Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report
Series - 1514
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library
Enclosed is the draft of my section of the report on Redwood Ordinary which covers the history of the property ownership from 1713 to the present. I have included a list of figures with an explanation of where they are located and how they can be reproduced. Not surprisingly, a few of the footnotes require additional elements which I could not supply from here. I have provided a list of these with the sources of information for whomever you ask to complete the details. The list includes three items from the text which might require verification or review.
If you have any further questions and would prefer to discuss them on the phone, call between 10am and noon. That is between 4pm and 6pm in Denmark and a good time to catch me at home.
I would appreciate receiving a copy of your comments on the text and/or the final report with your structural analysis.
For safety s sake, I have had a copy made of the material in this packet.
I'll be leaving for Scotland and the Smith Celebration on July 27, and will submit a report to you and Trix Rumford after I return to Denmark on August 8.
D C H
The following footnotes require additional information:
To verify or clarify in text:
List of Figures
Located on Nicholson Street on the periphery of Williamsburg's Historic area, the building currently known as Redwood Ordinary was probably built in 1826 by carpenter and constable Richard T. Booker, a century after John Redwood, an early eighteenth century tavern keeper and sailor owned property in the same block.1 The history of the lot and the identity of the builder of the one and one-half story frame dwelling has been confused by gradual changes in the town lot lines on the north side of Nicholson Street.
Earlier lot histories, drawn from turn-of-the-century town maps and Williamsburg City Records, were based on the assumption that the Redwood Ordinary was on colonial lot 275.2 A revised town plan (Fig. 1), developed from archaeological records and legal descriptions of the properties by Paul Buchanan, places the building on lot 276. A history of this lot was written in 1972 by Mary Goodwin, but it was confined to determining the level of use and the activities of the owners of both lots in the eighteenth century.3 Mrs. Goodwin's research and a subsequent analysis of the nineteenth and twentieth century title transfers has made it possible to clarify the lot history and to establish with some certainty the history of the nineteenth-century building. Further, archival research in the collections of the Research2
Department and the Swem Library has provided an insight into the economic status of the builder. By combining all of these sources, a more comprehensive history of the site is possible.
John Marot rather than John Redwood purchased lots 275 and 276, as well as the adjacent lots 274 and 277, from the City of Williamsburg trustees in 1713. He must have built on 275 and 276, thus retaining title, because his daughter Edith Marot Cobbs inherited the property and was able to pass it on to her son Samuel Cobbs in 1761. When Cobbs sold his property to his cousin James Shields in that same year, the transfer included "all houses, etc." The following year, on March 6, 1762, Shields sold lots 275 and 276 and two other Marot family lots (802 and 274), which he had inherited as Marot's grandson, to Williamsburg merchant John Greenhow.4 Nine days later, on March 15, 1762, Greenhow augmented the Nicholson street property by purchasing a 6-1/3 acre tract from Matthew Moody.5 The parcel was north of the Public Gaol lands and the four lots he had recently purchased from Shields. This second transaction was probably the first step in a gradual erosion of the property line between 275 and 276 and the ensuing uncertainty as to the legal location of Redwood Ordinary.3
As part of the indenture between Greenhow and Moody, the parties agreed to create an east-west street through the land. In addition, John Greenhow offered to "open a Street four poles [66 feet] in Breadth from Nicholson Street ... through the Lotts lately purchased of James Shields Gent. to the said Land ..."6 The men agreed further that the street would, "hereafter continue and remain a Street free for the passage of all persons whatsoever."
The plat accompanying the 1762 Greenhow-Moody deed (Fig.2) does not indicate from which lot or parts of lots the street was taken. Later maps of Williamsburg, however, are more helpful. Marked "A Spring, Greenhow" on the ca. 1800 Unknown Draftsman's map (Fig. 3), lot 276 appears as a southern extension of the east-west Greenhow street within the larger tract, linking it to Nicholson Street.7 Lot 277 is similarly marked, "A Spring," but it is not contiguous with the road within the larger property. On this map the name Wentworth appears on lot 275 and the name White, on lot 274.
