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Carson, Cary, Norman F. Barka, William M. Kelso, Garry Wheller Stone, and Dell Upton. “Impermanent Architecture in the Southern American Colonies.” In Material Life in America, 1600-1860, edited by Robert Blair St. George, 113-158. Boston: Northern University Press, 1988.
This article marries architecture, historical research, and archaeology to provide interpretation of data set in context with the economic and social movements of Maryland, Virginia, and England. It traces the evolution of Chesapeake structures, from the initial temporary buildings to permanent homes that still stand today. The authors’ main focus, as the title implies, concentrates on impermanent architecture, those structures built between the first shelters and the enduring buildings. Defined as earthfast architecture, “standing or lying directly on the ground or erected in postholes” (114), the article describes the different types of construction techniques. There also is dialog regarding why these types of structures were built in the first place. First, the method of construction came directly from postmedieval England. In addition, the society and environment were delicate and unstable, therefore building a structure that outlasts the maker didn’t make sense. Lastly, those constructing shelters were at the same time engaged in a highly labor-intensive tobacco economy. Energy was reserved for planting and harvesting tobacco, not building elaborate permanent homes. The construction technique also relied on the society, as the structures required much maintenance and therefore reciprocal community ties. When farmers began to diversify their crops, the building method began to change. Also seen in England, this new economy allowed for more permanent structures that were less reliant on the help of neighbors. This is a key article for those researching architecture and Chesapeake history, as well as those interested in learning how to apply data to other contextual information to interpret the past. [L. Plumley]