Green Spring Plantation
Louis R. Caywood

Note: The following is taken from the January 1957 issue of The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (volume 65), pp. 67–83.

GREEN SPRING PLANTATION
by LOUIS R. CAYWOOD*

IN 1954 two commissions were created and organized to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in America founded at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. The Jamestown-Williamsburg-Yorktown Celebration Commission was created by Congressional action and the Virginia 350th Celebration Commission was established by the General Assembly. Both commissions set up offices in the historic Travis House in Williamsburg and worked jointly on the celebration project. The law which set up the federal commission also provided for commemorating the flowering of Colonial Virginia culture at Williamsburg and the final winning of American independence at Yorktown in 1781.

As part of the original planning for the 350th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, members of the two commissions projected the restoration of Green Spring mansion as one of the initial projects. The extensive original Green Spring plantation is now owned by Mr. Phillip Murray of Newport News, Virginia. Mr. Murray kindly gave permission for the excavation of the Green Spring ruins.

Work on the Green Spring project began on November 22, 1954, and ended on May 25, 1955, with the completion of the report. The costs of the excavations, shared by the two commissions, proceeded according to plan throughout the winter, often interrupted by severe weather. With the advent of spring the work progressed at a faster pace and the major field excavations were completed by the end of March. Throughout the work the writer found helpful assistance at every hand—in the commission offices, from the National Park Service staff, the various staff members of Colonial Williamsburg, in the College of William and Mary Library, and elsewhere.

The remains of the Green Spring mansion are located three and one-half miles north and slightly west of Jamestown. In the seventeenth century it was on the first carriage road in Virginia, which led from Jamestown to Middle Plantation, now Williamsburg. Because of its ever-flowing waters, Green Spring was the site of a village of the Paspaheghs Indians long before Sir William Berkeley built the first Green Spring manor house in the fourth decade of the seventeenth century.

In the long period from 1607 to 1699 there were many governors of Virginia, but none better known or of longer tenure than Sir William Berkeley, who was both loved and despised by those he governed for the English Crown. He might well be termed the first gentleman farmer of Virginia and his plantation, adjoining the governor’s land, was as fully developed as any in the colony in its period. It has long ceased to exist and its formerly extensive buildings have disappeared. It has through the years, however, continued to be a subject of interest and speculation. Those connected with the planning for the celebrationy ear saw the importance of Green Spring and began to assemble the basic facts needed in any interpretive and development plan. The preliminary studies pointed out that more information was necessary—historical, archeological, and architectural.1

I

The appearance of Green Spring before excavations began, was that of a typical Virginia pastoral scene with a few brick walls of some of the dependencies (the outbuildings of the plantation) still standing. Fortunately, Mr. Murray had cleared the land surrounding the site of the Green Spring Mansion House and the ruins of the Ludwell-Lee House 300 feet to the north. The well-preserved walls of a large brick building to the northwest of the Green Spring foundations are known as the jail. To the southeast is a recently built brick springhouse from which flows the famous Green Spring.

Upon closer examination, a number of small mounds and shallow ditches were evident. The brick-lined walls of three basements and a few brick foundations could be noted. These evidences of the remains of the Green Spring structures were all that was left of the once most famous house in seventeenth-century Virginia. In fact these might not have been visible had it not been for the excavations carried on at the site by Mr. Jesse Dimmick in 1928 and 1929. At that time the three basements were fully excavated and a number of the brick foundations exposed and left open to the elements. Fortunately, the nature of the brick in these structures was such that it stood up fairly well over the years. Credit should be given to Mr. Dimmick’s foresight in attempting to stabilize the brick walls by pouring a thin mixture of cement over the brick. Root growth, the elements, and possibly amateur diggers did away with most of this covering by 1954.

The archeological work was divided between a careful examination of known foundations and features, and explorations for features not known. The Dimmick map2 was used to determine the extent of the walls found by him. Since Mr. Dimmick uncovered only the tops of the walls, much additional infornation and many worthwhile artifacts were recovered when trenches were dug on both sides to the entire depth of the brick foundation walls. The excavation of the curved west garden wall on only one side proved a major undertaking, necessitating a four-foot wide and six-foot deep trench.