The Bucktrout/Lively map (Fig. 4), also dated ca. 1800, lacks lot numbers, but it shows Greenhow street in the same location and flanked by a lot marked Wentworth and one marked "Greenhow, A Spring." As on the Unknown Draftsman's map, the Greenhow Spring lot is west of the city jail and the Wentworth property is east of the lot marked White.4
Greenhow's street was supposed to be 66 feet wide, a dimension easily contained
within the standard 82.5 feet width of a standard Williamsburg lot.
It is difficult to determine from the sources available, however, whether lot
276 was used exclusively in creating the lane or whether a portion of lot 275
was incorporated. If the former was the case, the remaining 16.5 feet may have
been included in later property transfers involving the western part of lot 275.
Just when these transfers occurred and what they included is unclear, however,
as they do not appear in the York County records and
those for titles recorded in
the Williamsburg Hustings Court, the other court of record for the city after
1782, were lost in the Civil War.
By 1782 when the first land tax lists were prepared for Williamsburg, John Greenhow must have sold some of his Nicholson Street property. In that year he was only taxed on four lots.8 Two of these (159 and 160) accommodated his house and store complex on Duke of Gloucester Street.9 Of the four lots purchased from Shields in 1762, apparently only two of these remained in his possession.
John Greenhow died in 1787 and his son Robert served as executor of the
estate. The sale which Robert arranged soon afterward indicated that at the time
of his death John Greenhow retained title to at least
of the Nicholson Street land lots and that these had
buildings. In addition to the Duke of Gloucester Street property,
Robert advertised for sale, "6 or 8 Houses and Lots on the back
street."10 The "6 or 8" must have
referred to buildings rather than lots because a similar number of structures
appears in this area on the Frenchman's Map which was prepared in 1782. The
Frenchman drew a fenced area the size of approximately two lots with six
buildings. Without the record of Greenhow's and subsequent sales, the history of
the property remains obscure until the first years of the nineteenth century.
The next owner that it has been possible to document in association with lot 275 is the previously mentioned Wentworth, the name which appears on the early nineteenth century plats of Williamsburg. Wentworth was not in the tax records, but a Wentworth Burwell was. He was listed in the personal property tax book in 1799 as the owner of three houses.11 In 1802 he was taxed for one town lot at the $6.67 rate. By 1804, the assessment was levied against his estate, indicating his death. The Wentworth Burwell estate remained on the land tax list until 1851, but the property value and the assessor's notations varied during this period, and become important elements in documenting the transfer of at least part of lot 275 to Richard T. Booker. Of equal importance is the documented ownership of lot 274, 6 which will be considered first.
On the early nineteenth-century plats of Williamsburg, a lot to the west of Wentworth was labeled "White." The name White did not appear in the land tax records until 1798. In that year Benjamin White was assessed for ore lot equal in value to that of Wentworth Burwell's. Four years earlier Benjamin White had been taxed only for himself in the personal property category, but by 1803 he was assessed for one slave, two horses and a shop license. He owned lot 274 until his death in ca. 1849. In 1810 John Ashby, a free black, was assessed for the lot "formerly charged to Benja. White."12 White, and subsequently Ashby were referred to as bordering Richard T. Booker's property on the west in legal descriptions of the property written in the second and third quarters of the nineteenth century.13
Richard T. Booker first appeared in the city land tax records in 1823 when he
was taxed for one lot with buildings assessed at $50. The valuation remained
consistent until 1826 when the assessment on the buildings dropped to zero. The
following year, Booker's property was reassessed and the buildings were valued
at $400, a clear indication that construction had occurred the previous year.
Booker's personal account book corroborates this activity. On March 1, 1826, he
made the following entry: "rented a room in my new house to Walker and
Augustin Hubbert at one dollar per month to be paid by the month."14
Two months later on May 22, Booker acquired another tenant in his new house. He
recorded the following arrangements in his account book:
Mr. William Wicker rented 2 rooms in my new house at 2 dollars per month to be paid by the month 2 months 10 days rent up to the 1 day then rented the hole house to him 40 per year.15
Although the land tax records and Booker's account book do not identify the
location of the new house, it is possible to establish that Redwood Ordinary is
the same building from subsequent legal descriptions of this and adjacent
property which Booker owned and from the tax assessor's notations
the a period prior to his ownership.
