall Plantation Library and Archives.

10. Welsh, 6-8.

11. Margaret Pritchard, “Color and Pattern: Decorative Schemes in 18th- and Early 19th-Century America,” (paper presented at Colors for A New Nation Symposium, Gunston Hall Plantation, 30 October 1998), 6.

12. “Archaeology/Investigation/Construction—Cellar—Wine Vault, 1975,” Inactive Administrative Files, Gunston Hall Plantation Library and Archives.

13. Lounsbury, Glossary, 394-395.

14. Lounsbury, Glossary, 51-52.

15. Issac Ware, The Complete Body of Architecture (London, 1755), 746; William Salmon, The London and Country Builder's Vade Mecum (London, 1745), 23; William Salmon, The Country Builder's Estimator (London, 1740), 20-21. From the Builder's Estimator: “Second best Boarding, nail'd at 2 l. per Square, Workmanship 8 s. per Square; Ditto, dowell'd at 2 l. 5s. per Square, Workmanship 12 s. per Square; Clean Deal Floor dowell'd at 4l. per Square, Workmanship, 12 s. per Square.”

16. “Papier Machee for ceiling of 2 rooms, one of them 18 ft square, the other 18 x 16 with Cr. Chimneys,” Ft. Loudoun, 15 April 1757, George Washington, Writings of George Washington 1745-1799, John C. Fitzpatrick, ed. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1931), 2:23; George William Fairfax to Robert Stark includes: “Papier Mache ornamts for Ceiling agreable to Drawing E” @ 4£ and in a second submission “To paier mashe Ornaments for Ceiling agreeable to drawing for Room E 20 ft 3 by 16.5”, 4£, 28 March 1763, first citation: Gunston Hall Plantation Archives, George Mason Neighbors Collection, Fairfax Papers; second citation: Ellen K. Donald, Susan A. Borchardt, and Julia B. Claypool, “Carlyle House Historic Furnishings Plan,” (Alexandria, VA: Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, 1984), 242-243.

17. Welsh, 19.

18. Welsh, 22-24.

19. George New Book of Chinese Designs (London, 1755), plate 67.

20. There are eight households with listings for ornamental china in both the Maryland and Virginia inventories included in the Gunston Hall inventory database: AMBLER69, BTTORT70, XRNDPH75, RNDLPH76, PMBRTN80, DWNMN81, BROOK99, and BRICE02. Some of the entries could be figurines for use on dining tables. The entries for BROOK99 and BRICE02 note the use of these decorative ceramics on the chimney piece. Other inventories include other decorative ornaments including images, flower pots, and urns.

21. Anna Somers Cocks, “The Nonfunctional Use of Ceramics in the English Country House During the Eighteenth Century,” The Fashioning and Functioning of the British Country House (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1989), 195-215.

22. John Mason, “Recollections of John Mason,” transcribed by Terry Dunn and Estella Bryans-Munson, Gunston Hall Plantation Library and Archives, 1989; revised 1999, 11-13, 33-34, 39-40.

23. Welsh, 9-11.

24. Pritchard, “Color and Pattern,” 6-7.

25. Welsh, 15-17.

26. Visit to Mattawoman by Charles Phillips, Willie Graham, and Mark R. Wenger on 24 April 1997 and follow-up conversation with same participants on 25 April 1997.

27. Welsh, 26, 30, 32-33, 35-36.

28. Edward A. Chappell, “Rosewell's Architecture Reevaluated,”in Discovering Rosewell: An Historical, Architectural, and Archaeological Overview (Gloucester, VA: The Rosewell Foundation, 1994), 30.

29. Robert A. Rutland, ed., The Papers of George Mason (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1970), 2: 664-675.

30. Papers of George Mason, 3:893.

31. Papers of George Mason, 1:151, 1:152.

32. Papers of George Mason, 3:1250.

33. &#Recollections,” 16, 33-34.