Since the period covered (1643–1797) represented more than 150 years of occupation at this house site, it was hoped that some of the excavation tests would reveal good stratigraphic sequences. However, rather disappointing results were obtained from the few locations where cultural depth was found. The artifacts fall well into the last half of the seventeenth century, with a few of earlier origin and many more of later times, showing continual occupation.

Much is known of Sir William Berkeley and his prominent role in seventeenth-century Virginia.3 The physical appearance of his house and plantation at the time of his residence, however, is something else again. No period drawing, plan, or even an adequate word picture came to light in the old records. Consequently, the existing remains which lie underground are invaluable. The paucity of historical fact makes the interpretation of these even more difficult and challenging. It requires the skillful use of any tested speculations that can be made.

William Berkeley was born in London about 1608, the youngest son of Sir Maurice Berkeley, an original member of the London Company of 1606. William graduated from Oxford in 1629 and in 1632 was appointed one of the Royal Commissioners for Canada, in which office he won the personal favor of Charles I, who appointed him a gentleman of the privy chamber. He was one of the eight original Lord Proprietors of Carolina. His coat of arms appears on the Great Seal of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina.4

In August 1641 he was appointed Governor of Virginia and came to the colony in 1642. On June 4, 1643, he obtained by court order 984 acres known “by the name of Green Spring.” In 1646, when surveyed, the tract was found to contain 1,090 acres which was his holding until 1661, when it was increased by patent another 1,000 acres. In addition, he had the use of 3,000 acres of governor’s land that adjoined toward the west and southwest, fronting on the James River.

At what time Berkeley built on his property is not specifically known; seemingly it was undeveloped initially. The house may have been started soon after the grant was received in 1646. It was probably completed by the time he resigned from the governorship in 1652.

During his second term as governor from 1660 to 1677, we know Sir William was conducting a fully developed plantation in the seventeenth-century manner. His activities were extremely diverse and would have required extensive development to accommodate them. His experiments in silk, rice, hemp, grapes, tobacco, and fruit trees were financed with considerable sums from his private funds. He had orchards and a vineyard, produced potash and timber products, and had horses and oxen. He had servants in number and entertained lavishly. In 1670, at the age of sixty-four, Sir William married Frances Culpeper Stephens who was thirty-six at the time. This event possibly prompted some expansion of the house. It was spacious enough to accommodate the General Assembly after Bacon burned Jamestown in 1676.

Sir William’s estate passed to his widow, Lady Frances in 1677, who later married into the Ludwell family. It was used by this family for a century and a quarter—the remainder of the life of the Berkeley home. How much the various Ludwell owners and occupants added to or subtracted from the Berkeley structures is one of the difficult problems of this study. It could have been considerable or it could have been little, both in buildings and grounds developments.

For convenience in describing the archeological and architectural problems, the Green Spring structures have been divided into two parts and given names to designate these divisions. The term “Old Manor House” has been used for the original structure erected during the period of Sir William Berkeley. “Mansion House” has been used for the later additions which may or may not have been built during Sir William’s time.

Three pictorial representations of Green Spring are known to exist. One appears on a recently discovered 1683 land survey found in the William Salt Library in Stafford, England. A rather rough sketch of Green Spring, dated as it is, and with an evident attempt to be accurate, is of extreme importance. It shows the building group with its diverse elements. The long Mansion House without the ell can be attributed to Berkeley’s time. This narrow building with a gable, not a hip-roofed end, and the arcaded porch, overlooking what was or was to be a great forecourt, is in existence. The roof appears to be covered with pantile at this time. The building to the right, square in suggested form, appears to conform with the excavated square building foundations of stone and brick that flanks the east end of the Mansion House.

In 1796 Benjamin Henry Latrobe was retained by William Ludwell Lee to study and make recommendations for the repair of the Green Spring Mansion House. As a result of these studies a water color (see frontispiece facing p. 3) and a drawing were made of the Mansion House. The water color showing the house in all its splendid detail was made from the southwest outside the curved garden wall. Latrobe even distinguished between the diamond-shaped and the rectangular panes of glass in the windows on the west side of the building. To the east stretched a line of three large dependencies and a small building which has the appearance of an outdoor water closet. To the south were the formal gardens and terrace enclosed by curved garden walls. Leading up to the house from the forecourt was the stairway with railings, the lower portion of which is not visible in the water color so it is impossible to determine the existence of a landing at that time. The shape of the stairway found during the excavations showed the existence of a landing at one time. In his pocket diary under the date of August 3, 1796, Latrobe wrote:

The principal part of Greenspring house was erected by Sir William Berkeley who was Governor of Virginia the latter end of the last century. It is a brick building of great solidity, but no attempt at grandeur. The lower story was covered by an arcade which is pulled down. The porch has some clumsy ornamental brick work about the style of James the first. . . .