In 1834, to secure a debt he owed to John Coke, Booker mortgaged the Raleigh lots, a 14 acre tract he had purchased from Beverly Browne approximately 10 to 12 years earlier.16 In addition to the Raleigh lots, the trust included, "a piece of land with house or houses thereon called Harrisons being the lot bounded by Smith's Tanyard and Benjamin White's lot ... . "17 This reference to Harrison's lot appears to be the missing link in the chain of title between the Burwell estate and Booker's ownership, and assists in clarifying the history of the lot in light of the continued presence of the Wentworth Burwell estate on the land tax list.
A Samuel Harrison was listed on the land tax book as the owner of one lot
with houses from 1809 to 1818 concurrently with Wentworth Burwell. In 1820,
however, the assessor noted under the Burwell estate charges that the lot was
"formerly charged to Samuel Harrison." Since the Burwell estate and
Harrison were taxed for one lot simultaneously and equally, the lot in question,
#275, and possibly a
remnant of 276, must have been subdivided into two lots by the administrator of
the Burwell estate. Harrison probably purchased the section next to Benjamin
White and the other half, the Smith's Tanyard
of the referred to in the deed of trust was rented from the estate. Either the Harrison
lot was sold directly to Booker or it reverted back to the Burwell
estate until Booker purchased it in 1823 when he first appeared as a city
property owner. Concurrent with Booker's initial assessment and the improvements
for which he was charged in 1826 was the unchanged Burwell estate assessment of
one lot with $50 in buildings. This must have been the eastern half of the
property, the site of Smith's Tanyard, which was operated by Elijah Smith,
according to an 1833 deed of trust written on Booker's property.18
Booker's neighbor to the east was most likely the same Elijah Smith who had a tanyard in 1823 on property owned by Theodore G. Pearson of Washington County. As an absentee landlord, Pearson had Williamsburg merchant and lawyer Robert Anderson handle his affairs. In a letter dated December 1, 1823, he asked Anderson to investigate selling a tanyard that he owned in Williamsburg and instructed him to "Ask Mr Smith if he will buy As I promised him refusal."19 Apparently Smith was not in a position to buy, and in January 1824, Anderson reported to his client, "I called on Mr. Smith and he declined to purchase the tanyard; he has left the property ..."20
Elijah Smith was listed in the personal property tax ledgers from 1826 to 1830, but he was not on the city land tax list. Presumably he continued as a renter on the Burwell lot next to Booker between 1824, when he left Pearson's, until sometime before his death in 1833.21 In 1826 Booker purchased leather goods 9 from Elijah Smith, who signed the bill, "your friend."22
Elijah Smith's friend and neighbor, Richard T. Booker, first appeared in Williamsburg records in 1818, when he was taxed for three slaves and one horse. He was not a real property owner at this point. He may have been the son of Williamsburg cabinetmaker Richard Booker, who had a son named Richard baptised at Bruton Parish Church between 1781 and 1782.23 Booker the cabinetmaker advertised his services occasionally in the Virginia Gazette in 1773 and 1774 and he repaired furniture for St. George Tucker in 1791.24
If Richard T. was the cabinetmaker's son, he departed from his father's more highly skilled trade to become a city constable, a carpenter, and a real estate entrepreneur. He was apparently engaged in all three activities by 1818, the year he became a city tithable. He and his first wife Elizabeth sold property in York County in January 1818.25 Later in the year Robert Anderson paid to Booker jail fees incurred by one of his slaves and purchased two pairs of window shutters from him.26 Booker's account with Anderson included rent, merchandise and various notes and bonds.27 The latter entries reflect a pattern of indebtedness which persisted throughout Booker's life.
Several of Booker's account books for both the jail and his carpentry work as well as his loose accounts and deeds of trust have survived with those of his lawyer, George Washington Southall. According to these documents, Booker was constable of the City of Williamsburg and James City County Jailor until 1836.28 The account books and receipts date from 1825 and cover 10 such activities as apprehending and transporting slaves, whipping them at the public whipping post, and supporting them while they were in jail.