34. Papers of George Mason, 1:151.

35. George Mason, Jr., Will, 10 December 1799, Will Book, G-1, Fairfax County, Virginia, 256.

36. George Mason, Jr., Will; Thomson Mason, Will, 21 November 1820, Will Book M-1, Fairfax County, Virginia.

37. For further information on the beakers, see the section on Beverage-General in the full version of the report.

38. George Brent, Will, 14 August 1778, Stafford County, Virginia, Access. No. 22783 / 23373, Library of Virginia [from lost Liber N (1767-1783), 367].

39. Sarah Eilbeck, Will, 18 December 1780, Wills, Liber AF, No. 7, Charles County, Maryland, 582-585, 578.

40. William Eilbeck, Probate Inventory, 1 May 1766, Charles County Inventories, 1753-1766, Charles County, Maryland, 449-455.

41. Rinaldo Johnson and Thomas & William Mason, Indenture, 27 April 1802, Deed Book 1798-1802, Prince George's County, Maryland, 220.

42. See appendix “Documented References to George Mason's Belongings” in Volume Two for a listing of the items purchased from these merchant firms.

43. Letterbook, 25 June 1790, Huie Reid & Co. Business Records 1784-1795, Dumfries, Virginia, MssD., Library of Congress.

44. T. Michael Miller, Artists and Merchants of Alexandria, Virginia, 1780-1820 (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1991-92), 2: 84-85.

45. Research Files: “George Mason, IV, Accounts, Maryland,” and “George Mason, IV, Accounts, Virginia,” Gunston Hall Plantation Library and Archives.

46. Colo. George Mason, DR, 27 August 1766, Piscataway Ledger 1766, R8 C24, John Glassford and Company Records, MssD., Library of Congress; 5 August 1767, Piscataway Ledger 1767, R9, C26, ibid.

47. Wallace, Davidson, & Johnson Order Book 1771-1774, Chancery Papers Exhibits 1773-1776, MSA no. 528-27, Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland.

48. Order Book, August 1780, Shipment to Hooe & Harrison, Papers of John de Neufville, 1780 - 1789, MssD, Library of Congress, 259.

49. Papers of George Mason, 1:440.

50. John Mason and unknown copyist, “Copy of a paper written in Mason hand writing by the late Coll. George Mason of Gunston, sent, in 1784 - to his Correspont -, the late Joshua Johnson when American Consular London with an order to import son plate for his family,” George Mason Papers, Gunston Hall Plantation Library and Archives.

51. George Mason, Sen., DR. Accounts of Sale, Belvoir, 15 August 1774, Fairfax Family Papers, Mss1 F1615.b4, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia.

52. “Recollections,” 46.

53. William Carlin Ledger, Alexandria, Virginia. Privately owned. Microfilm copies: National Museum of American History Library, Smithsonian Institution and Alexandria Library, Special Collections at Lloyd House, Alexandria, Virginia, 71, 72, 86, 89, 90, 140.

54. Barbara Carson, Ambitious Appetites: Dining, Behavior, and Patterns of Consumption in Federal Washington (Washington, DC: The American Institute of Architects Press, 1990). For a discussion of class categorization of inventories, see Chapter One of this volume.

55. Papers of George Mason, 2:847-848.

56. For detailed accounts of the Mason family objects mentioned in this chapter see: the Room Use Study Masoniana Notebook, April 1999; the Masoniana Files, and the appropriate object file for pieces on loan to the site or in the Gunston Hall collection.

57. John Mason, Affidavit, 10 May 1840, Mason Family Papers, Gunston Hall Plantation Library and Archives.

58. Luke Beckerdite, “William Buckland and William Bernard Sears: The Designer and the Carver,” Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts, 8 (November 1982), 17-19; Luke Beckerdite “Architect-Designed Furniture in Eighteenth-Century Virginia: The Work of William Buckland and William Bernard Sears,” American Furniture 1994, 34-36.

