John Tschirch, Architectural Historian
Staircase of the Moffatt Ladd House, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Photo: John Tschirch
Join us as Mr. Tschirch illuminates the ideal known as “Georgian grace,” a visual feast of stylish interiors and material splendor, with a thorough analysis of construction methods. Graceful proportions, classical ornament and superb craftsmanship mark the achievements of 18th century woodworkers. Nothing bespoke taste and wealth in Colonial America like the fine wood carving used to embellish an ornate parlor. American artisans, taking advantage of a land rich in timber, adapted English traditions in interior woodwork to local climate and materials. English architectural planning, forms and ornament were amended to address the varied topography, available materials and social customs in the thirteen eastern seaboard colonies. In the process, they produced a true American art form. Their story is one of noble intentions and practical carpentry, of a manner of design and wood carving that expressed the cultural evolution of America in the Georgian age. In this lecture, Mr. Tschirch will explore masterpieces of American woodwork in landmark Georgian houses ranging from the Moffatt-Ladd House (1763) in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and the Gardner Pingree House (1804) in Salem, Massachusetts to Guston Hall (c. 1755) in Virginia and the Nathaniel Russell House (1808) in South Carolina.
American craftsmen combined native ingenuity and influences from abroad to create works that married beauty with utility. Of particular inspiration were English models drawn from building manuals and key architectural pattern books such as James Gibbs’ A Book of Architecture (1728). The bold Baroque forms of Sir Christopher Wren influenced America’s early Georgian houses while the Rococo fantasies of Thomas Chippendale introduced greater delicacy to mid-Georgian designs. The Neoclassical inspirations of Robert Adam infused the late Georgian period, known in America as the “Federal” style, with elliptical stairs and fanlight windows of unparalleled elegance. Each of these styles made their way to America during the course of the 1700s as colonists became aware and desirous of changing fashions.