Booker's carpentry accounts date from about the same period, between 1824,
before Redwood Ordinary was built, and 1837. They reflect an active trade
involving several slaves or apprentices who easily could have been employed in
building the tenement house
on Nicholson Street. Two of his men Henry and Peter, worked at the
Public Hospital in September of 1824.29 By 1823, Booker must have been busy enough
to need clerical assistance because on October 14, he noted in his ledger, "
he "This day bargained with Mr. Johnson to be
ship [shop] keeper at $8.00 per month for one year."30
If the accounts are representative of the spectrum of Booker's carpentry work, it appears that his trade was confined to small buildings, repair work, and building materials production. He built a 12 feet by 16 feet house for Moses Sweeney in 1827 and a kitchen for him ten years later.31 In 1826, the year he must have been working on his own house, he built a martin box and cupboard for Roscow Cole and a dog house valued at $32.50 for Haynes Lee. Two years later Roscow Cole hired him to build a summer house and a corn house with a plank floor.32 His repair work frequently involved shutters, window and cellar frames, and sills. He replaced Thomas Coleman's cellar doors and four window frames in 1825. Robert Anderson and Robert McCandlish required his help for similar tasks in 1826.33
For those who chose to employ other carpenters, Booker was able to supply plank, weatherboards or shingles. When McCandlish had his porch renovated in 1835, his carpenter purchased 3,600 shingles from Booker.34 Booker sold plank in amounts varying from 41 to 200 feet.3511
Like most carpenters, Booker provided coffins for his town. In 1826 alone he built a total of eight coffins for the slaves of various clients.36 Charges for "panels of posts and rails," or "panels of pales" appeared frequently in his account book and the loose accounts between 1826 and 1832.37
Booker's carpentry appeared to be confined to the cruder sort, although occasionally he was hired to do interior features. James Davis had him repair moldings in 1832 and make a six panel door in 1835.38
The customers represented in these surviving accounts
were are for the most part
well-known property owners like Robert Anderson and Roscow Cole, and the work in
question can be associated with a dwelling other than the Redwood Ordinary. If
any of the remaining clients on the books were tenants in the new house, Booker
did not identify them as such.
It is from the third facet of Booker's career--his real estate ventures and the legal complications surrounding them--that evidence of a physical nature related to the house on Nicholson Street emerges. Throughout the 1820s and 1830s, Booker attempted to supplement his income and perhaps create a modest estate by investing in income property. He used the previously mentioned Raleigh lots for pasturage and cropping and as collateral for deeds of trust. Harrison's lot was developed as a tenement. In 1832, he purchased from John and Polly Dipper a lot with two houses on Duke of Gloucester street near the College.39 He rented one house to Mrs. Betsy Wright, a tenant he subsequently tried to evict for pulling down a fence he had built between the two houses.40 By 1837, when his affairs were sufficiently entangled to require legal aid, he had at least six tenants who were indebted to him for rent.12
Not all of Booker's tenants found the houses satisfactory, however, and in one case apparently involving Redwood Ordinary, the tenant sued the landlord for failure to use his rent to correct defective parts of the structure. Philip Moody was the plaintiff and he brought the suit in 1831. Southall's notes from the hearing were abbreviated and partially illegible, but they do reveal by the name of one witness, a former tenant, and through the testimony that the building was Redwood Ordinary and that it had a faulty fireplace and a leaking roof.
According to the testimony, when Philip Moody first applied to rent the house,
he complained that it smoked and leaked. Booker
according to the witness
named Jackson promised to stop the leak and
the smoking, but Moody still refused to move into the house until the
faults were corrected. Another witness testified that he had been in
the house several times and saw it leak, but he was not certain
if that leak came from the roof. Moody stated that he saw
smoke come through the floor, but he did not specify which floor.