It is Mr. Lee’s intention to pull down the present mansion and to erect a modest Gentleman’s house near this spot. The antiquity of the old house, if in any case, ought to plead in the project, but its inconvenience and deformity are more powerful advocates for its destruction. In it the oldest inhabited house in North America will disappear, for it was built in the Year 16—. Many of the first Virginian assemblies were held in the very room in which I was plotting the death of Muskitoes.5

In the upper right hand corner of the water color is, “built 1640” and the numerals “79.” It is not known whether these were placed there by Latrobe. If they were, then why did he leave the building date in his diary incomplete?

Although the Latrobe water color of 1797 appears to have been painted to represent the actual building, it raises some architectural questions. The hip-roof treatment of such a narrow building is rather difficult to accept. The construction of such a roof arrangement with double dormers over the foundations of the long building and the ell does not appear practical. The Latrobe building with its apparent greater width, dormers, windows, and cornice has the outward form and characteristics of Virginia buildings of the first half of the eighteenth century.

Latrobe’s drawing of the Green Spring Mansion House dated March 1797, is an elevation of the south side as he probably proposed to restore it. This drawing shows the elimination of the double row of dormers by the addition of a third floor with a less slanting roof. Interesting is the flaring front stairway, the foundations of which were uncovered during the excavations superimposed over those of the old stairway with a landing.


Airplane view of Green Spring site


Excavations at Green Spring in 1955

A fourth bit of evidence of conditions at a specific time came to light because of a disaster in 1781 when, only a few miles from Green Spring, Lafayette and Cornwallis fought a battle on land belonging to William Lee. Both William Lee and John Paradise lost their slaves. The mansion at Green Spring was left in a “ruinous” condition.6 Because of this incident a map of the battle area was drawn by Colonel Desandrouins.7 This map is our only clue for dating that part of the plantation development called the Mansion House. We find that by 1781 it was in existence, had probably been for many years, but none of the Old Manor House is shown. To the east there are three dependencies as shown on Latrobe’s water color. Also on the map there are three dependencises shown to the west. Neither Mr. Dimmick nor the author tested that area; so what remains beneath the surface is still unknown.

II

The first work done at Green Spring in preparation for the excavation project was to lay out a coördinate, or grid system, on magnetic north, to facilitate the mapping of the features to be found. The beginning point for the grid was selected to the southwest of the building area. Lots 100 feet square were laid out to the north and east of this point. Thus by measuring from two points on the grid system to the feature to be measured, the location was easily plotted by striking two arcs on the map. Their point of intersection was the location of the feature. In order to have shorter distances to measure, the area was divided into 50-foot coordinates. Coordinate sheets of paper with a scale of ¼ inch to the foot were made for each 50-foot square. All details of the excavations were recorded on these working sheets.

The elevation of Green Spring was not known; so an assumed elevation of 100 was taken on the concrete sill of the spring house. A topographic map was then made of the entire area with contours at foot intervals before excavations began.

Exploratory excavations were begun by digging test trenches at various locations along the coördinate lines but outside the building site area to determine the types of soils to be dealt with, the depth of overburden on the original soil layer, and the possible existence of unknown structures. The finding of the pottery kiln was the result of one of these tests.

The nature of the site divided itself into several sections around the main building foundations. To the south was a large entrance court into which came the main carriage road from Jamestown. This court was flanked by brick walls and by two sets of three small brick buildings to the east and west.8 The entrance court probably contained some of the formal gardens and the carriage turnaround below the terrace. Connecting the entrance court to the forecourt was at least one stairway and perhaps more. The central portion of the terrace area or forecourt, which was almost completely tested, was flanked on the east and west by curved garden walls. To the north were the remains of the Mansion and Old Manor houses.

To the north and east of the building foundations was the mount which was not completely tested. However, from one small test trench and from general examination it appears to have been man made. Mounts exist at other places in Virginia, one being located in the Palace Gardens at Williamsburg, and were common in England at that time and earlier. Two brick structures had been built on or into parts of this mount. They were not tested so their uses were not determined. In the vicinity of the mount was the kitchen and the pottery kiln, both of which were completely excavated.

