Colonial Williamsburg brickmakers re-create historic building method
Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Trades brickmakers are working with Jamestown Rediscovery staff to replicate the "mud-and-stud" construction method used by the earliest Jamestown Island colonists in 1607.
The brickmakers have been providing Jamestown Rediscovery staff members with their expertise and hands-on help with the historic building method for the past year at the partially reconstructed barracks structure inside the original palisade of James Fort.
Working on the project are Jamestown Rediscovery senior archaeologist Dave Givens, Jamestown Rediscovery staff members and students and Colonial Williamsburg's brickmakers, including journeyman Jason Whitehead and apprentice Josh Graml.
Colonists who employed this now historic building method would erect a timber frame and cover it, making sure to fill the spaces between timbers with a clay-based mud mix. The relatively flimsy timber frame supports the 8-inch thick mud walls until they are set up and able support both themselves and the roof. Once the mud would dry, colonists would seal the mud walls against the weather with a solution of lime and animal fat, known as pargeting.
Early written records and extant ancient buildings in Lincolnshire, England, show that the building method was used in 1607; however, examples of how colonists used it in America have not survived. The present team has conducted much of its testing by using reverse engineering. The present-day team discovered that the type of clay used in the mud makes a difference in results, as does the consistency of the mud mix.
"Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Trades program focuses on the practice and products of trades at the time of the American Revolution," said Jay Gaynor, Colonial Williamsburg's director of Historic Trades, according to a press release. "Working with Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists and their discoveries, especially conducting hands-on experiments, allows Williamsburg tradespeople not only to enlighten our technical understanding of what went on at Jamestown 150 years earlier. It also provides insights revealing how the role of trades in American life evolved from their first appearance in Virginia to the end of the colonial period."
Admission to Historic Jamestown costs $10 per adult and includes admission to Historic Jamestown and the Yorktown Battlefield. Children younger than 16 get in free. America the Beautiful National Park passes are accepted, and Preservation Virginia members also get in free.
For more information, call 757-229-4497 or visit historicjamestowne.org.
Historic Jamestown is at 1368 Colonial Parkway on Jamestown Island, seven miles west of Williamsburg.
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