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Prodigy Houses of Virginia: Architecture and the Native Elite Hardcover – February 29, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press; First Printing edition (February 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813926734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813926735
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,872,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"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)

About the Author

Barbara Burlison Mooney is Associate Professor of Art and Art History at the University of Iowa.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jon L. Albee TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The first thing potential readers should know it that this is a serious piece of scholarship, intended for architectural historians, art historians and sociologists as much as the general public. In that sense, it is beautifully done.

While the writing style is quite accessible, the topic is esoteric. This book is as much about sociology as it is about houses, it's as much about colonial wealth creation as it is about architecture. It is not a catalog of grand plantation houses in Virginia. Don't buy this book if that's what you're expecting.

Wonderfully illustrated throughout with black & white plans, elevations and architectural details, this book explains how the colonial gentry in Virginia chose to express their wealth in architecture as a substitute for the things they could not achieve, namely, the vast hereditary wealth of the English aristocracy. The book brings to mind Rhys Isaac more readily than Richard Wilson or Calder Loth. The artistic styles and inventories of both existing and lost structures are meticulously analyzed, as are the latest developments in plantation archaeology.

The book is a relatively small, robust hardback, well constructed by the University of Virginia Press.
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