To the west of the building foundations were the structures known as the jail and the greenhouse or nursery. The arched drain leading from the basement of the jail was tested, but nothing more was done in this vicinity except to measure and plot in the jail. At the greenhouse the walls were outlined and the structure was plotted on the map.

Just to the east of the Old Manor House was a large open trench or ditch dug by Mr. Dimmick as a result of his checking of the east house drain. It was found that this entire area had at one time been a natural drainage course leading from the area north of the houses, hence the placement of a brick drain here. This natural depression was later used over a long period of time as an area for the disposal of refuse and garbage. It was rich in artifacts, all apparently from the time of the Mansion House. Tests just east of the east curved garden wall revealed one large trash pit of the period of the Old Manor House. Very few artifacts were found in this deep pit.

No testing was done due west of the Mansion House. It was realized at the time that foundations probably existed because three buildings are shown there on the Desandrouins’ 1781 map of the Battle of Green Spring.

The Old Manor House consisted of eight or nine ground floor rooms, two of which had room-size basements.9 The largest of these basements may well have been beneath a large central hall. On either end of this basement was a row of three rooms running east and west. Description of this section of the building foundations, shown as “C” and “K” on the accompanying map, will begin with the paved court and progress clockwise.

According to an undocumented inventory the original Berkeley Mansion contained six rooms, as many closets, a spacious hall and two passages, with garret rooms.10 The similarity between the actual number of rooms and the number listed would make it appear that the source meant the original or first house. At least it would much better fit the Old Manor House than the later Mansion House which had many more rooms.

The brick paved area appeared to have been a room originally which measured 22 feet wide by approximately 27 feet long (east and west). The foundation of this room had been laid of two courses of brown iron sandstone on which mortar had been placed before laying up the first course of brick for the wall itself. The original room had a much larger area because the construction of Room M3 of the Mansion House had cut off the west end which undoubtedly contained the fireplace. This is evidenced by the fact that portions of the stone foundations with bricks in place were found within the confines of Room M3. The last use to which this room was put was as a paved court without walls but probably roofed. It had been paved with bricks set on edge, stone paving blocks, and small Dutch bricks. The entire area, including that over the walls had been paved as is shown by the fact that where the original walls were no longer serviceable they had been replaced with brick paving. An interesting feature of this paved area was that in the northeast corner there had been provision for the disposal of slops, waste, dregs, etc., into the beginning of the Mansion House drain.

An interesting feature of the next room to be described was the floor paving of 8½ inch square paving tile, one inch in thickness. Dimmick noted this as an “open area tile paved.” In some places brick had also been used as a fill-in for paving. The room measured 16 by 19 feet with brown sandstone foundations on the west and north sides and part of the east side. Brick set in mortar surmounted the stone foundation showing that it had been a room and not an open area. The floor level was 2.6 feet higher than that of the large central basement.

The room forming the northeast section of the Old Manor House contained a number of striking features. The inside measurements are 14 by 16 feet. In the southeast corner, on the east and south walls, the foundations go to a depth of 3½ feet. The east wall is 3 feet thick above this deep section. Since there is no other location in any of the foundations where such a large section of brick was placed, it would appear, from a study of the ground after excavating, that a natural depression or drainage ditch had originally existed here. Foundation strength was necessary for the probable construction of a tower in the east wall of this room. At least the shape of the foundation suggests such construction. A similar projection also occurs in the room forming the southeast corner of the Old Manor House. Such a structure conforms to a pattern which is typical of an early period of architecture in England and certainly places the Old Manor House as the earliest of the Green Spring construction.11 The east drain was found leading from and forming a part of this tower foundation. A study of Dimmick’s ground plan shows that each of these possible towers had projections in their room. Only fragments of these were found. Another important feature in this northeast room was the corner fireplace, built into the northwest corner of the room. The brick was free and not bonded into the walls of the room. There was no brick hearth nor any evidence of where the original floor level had been. The room appears to have been floored with a natural clean yellowish marl which packs very hard.

The long room east of the central basement measured 16 by 22 feet inside. From very slight evidence found next to the east wall it is possible that the room originally was brick paved in a diagonal pattern.

