Buckland and Sears at Gunston Hall

Among the pieces we’ll be featuring in our January Working Wood Symposium is a wonderful sideboard from the MESDA collection at Old Salem in Winston Salem, North Carolina. This table, originally among the furnishings of Mt. Airy, was saved from a fire in 1844 that gutted the interior of that home.


Sideboard table originally among the furnishings of Mt. Airy

The table’s designer,  joiner William Buckland, and its carver, William Sears emigrated earlier to Virginia indentured to George Mason’s brother, Thomas. The interior of George Mason’s home, Gunston Hall, is also attributed to this same pair of tradesmen, and is in a remarkable state of preservation. So the next logical step in our exploration of this table was a trip to Gunston Hall.


Mark Whatford, director of operations at Gunston Hall walks us to the main house.

       Gunston Hall, located near the Potomac in the midst of 5500 acres is a rather modest home in size. The surprise is it’s glorious interior!


Historic trades staff with Mark Whatford in the central passage.

Wonderful elements from the rococo, chinoiserie, and gothic styles decorate the first floor central passage, public rooms, and landing.


Second floor landing

Though chinoiserie was popular in Britain, this may be the only house in colonial America to have had this decoration.


The chinese decoration of the northwest parlor

The southwest parlor of Gunston Hall is a wonderful example of Palladian classicism.


The philosophy of designing furniture along architectural lines definitely applied here. So many of these same architectural details decorated Mt. Airy, and it’s furnishings. A short piece of the cornice molding from Mt. Airy does survive and is on display at the Gunston Hall visitor center. Some of it’s elements were employed in the decoration of the side table.


Remnant of cornice molding surviving from Mt. Airy

Director Mark Whatford and the staff of Gunston Hall were incredibly hospitable and open with this wonderful home.

The research library alone is reason to visit. Among its many period volumes are William Buckland’s apprentice indenture, and indenture with Thomas Mason.

Photos are presented with permission by the Board of Regents, Gunston Hall.  Hope you enjoyed them.

Don’t miss this architectural gem.


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2 Responses to Buckland and Sears at Gunston Hall

  1. John says:

    Excellent, Kaare, can’t wait until January!

    Gunston Hall gives two kinds of tours; the general house and grounds tour and what’s called an Architectural tour where they go into detail about the things you described. It’s well presented and this landmark is far less crowded than, say, Monticello or nearby Mt Vernon. For the historical minded, the introductory film at the visitor’s center puts George Mason into perspective among the other signers of the Declaration and is worth the 10 minutes it takes to view it.

    Unfortunately they don’t allow photography inside the house and their explanation is that most of the furnishings are on loan from private collections and other institutions (including Colonial Williamsburg) and the owners and institutions have not granted license to let visitors photograph them.

    Did you had time to visit Woodlawn as well?

    • Hello John,
      Sorry it took so long to get back with you. No, we didn’t get to Woodlawn. That’s another trip. So many amazing historic homes close by. We have to pick and choose what’s pertinent to our current activity.
      My wife and I did get up to Annapolis a month ago with some friends, and visited several period homes, the most impressive being the Hammond Harwood home which happens to be William Buckland’s last commission. More about that in my next blog.


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