The Material World of Eyre Hall: Four Centuries of Chesapeake History

Time Period
1623 to 1763
1764 to 1824
1825 to 1860
1861 to 1876
1877 to 1924
1925 to Today
Media Type
Art & Architecture
Black History
Civil War
Decorative Arts
Domestic Life
Carl R. Lounsbury

On March 24, 2022, Carl R. Lounsbury delivered a lecture about four centuries of Chesapeake history as revealed through material world of Eyre Hall.

Erected in 1759 on the Eastern Shore, Eyre Hall is still occupied by descendants of its builder, Littleton Eyre. Since construction, succeeding generations acquired and preserved a rich variety of documents and objects including furniture, books, silver, and paintings. Only a small handful of houses in Virginia can claim such continuity. The Material World of Eyre Hall examines the everchanging meanings of this place in Virginia history. Its origins reveal the cultural aspirations of a deferential society built on slavery that emerged in the colonial period. The plantation suffered the tribulations wrought by the Revolution, Civil War, Reconstruction, and several depressions, undermining its social and economic foundations. By the early twentieth century, the house was seen as a nostalgic exemplar of an earlier age, a storehouse of family legends and traditions. Preservation and survival rather than expansion and change became the dominate attitude toward the house and grounds. What does this inheritance mean today in the wake of transformative events that continue to reshape the interpretation of Virginia’s past?

Carl R. Lounsbury retired as the Senior Architectural Historian at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in 2016. Over a 35-year career, he was involved in the research and restoration of many buildings in Williamsburg’s Historic Area. Since 2002, Lounsbury has taught architectural history at William and Mary. His many publications include An Illustrated Glossary of Early Southern Architecture and Landscape; The Courthouses of Early Virginia; An Architectural History of Bruton Parish Church; and The Material World of Eyre Hall: Four Centuries of Chesapeake History.

The content and opinions expressed in these presentations are solely those of the speaker and not necessarily of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.

Want to listen to an audio-only version of this lecture? Listen now on Soundcloud.