59. William H. Snowden, Some Old Historic Landmarks of Virginia and Maryland (Alexandria, VA: G.H. Ramey & Son, 1904), 115.

60. Glassford.[The many volumes of Glassford & Company records include multiple references to George Mason; copies of the specific documents will be found in the Research Files: “George Mason IV, Accounts, Maryland” and “George Mason IV, Accounts, Virginia,” Gunston Hall Plantation Library and Archives.]; Pamela C. Copeland and Richard K. MacMaster, The Five George Masons, (Charlottesville, VA: The University Press of Virginia, 1975), 62-63.

61. Beckerdite, “Architect-Designed Furniture,” 34-36.

62. Papers of George Mason, 3:891.

63. Upton, “Early Vernacular Architecture in Southeastern,” 218-394; Upton, “Vernacular Domestic Architecture in Eighteenth-Century,” 95-119; Wells, “Social and Economic Aspects of Eighteenth-Century Housing on the Northern Neck of Virginia,” 109-158.

64. A Venetian doorway or window has an arched central opening flanked by two narrow, rectangular sidelights. The form, which is “associated with the works and writings of Renaissance Italian architects Sebastiano Serlio and Andrea Palladio . . . is a hallmark of the Palladian design which flourished in Great Britain in the early and mid-18th century. By the middle of the century this window type began to appear in southern American architecture . . . .” [Lounsbury, Glossary, 389-390].

65. &#Recollections,” 43.

66. Beckerdite, “William Buckland and William Bernard Sears,” 7-9; Beckerdite, “Architect-Designed Furniture,” 33; Dalzell and Dalzell, 164.

67. Philip Vickers Fithian, Journal and Letters of Philip Vickers Fithian, ed. Hunter Dickinson Farish (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1968), 94.

68. Ronald L. Hurst and Jonathan Prown, Southern Furniture 1680-1830: The Colonial Williamsburg Collection(Williamsburg, VA: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1997), 264-269; Beckerdite, “Architect-Designed Furniture,” 32-43.

69. “Journal of William Loughton Smith,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society (October 1917), 64.

70. Welsh, 9-17, 39. Without surviving household orders it is impossible to know whether George Mason may have added or changed wallpapers in an attempt to keep up with fashions or replace papers which had suffered wear and tear.

71. Thomas Mason, Will, 7 July 1806, Will Book I 1803-1809, Prince William County, Virginia, 123-141; Rinaldo Johnson and Thomas & William Mason, Indenture, 27 April 1802, Deed Book 1798-1802, Prince Georges's County, Maryland, 220; William Mason, Inventory, 4 November 1825, Register of Wills (Inventories), 1825-1828, Charles County Maryland, 70-75.

72. The family names used as adjectives to denote specific pieces of furniture associated with George Mason represent the branch of Mason family which owned the piece when Gunston Hall became aware of its existence.

73. Numerous collections of period papers document the practice of planter's ordering furniture directly from Britain or buying British furniture through Virginia or Maryland merchants. A sampling of collections which include British furniture are: Papers of Charles Carroll, the Barrister, Maryland Historical Magazine, 31:4 (December 1936) -38:2 (June 1943); John Glassford & Co. Records, MssD., LC.; Papers of the Jones Family, Northumberland County, Virginia, 1749-1810, Roger Jones Family Papers, 1649-1896, MssD., LC; Letterbook 1761-1775, Robert Beverley Papers, MssD., LC; Carter Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia; Robert Carter Letterbook, Special Collections Department, William R. Perkins Library, Duke University; Accounts and Financial Records of Mount Vernon, Financial Papers 1750-1796, George Washington Papers, MssD., LC., (Presidential Papers microfilm series no. 115 & 116), Wallace, Davidson & Johnson Order Book 1771-1774, Chancery Papers Exhibits 1773-1776, MSA no. 528-27, Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland; Conversations with Ronald Hurst, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Summer 1997; Ronald Hurst, “Furniture: From 'Neat and Plain' to Neoclassical,” George Washington's Mt. Vernon, Wendell Garrett, ed. (New York, Monacelli Press, 1998), 154.

