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George Wythe house


George Wythe House

The George Wythe House on Palace Green belonged to George Wythe (pronounced “with”), a leader of the patriot movement in Virginia, a delegate to the Continental Congress, and Virginia’s first signer of the Declaration of Independence. The house also served as General George Washington's headquarters just before the British siege of Yorktown, and French General Rochambeau made the home his headquarters after victory at Yorktown. In 1776, the house accommodated Virginia General Assembly delegate Thomas Jefferson and his family.

Architectural information

Perhaps the most handsome colonial house in Williamsburg, the two-story brick residence is believed to have been designed in the mid-1750s by George 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.

Structural details:

  • Four rooms on each of two full stories
  • Floors centrally divided by large stair passage
  • Two great chimneys between the paired rooms afford a fireplace in all eight rooms
  • Ratio of 1:2 between height and breadth of fa├žade
  • Masonry features Flemish bond brickwork with rubbed jambs, corners, and water table, and gauged-brick belt course and splayed brick arches
  • Second-floor windows shorter and narrower than first floor windows; but contain the same number of window panes as those on the first floor giving illusion of larger structure
  • Outbuildings: smokehouse, kitchen, laundry, poultry house, lumber house, well, dovecote, and stable
  • Fine symmetrical gardens

Wythe family background

One of the most influential men of the Revolutionary era, George Wythe ranks among colonial America’s finest lawyers, legal scholars, and teachers. Among the young men Wythe trained in the law were Thomas Jefferson, St. George Tucker, and John Marshall. In 1779, Wythe joined the College of William & Mary faculty to become the first law professor in the United States. He taught classes in the vacant Capitol after Virginia's government moved to Richmond in 1780.

Richard Taliaferro's daughter Elizabeth and her husband, George Wythe, lived in the home for more than thirty years. In 1779, Taliaferro's will gave George and Elizabeth use of the property for life. Elizabeth died in 1787, and George moved to Richmond in 1791 to serve as a judge on Virginia’s court of Chancery.

George Wythe House today

In 1926, the Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin of adjoining Bruton Parish Church established his offices on the second floor of the George Wythe house after acquiring it for a parish house. The offices served for a time as headquarters for the Historic Area's restoration. Colonial Williamsburg obtained the property in 1938. The home has been furnished to look as it might have when George and Elizabeth Wythe resided in it.

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