The final witness, a Mr. Wicker, stated that he had lived in the house
in 1826 and that it did not smoke upstairs. This man was probably
the same William Wicker whom Booker listed in his account book in
May 1826 as taking the entire house. The hearing also revealed that
Booker had promised to build a kitchen for Moody, corroborating the
architectural evidence that the cellar fireplaces, which still have
trammel bars, were used for cooking. Booker lost his case and
Moody's quarterly rent of $40.00 was ordered to be applied to repairs.41
The carpenter's legal problems and financial difficulties increased in the 1830s. During this period Booker mortgaged the Raleigh lots and the Nicholson Street lot almost yearly to secure 13 loans to cover debts.42 He was summoned to court regularly by creditors between 1831 and 1835.43
By 1837, it appears that Booker reached a crisis in his financial affairs which
was probably equivalent to modern bankruptcy. He turned over most of his
accounts to a Mr. Cogsbill
and The remainder he gave to George Southall for
collection and settlement. That same year he moved to Richmond.44 William P.
Underwood, who had been named trustee in an 1835 deed of trust involving all of
Booker's property, sold most of it in 1837 to cover his debts.45 Booker remained
on the land tax list, however, as the owner of one lot with buildings worth $400
until 1840. This must have been Redwood Ordinary because, according to the tax
assessor, the house on his other lot "were destroyed by Hurricane of 21
June 1834."46 Presumably these were on the Dipper lot.
The last surviving record related to Booker was a letter written to George
Southall on November 22, 1840. Booker was in Richmond at the time and still
involved in litigation.47 Although his name appeared on Southall's copy of the
Williamsburg Hustings Court docket as late as 1845, there is no indication
in the lawyer's papers that
he Booker returned to Williamsburg. If his property on
Nicholson street was sold in 1839 or 1840 as the tax list indicates, to cover
debts or to finance a new residence in Richmond, the conveyance was probably
recorded in the now-lost Williamsburg Hustings Court records. Further, Booker
did not file a will either in Henrico or York counties, leaving the date of his
death and the disposition of his remaining property a mystery.
According to the first post Civil War deed on the property, the next identifiable owner was Edward B. Lindsey and his wife Sarah.48 They purchased it sometime before March 17, 1855, the date on which they sold it to John G. Lightfoot. Lightfoot willed the lot to his wife Ann who subsequently bequeathed it to William F. Lee. Lee sold it in 1866 to John H. Lee and in the conveyance provided the list of above-named owners.
The legal description of the property in the deed also names the adjacent landowners. These coincide with earlier documents and assist in establishing the continuity of title, but not the size of the lot. According to the conveyance, the sale included:
All that certain lot of land with the houses and improvements thereon situate, lying and being in the City of Williamsburg on the North Back Street and bounded as follows to wit: On the South by the said North Back street called and known as Nicholson Street running eastwardly to within eighty feet of a house formerly used as a slaughter house near the lot called the tan yard. On the North by the Raleigh lot now owned by William W. Vest and on the West by the lot formerly owned by Benjamin White deceased and now owned by John Ashby... 49
From the deed it is difficult to determine whether the lot was 80 feet wide or if the area
between the house and the slaughterhouse was 80 feet. The later condition would
have been possible if the house was built on the extreme western part of the lot
and would correspond with the building's proximity
to what was probably the site of the Ashby house.50
Further, If the lot was subdivided in
1809, as previously suggested, and larger than a standard 82.5 feet width after
lot 276 became Greenhow Street, the slaughterhouse could have been 80 feet from
Redwood Ordinary. On the other hand, Greenhow's street may have been gone by the
time the slaughterhouse was built. In that case there could easily have been 80
feet between the two structures.