The southeast corner room of the Old Manor House appears to have lost some of its foundations. This room and the east garden wall rested on a hard knoll that projected toward the spring house. The foundations of this room, the adjacent room to the west and the east garden wall all had disappeared. In fact the disappearancew as so complete that not even the trench in which they might have been placed could be detected.

The southwest corner room of the Old Manor House was very similar in construction to the northwest corner room. The foundations of only three walls were found, the south, west, and north. Although these foundations were apparently uncovered by Mr. Dimmick, only the north wall was shown on his ground plan. The foundations consisted of two courses of brown iron sandstone slabs found locally in river laid strata. This stone, called swamp pudding, is rich in iron and was used by the colonists for foundations and also for complete structures.

A fireplace had been built into the west wall. The north wall consisted of the stone foundation and one course of brick laid soldier style. Possibly Dimmick failed to show the other walls on his plan because there is no evidence of brick or mortar having been placed on the stone. A well-built cellar with a flight of six steps had been constructed in the center of this room. The top step was the original brick floor level of the room. Whether the cellar was ever used remains a question because in its southeast corner was a pile of clean white sand mixed with fragments of oyster shell as though it was under construction when abandoned. Dimmick did not find this cellar which was rich in artifacts, mostly broken bottles, fragments of glazed Dutch fireplace tile, delft ware, and metal objects. Brick and plaster in great quantities which appeared to have been in a fire also were found. The plaster had been placed on wooden laths which had burned away. The brick flooring of the cellar was very well laid of tile measuring 8½ inches square by 2 inches in thickness, laid on an inch of mortar of very good quality with good mortar joints. Many of the bricks, 6½ inches square by 2¼ inches in thickness, found in the cellar had fallen from the floor above or been dumped there after abandonment.

West of the large central basement of the Old Manor House was a small basement room measuring eleven feet square on the inside. The floor level was the same as that of the large basement but was unpaved. Dimmick had partially excavated this room to expose the east garden wall, which had been built over trash fill at a later time. In completing the excavation of the small basement a very good collection of artifacts was found including some iron tools. A mixture of lump coal and coal dust was found on the floor of this room as though it had been used as a furnace room at one time. No evidence of a stairway was found. The common wall between it and the large basement had been set 13 inches deeper into the ground than was any of the remaining wall of the large basement.

The large central basement had been completely excavated by Dimmick who found many artifacts in the fill. Except for two small cobbled sections, the floor consisted of bricks laid on edge on each side of a central dividing line running the long way of the basement. A brick stairway led in from the southeast corner. In checking breaks made in the brick paving four large post holes were found. Each measured about one foot in diameter and at one time each pair probably supported a large horizontal timber on which was laid additional timbers to support the floor of the “spacious hall.”

What events took place in connection with the life of the Old Manor House are not known from any extant records. Archeological investigations gave a few leads as to its situation and what might have happened during its lifetime. After abandonment the three cellars were filled with trash and debris and the curved east garden wall was built over two of them.

In the numerous test trenches and pits excavated around the east end of the terraced area quantities of broken brick, mortar, plaster, tile, and pantile were found. The plaster had been applied on wooden laths which would bring up the possibility that the original house had been built of wood above stone and/or brick foundations. At least part of the Old Manor House was of this type of construction. Other parts may have been of brick construction. Much of the plaster found buried in the trash areas and beneath the terraced forecourt as fill showed evidence of fire. From this we may be positive that at one time fire totally or partially destroyed the Old Manor House. This does not seem to be an uncommon end to houses of that period as many of the Jamestown houses suffered the same.

The Mansion House has long been thought of, since its earlier excavation and since its study by specialists on seventeenth-century colonial architecture, as the Berkeley residence. I am sure that we would all like to consider this true, and it may be that the Mansion House was partly built during Sir William’s residence at Green Spring, especially after the evidence shown in the 1683 sketch. At least Lady Frances, in 1678, one year after his death, thought it was “the only tollerable place for a Governour.”12 From lack of evidence we may imagine that Sir William, before his marriage to Lady Frances in 1670, must have had a new feeling of social importance and could well have built a new house or rebuilt or added to the original structure. There is no documentary evidence to prove that he did build the Mansion House, but there is plenty of evidence from the test excavations to prove that much razing (perhaps from fire—burned bricks, plaster, and pantile) took place and of course rebuilding must have resulted, but again no records. Lady Berkeley’s account of the house in 1678 in her letter to Sir Danby would indicate that the building, thirty years after its initial construction, was not in good repair.

