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Peyton Randolph House

The Peyton Randolph House

Looking from Market Square toward the Peyton Randolph House. A carriage passses in front of the house as visitors enjoy the sights, including the cannon on the square.

The original structure of the Peyton Randolph House was built in 1715. Colonial Williamsburg's primary restoration of the home began in October 1938 and was completed in April 1940. More restoration of the main section was undertaken in June 1967 and was finished 12 months later. The center and west portions of the house opened for exhibition on July 1, 1968.

  • Original structure located at the corner of Nicholson and North England Streets
  • Built in 1715 by William Robertson
  • Sir John Randolph purchased the west wing in 1721
  • House willed to son Peyton Randolph
  • First restoration 1938-1940
  • Further restoration began in 1967
  • Center and west portions opened in 1968
  • Construction of outbuildings began in 1997
  • Rochambeau, Lafayette, and Washington among notable guests at the home

The deep red Peyton Randolph House is one of the oldest, most historic, and without doubt most beautiful of Colonial Williamsburg's original 18th-century homes.

The west wing of the impressive house has stood at the corner of Nicholson and North England Streets since about 1715. Among the historic figures that took shelter in the house were General Rochambeau and the Marquis de Lafayette.

Three structures became one

William Robertson built the house that eventually became the west wing of the Peyton Randolph house. Sir John Randolph purchased the west wing in 1721. He bought the east lot for £50 on July 20, 1724 and had a home constructed there as well.

Sir John's son, Peyton Randolph, built a spacious and well-appointed two-story central section between the two houses. A hall with a large roundheaded window and a grand staircase connect single rooms on each floor. The first-floor parlor measures 19 feet square, and the bed chamber above has the same dimensions.

Lines of roof vary

The southern face of the center section matches the appearance of the 29-foot-square clapboard house that makes up the west wing. The low-pitched hip roof of the west wing was extended across the addition but ends abruptly when it reaches the high gable of the dormered roof on the east wing.

East wing not connected to the rest of the house

Although the west and center sections of the house were connected by doors on both floors, there was no opening through the brick wall to the east wing. The east wing may have served as an office or a service building, or it could have been rented out. Demolished in the 19th century, the east wing was reconstructed by Colonial Williamsburg after the property was purchased in 1938.

The roof of the west wing was designed to funnel rain to two concealed two-log gutters, which apparently carried the water to a cistern. Only traces remain of this contrivance that may have leaked and was later covered by the roof. A chimney rises through the center of the wing, venting corner fireplaces in three rooms on each floor. The stairway passage is located in the southwest corner of each floor.

The Peyton Randolph House

Peyton Randolph House dining room. Diners are enjoying a post-dessert course of fruit and nuts. A servant fills glasses in the background.

The center section contains some of the best surviving paneling in the city — some of it walnut — while unusually fine brass hinges and locks trim the parlor doors. The floor is mostly made of original edge-cut pine

Outbuildings supported household activity

A full complement of outbuildings stood to the north (in back), including a two-story brick kitchen, a stable for 12 horses, a coach house, and a dairy.

Peyton Randolph inherited home

Sir John Randolph, the only colonial born in Virginia to be knighted, died in 1737. He left the house to his wife, Susannah Beverley Randolph, until their second son, Peyton, reached the age of 24. Their first son, Beverley, inherited property in Gloucester County; their third son, John, inherited acreage on the city's southern edge; and their daughter, Mary, received a dowry of £1,000. Susannah Beverley Randolph remained in the home until her death sometime after 1754.

Peyton Randolph, Speaker of Virginia's House of Burgesses in the years leading to the Revolution, brought his wife, Betty Harrison Randolph, to the home by 1751. It became a hub of political activity, and its owner Peyton Randolph was elected the presiding officer of the First Continental Congress at Philadelphia in 1774. An inventory taken at Peyton Randolph's death in 1775 indicates how the house was furnished and equipped.

Widow Betty Randolph opened her home to French general Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, when he arrived in Williamsburg with General George Washington to prepare for the siege of Yorktown in 1781. The house served as the French headquarters until they moved to the field.

The Peyton Randolph House

Exterior of the Peyton Randolph House

Home auctioned to highest bidder

Peyton and Betty Randolph had no children and, after her death and according to directions in Betty Randolph’s will, the house was sold at auction on February 19, 1783. A newspaper advertisement described it as "pleasantly situated on the great square." It was conveyed to the highest bidder, Joseph Hornsby, on February 21, and the proceeds were divided among Betty Randolph's legatees.

By 1824, the house was in the possession of Mary Monroe Peachy. She had the honor that year of lodging Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, when he visited the city on October 20 and 21 during a tour of America.

The Peyton Randolph House restored

Colonial Williamsburg's primary restoration of the home began in October 1939 and was completed in April 1940. More restoration of the main section was undertaken in June 1967 and was finished 12 months later. The center and west portions of the house opened for exhibition on July 1, 1968.

For further reading:

Reconstruction of the Peyton Randolph House:

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