74. Beckerdite, “Architect-Designed Furniture,” 29, 34-35.

75. Colo. George Mason, Esqr. DR., 23 August 1766, Piscataway, MD Ledger, Glassford, (microfilm reel 8), 99.

76. Papers of George Mason, 2: 664-675.

77. See: Brent Tarter, “George Mason and the Conservation of Liberty,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 99:3 (July 1991): 280-285; Peter Henriques, “An Uneven Friendship: The Relationship Between George Washington & George Mason,” VMHB, 97:2 (April 1989): 185-204; Jack N. Rakove, Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution (New York: A.A. Knopf, 1996); among other historians sharing this view are Samuel E. Morison and Henry S. Commager.

78. “Recollections,” 14.

79. “Recollections,” 14.

80. George Walker to Huie Reid & Co, Dumphries, 7 March 1788, Folder 1788, Huie Reid & Company, Dumphries, VA, MssD, LC, 130.

81. Thomas Lee Shippen to William Shippen, 16 September 1790, Thomas Lee Shippen Papers, MssD., LC; “Journal of William Loughton Smith,” 64; The Diaries of George Washington, ed., Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, 6 vols. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1976-79) 3:71, 4:100-101; To Thomas Jefferson from James Monroe, 16 October 1792, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed., John Catanzaritti, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), 24:489.

82. Papers of George Mason, 1:147-161.

83. 27 August 1766, Piscataway, Maryland, Ledger, 1766, Glassford; August 5, 1767 Piscataway, Maryland, Ledger, ibid., 38.

84. Papers of George Mason, 1:102.

85. Papers of George Mason, 3: 1142, 3: 1205.

86. 8 November 1759, Endorsement on reverse of Indenture between William Buckland and Thomson Mason, 4 August 1755, George Mason Papers, Gunston Hall Plantation Library and Archives.

87. A discovery made early in the architectural investigations does suggest that Buckland may have influenced another area building project, which like Gunston Hall, introduces English sources melded to vernacular Chesapeake traditions. Ten pencil sketches, which appear to be a series of proposals for courthouses, were found on the back of the west Palladian Room window entablature. In 1759, the last year of Buckland's indenture, Prince William, the adjacent county, was planning to erect a new courthouse. It seems likely that Mason and local colleagues from Prince William County must have asked Buckland's input on its design. Mason's carpenter-joiner appears to have sketched a number of successive ideas in the form of five pairs of drawings, each pair consisting of an elevation and a floor plan. The designs begin with a very English forms which appear to have been adapted to local building traditions and the practical needs of Virginia jurisprudence as discussions with the area gentry progressed. Interestingly, when the site of the 1762 courthouse was excavated, the remains showed evidence of the innovative circulation patterns Buckland recorded in the Gunston sketches. The resulting building revealed that the courthouse building committee selected “. . . new forms when they seemed to enhance rather than displace design ideas which were firmly embedded in traditional social and aesthetic preferences.” However, Buckland's suggestions for a polygonal arcade at the front of the building were rejected. As Buckland used polygons on the river porch at Gunston Hall and later on the two wings of the Hammond-Harwood House in Annapolis, he seemed to espouse a form then achieving popularity in Britain. Unlike the building committee, Mason did adopt Buckland's suggestion for a polygonal entrance as well as the unusual Gothic detailing which marked his garden porch. In this instance and others Mason does seem to have adopted a number of ideas, probably originating with Buckland and possibly Sears as well, which went beyond stylistic norms in the Chesapeake. [Carl Lounsbury, “' An Elegant and Commodious Building:' William Buckland and the Design of the Prince William County Courthouse,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 46 (September 1997): 228-240.]

© Gunston Hall Plantation 2002