The Mansion House finally consisted of four ground floor rooms, a back porch, a gallery or arcade, a front porch, and a drainage system. Proof that the Old Manor House existed, at least in part, at the time of construction of the three rooms, M1, M2, and M3, is evidenced by the fact that the drainage system started at the northeast corner of the paved court, ran along the north wall until it reached the northeast corner of Room M2, where, as an integral part of the construction, it ran across the central part of the house, beneath the porch and ended at the catch basin. All of the construction of these three rooms, except the east end of Room M3, show the use of the same type of mortar, a yellow marl mixed with burned oyster shell.

The construction of Room M4, the gallery, and the east end of Room M3, all are of later vintage according to the mortar used, a white oyster shell mixture.

The foundations of the Mansion House are massive in construction, indicating that considerable wall height and brick construction was contemplated.

The pottery kiln was discovered as a result of test trenching. The first indication was the finding of two courses of brick foundation on the small knoll to the east of the main house foundations. The weather was extremely bad at this time of the year (in February) and the men had to work out the perimeter in mud and ice. The pile of broken pottery was found and removed from in front of the kiln at this time (see illustration). Part of the kiln itself was uncovered, but rain, snow, and freezing weather made it impossible at that time to continue the work. Later, drainage trenches were made from the front of the kiln and from the east side by removing part of the foundation.

The complete depth of the fill over the floor of the kiln was 28 inches. The first four to six inches from the top comprised an artifact layer containing nineteenth- and twentieth-century nails, nineteenth-century blue underglaze transfer-printed Staffordshire pottery, eighteeth-century German salt-glaze stoneware (blue and purple enamel decorations on gray body), hand-decorated eighteenth-century Staffordshire earthenware, and blue shell and feather edged nineteenth-century English earthenware.

Below this top six inches was a sterile layer from eight to ten inches in thickness consisting of a yellow clay similar to that used to build up the mount. The last twelve to sixteen inches within the kiln consisted of brick fallen from the arched roof, broken earthenware, and “bats.” It was estimated that the arched roof had an inside height of seven feet. Evidence of a four-inch wide flue was noted between the arched roof and the south wall. The opening, or eye, through which the firing material and unfired vessels had been placed, measured more than four feet in length and two feet in width. In the kiln as well as outside were found great quantities of broken pottery and “bats.” The latter were similar to roofing tile found at Green Spring and Jamestown except that each had a lug added at one end. They had been used as rests on which the pots were placed during the firing period. Often they were misshapen and glaze covered and sometimes the imprints of the pottery rims could be seen. This native Virginia earthenware consisted of unglazed and undecorated red wares as well as pieces which had been glazed inside to make them impervious to liquids.

The age of the kiln is undisputed as it falls into the period of earliest occupation. Pottery from the kiln was found in the lowest deposits of the early trash pit associated with bottle fragments dating from 1660 to 1680. It was important as one of Virginia’s early industries; and to date the only seventeenth-century kiln which has been found in the state.

The greenhouse has a three-foot thick original wall still standing showing two periods of construction. It consists of an inner or back wall with pointed mortar joints and a later plastered wall. A broken piece of pipe stem found in one of the joints of the plastered wall dates its construction as being in the second half of the eighteenth century. The second wall appears to have been built for added strength and insulation. This structure consisted of two rooms, the smaller of which was the furnace room. The furnace base was all that remained. Since it weighed about 350 pounds and measured 27½ inches by 31 inches by 3 inches in thickness no one had ever bothered to move it.

Building D, to the east of the Old Manor House, originally was used as a kitchen and bake house. In the Latrobe water color it is shown with its single central chimney and two south doorways. According to the type of brick and the method of construction the kitchen appears to belong to the seventeenth century. However, no artifacts of this period were found within its foundations. In the west half of the building a considerable quantity of iron trimmings and coal dust were found. Apparently, the last use to which the building was put was that of a blacksmith shop.

To the southeast of Building D in Latrobe’s painting appear two more structures. No evidence of these was found, but that they were in evidence as mounds is apparent in the photograph made during the studies of Messrs. T. T. Waterman and John A. Barrows.13 After 1932 a well surfaced road was constructed between the springhouse and the southern edge of the mount which totally removed any evidence of these two structures. From this we are reminded that all surveyors and road construction engineers should thoroughly study their rights-of-ways before construction begins, to prevent the destruction of important historic remains.

