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Williamsburg - George Wythe House

 

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George Wythe House

Residence of the Virginian whose name appears first among the state's signers of the Declaration of Independence, the George Wythe House on Palace green was General George Washington's headquarters just before the Siege of Yorktown and French General Rochambeau's after the victory. In 1776 it accommodated General Assembly delegate Thomas Jefferson and his family.

George Wythe (pronounced "with") was among colonial America's finest lawyers, legal scholars, and teachers. Among the young men he trained in the law were Thomas Jefferson, St. George Tucker, and John Marshall. In 1779 he joined the College of William and Mary faculty to become the first law professor in the United States. Wythe taught classes in the vacant Capitol after Virginia's government moved to Richmond in 1780.

Perhaps the most handsome colonial house in Williamsburg, the two-story brick residence was erected in the mid-1750s by Wythe's father-in-law, the surveyor, builder, and planter Richard Taliaferro (pronounced Tolliver). Taliaferro built the addition to the Governor's Palace about the same time.

A five-bay brick structure with a hip roof, built on a ratio of 1:2 between the height and breadth of the facade, the George Wythe House is 54'6" by 27'3" feet. The bricks are laid in Flemish bond above the water table and English bond below with a three-brick course. The second-floor windows are shorter and narrower than those on the first floor, and all but one are centered on the windows below. There are four rooms upstairs and four down, with a fireplace in each. Behind the home are a smokehouse, kitchen, laundry, poultry house, lumber house, well, dovecote and stable, and fine symmetrical gardens. Demonstrations of 18th-century cooking techniques are given in the kitchen.

Taliaferro's daughter Elizabeth and her husband, George Wythe, lived there for over thirty years. In 1779 Taliaferro's will left life rights in the house to the Wythes. Elizabeth died in 1787 and George moved to Richmond in 1791. The Reverend Dr. W. A. R. Goodwin of adjoining Bruton Parish Church established his offices on the second floor after acquiring the house for a parish house in 1926. These offices served for a time as headquarters for the Historic Area's restoration. Colonial Williamsburg obtained the property in 1938. It has been furnished to look as it might have during George and Elizabeth Wythe's residency.

 

 


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