The Chesapeake House

Architectural Investigation by Colonial Williamsburg

Edited by Cary Carson, Carl R. Lounsbury

488 pp., 9 x 12, 150 color plates., 200 halftones, notes, index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8078-3577-7
    Published: March 2013
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8398-8
    Published: March 2013
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-3811-2
    Published: March 2013

Buy this Book

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit

Awards & distinctions

2013 Book Award, Southeastern Society of Architectural Historians

For more than thirty years, the architectural research department at Colonial Williamsburg has engaged in comprehensive study of early buildings, landscapes, and social history in the Chesapeake region. Its painstaking work has transformed our understanding of building practices in the colonial and early national periods and thereby greatly enriched the experience of visiting historic sites. In this beautifully illustrated volume, a team of historians, curators, and conservators draw on their far-reaching knowledge of historic structures in Virginia and Maryland to illuminate the formation, development, and spread of one of the hallmark building traditions in American architecture.

The essays describe how building design, hardware, wall coverings, furniture, and even paint colors telegraphed social signals about the status of builders and owners and choreographed social interactions among everyone who lived or worked in gentry houses, modest farmsteads, and slave quarters. The analyses of materials, finishes, and carpentry work will fascinate old-house buffs, preservationists, and historians alike. The lavish color photography is a delight to behold, and the detailed catalogues of architectural elements provide a reliable guide to the form, style, and chronology of the region’s distinctive historic architecture.

Published in association with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

About the Authors

Cary Carson is retired vice president of the research division at Colonial Williamsburg.
For more information about Cary Carson, visit the Author Page.

Carl R. Lounsbury is senior architectural historian at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and teaches history at the College of William and Mary.
For more information about Carl R. Lounsbury, visit the Author Page.


"[This] book transforms our understanding of Chesapeake region buildings . . . [It] should become an essential reference for anyone interested in early American architecture." —Colonial Williamsburg

The Chesapeake House is an important addition to the literature of the period and region and should be considered for both public and academic libraries.”—Arts Libraries Society of North America

"This important volume. . . is richly illustrated with measured floor plans, paintings, and photographs. . . . Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; general readers." —

"Perhaps once in a generation there appears a published architectural history that achieves landmark status at the onset. The Chesapeake House deserves that status and more. . . . This work can truly be called a paradigm shift for how we should see and understand a significant regional development of American architecture." —Southeastern Society of Architectural Historians 2013 Book Award

"An important handbook to curators, scholars, and students in the field. . . . It is a seminal work in the field and will be referred to for years to come." —Virginia Magazine

“A tour de force of fieldwork, analysis, and synthesis, providing the most thorough and nuanced understanding of Chesapeake buildings available.” —Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

Multimedia & Links

Listen: Carl Lounsbury talks to Jon Kay for the Artisan Ancestors podcast. (8/30/2013, running time 34:37)

Listen: Carl Lounsbury talks to Harmony Hunter on this episode of the Colonial Williamsburg Past & Present Podcast. (3/11/2013, running time 16:37)