Still furthere ast and beyond the fence in Latrobe’s painting may be seen the wall of another structure. By orienting the painting with the ground plan of the excavation and letting one’s imagination go, the remains of the arched vault and the flue of the pottery kiln can be seen in their proper location.

Building G was carefully excavated, but its use was never determined. Some sort of a brick structure was found within the massive foundation walls. On the north end was a large hearth. Mr. A. Lawrence Kocher has suggested on his plan that it was used as a blacksmith shop, but no evidence for this use was determined as in Building D.

This building does not appear on the 1781 map. It does not fit into the plan of the Mansion House and gardens. Nothing found during the excavations gave any evidence of what it was used for. The method of construction and the mortar are not similar to any other construction at Green Spring, so its use will have to remain unknown for the time being. Its foundations are seen in the Latrobe painting.

On the south side of the Mansion House was a passage or arcade (J) stretching the length of the house. This was built of brick arches and supported a porch along the second floor. The foundation of the arcade was built at a later time and appears to have had a number of buttresses to help support it.

To the back of the house a stairway (E2) led up to a short porch on the north side. Entrance to one or two rooms probably led off this porch.

Cellars were found in Rooms M2 and M3 during the excavation of the Mansion House. Both appear to have been late additions. The one in Room M2 was completely brick lined with a brick floor sloping to a drain opening in the east end. During its construction a part of the house drain was cut through. Apparently the drain had been abandoned and the covering bricks used elsewhere. The cellar in Room M3 was also brick lined but had a well finished floor of hard gray clay, above which was an inch of clean white sand. Both cellars were full of brick, plaster, and slate roof tiles from the razed Mansion House. Although Latrobe drew a basement plan of Green Spring14 and designated the room uses, he did not show cellar entrances. Because of the drain in the one cellar it may have been used for ice storage. One of the cellars undoubtedly held the wine supply.

When Sir William Berkeley came to build at Green Spring, a narrow spur of high, natural ground overlooked the spring. On this elevation was built the Old Manor House which closely resembled the country manor houses of sixteenth-century England. Green Spring certainly was not illustrative of the houses of seventeenth-century Virginia because the period of construction preceded the days when large slave holdings were common. During Sir William’s day the land was cultivated on a system of small farms. It was after Governor Berkeley’s time and not until around the second quarter of the eighteenth century that slavery became the basis of the economic life of the colony. The great plantation houses of Tidewater Virginia were the result of this new economy. The 1683 map clearly shows the number of farm holdings between James City and Green Spring plantation, each with its small dwelling.

As the years passed landscaping activities helped to shape the area around the house into a more formal unit. Some terracing undoubtedly took place during the time of the Old Manor House. An early garden wall (H) may have been one of the results of this period. However, by the time the Mansion House was being built there was a terraced area in front of it as far as wall H, but 22 inches lower than the present surface. All of the burned brick, pantile, and plaster from the Old Manor House was used to build up this lower terrace. Construction then took place on the Mansion House, the front and rear stairways, the central drain, and a catch basin (I) outside of wall H.

The final development at Green Spring was the addition of Room M4, the east end of Room M1, probably the arcade (J), the abandonment of the rectangular front stairway with landing and the building of the curved or flared stairway to replace it. At this time the central garden wall was abandoned and the curved east and west garden walls and gates were added.

The last landscaping development at Green Spring was a tremendous earth moving project which raised all of the forecourt twenty-two inches and added the terrace west of the west curved wall. The area north of the greenhouse appears to have originally been another spur of ground. How far it reached toward the greenhouse is not known, but the adjacent terrace seems to be mostly artificial.

Green Spring has long remained buried but its traditions are still a part of the lives of all Americans and particularly Virginians. It should arise again from its dust and ashes as an integral part of Virginia’s history. Its importance lies in the fact that its excavation has added an intriguing page to the study of colonial architecture. This centennial year will afford an opportunity for thousands of people to review again the beginnings in America of our great heritage. The Jamestown Festival will highlight the life of the first successful English settlement. One of its permanent accomplishments should be a dignified and lasting memorial to this important seventeenth-century colonial site.


Green Spring Mansion
by Benjamin Henry Latrobe