"Mooney's study offers a valuable and new insight into some of Virginia's and also Colonial America's most visible remains, the great houses of Virginia. It is a book that will revolutionize the study of early American architecture through its close look at both the buildings and the people who paid for them.(Richard Guy Wilson, University of Virginia)
"Some of the most popular and enduring images of early American architecture are the colonial houses of Tidewater Virginia. For the past century, antiquarians have extolled the virtues of the families that built these plantation houses; garden clubs and promoters of tourism have turned them into pilgrimage spots; and historians of various stripes have analyzed their architectural pedigree, linking their forms to design trends in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Britain and Europe. Barbara Mooney has shed new light on very familiar territory and offers a much-needed corrective to certain misconceptions about the origins and design of Virginia’s great houses. Prodigy Houses of Virginia is no mere gloss of old stories, but a thoughtful and probing account of the background, social and political standing, and motivation of some two dozen individuals who went to extraordinary lengths to build houses that more than accommodated basic needs—ones that promised a more tangible and lasting legacy. This is not a history of the buildings but a collective history of the patrons who commissioned them—a study of why and how the colonial elite chose to construct monumental houses. It is essential reading for those who wish to understand the dynamics of gentry culture in colonial Virginia.(Carl Lounsbury, Architectural Historian at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, is the author The Courthouses of Early Virginia: An Architectural History (Virginia), among other books)
Barbara Burlison Mooney is Associate Professor of Art and Art History at the University of Iowa.