From the point of this 1866 deed, the history of Redwood Ordinary is well-documented. Subsequent titles clarify to a limited degree the property owners to the east as well. In 1882, John Lee sold his lot and houses to John H. Baker and Betsy Mercer. John Ashby still owned the property to the west and J. M. Dawson was identified as the owner of the eastern lot.51 Dawson had acquired the land to the east in 1879 from R. A. Lively. According to the conveyance, the lot was bounded as follows:
...on the North by Dr. Garrett's land; on the South by Nicholson, or back Street; On the East by the City Jail lot, and on the West by Henry Lee's lot and Known as the Maupin & Sheldon lot or by Plat of said City as the Greenhow Spring lot [Clerk s underline].52Lively had purchased the property from Jessie Maupin and the City Clerk sometime after it had been sold for delinquent taxes in 1874.53 The Henry Lee referred to in Lively's deed was probably John H. Lee whose middle name was Henry.54 Greenhow Street or lot 276 must have been incorporated into the Lee property since lot 277, "Greenhow, A Spring," was adjacent to the lots marked prison on the Bucktrout map which Robert A. Lively had recopied in 1867. This would also account for the 80 feet separating Lee's house from the slaughterhouse in 1866.
John Henry Lee died in May of 1888. He left his real and personal estate to his three children, Charles, Thomas and Sarah. In 1890, they sold the property "on the North side of Nicholson Street in the 16 City of Williamsburg which is fully described in a deed executed by William W. Lee to John H. Lee dated 26 November 1866," to Pattie Ann Braxton.55
Shortly before her death in 1910, Pattie Ann Braxton wrote a simple will in
which she devised this house and lot (49 ft front and 282 ft deep) to Ellis
Braxton. The vacant lot adjoining aforesaid house and lot is to be sold.56
Braxton will assists in delineating the size of the Lee lot and indicates that
the tanyard may well have straddled lots 275 and 276, parts of which became the
"vacant lot" owned by Pattie Braxton.
According to the evidence in early twentieth century photographs of Nicholson Street and from more recent archaeological excavations, Ellis Braxton was responsible for the first series of alterations to the house. In a 1976 excavations, archaeologists determined that before 1920 a small 4 foot square porch had been enlarged to 6 feet by 4 feet with new brick piers.57 A photograph in the Swem Collection dated ca. 1920-21 shows the new porch as well (Fig 5).
Further alterations were made not long after Braxton's death in 1927 when the property was sold by special commissioner to Virginia Braithwaite Haughwout.58 In a ca. 1928 newspaper article written by J. Luther Kirby for the Richmond Times Dispatch, the "restoration" of Redwood Ordinary was reported.59 The so-called restoration included altering the fenestration on the south elevation from five bays to three. The rear shed does not appear in photographs taken between 1930 and 1933 and must have been added sometime after the early 1930s (Figs. 6-8).
When Virginia Haughwout wrote her will in 1951, she bequeathed her house, which she called "Redwood Ordinary on Nicholson Street," 17 to her son Lefferd for life and subsequently to his heirs. Upon their death it was devised to the Bucktrout-Braithwait Memorial Foundation.60 On March 2, 1972, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation leased Redwood Ordinary from the Haughwout heirs and the Bucktrout-Braithwait Foundation for a term of 100 years.61 Colonial Williamsburg was authorized to restore the building, improve the lot and remove any part of the building except the eighteenth-century fabric. This latter clause could be considered a potential hazard to the building since there is no eighteenth century fabric.
Soon after acquiring physical responsibility for the structure, the Architects'
Office authorized several minor demolition projects to permit further study of
the building. The post-1933 shed was removed in 1973.62
twentieth-century front porch was removed in 1975 to allow archaeologists to
study the perimeter of the dwelling.63 The following year the interior was
stripped of plaster to permit stabilization studies and extermination.64 More
the various adaptive use plans were being considered, the Department
of Architectural Research took the
opportunity to record the building's structural system and physical
history. Thirteen measured drawings were produced in 1981 by student architects
Sallie Smith and Michael Zimny working under the supervision of Edward A.
Chappell, Director of Architectural Research. An analysis of this study
comprises part 2 of this report.
As an early nineteenth century boarding house located on the fringes of town
next to a tanyard, Redwood Ordinary represents another dimension in
Williamsburg's social and architectural history. Although the builder Richard T.
Booker was heir to a craft tradition, it appears that he was more concerned with
moving from the ranks of craftsman to those of the capitalist by becoming a
landowner and landlord. Thus, while the building
does not necessarily represent the socio-economic status of Richard T. Booker,
shoddy poor construction does reflect an attitude on the part of the builder toward
the class of occupants for whom the building was intended.