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Wells, Camille. “The Eighteenth-Century Landscape of Virginia’s Northern Neck,” Northern Neck of Virginia Historical Magazine (Vol. 38, No. 1), December 1987.
In the past, scholars have focused on buildings in the Virginia Northern Neck area that are not representative of how the landscape appeared to the majority of people in the eighteenth century. In order to have a better understanding of eighteenth century Virginia, one cannot only examine the large houses of the wealthy minorities but must evaluate all building types in the region, from smaller houses to outbuildings; “Although the elaborately embellished two-story brick house was indeed the largest and most substantial structure in the group, it was still only one component of an assemblage, and it was dependent on the lesser structures for its appropriate context” (p.4222). To accomplish this in the article, Wells divides her observations into two separate sections: the countryside and the buildings. According to the author, the countryside consisted mainly of waterways and woods with fields dispersed throughout. It was a humble scene where the majority of the people owned little or no land but, instead, worked as tenant farmers on larger properties. When describing the buildings, Wells focuses on the architecture of the outbuildings rather than that of the main house. Both the size and number of these dependencies, whether they were kitchens, smokehouses, dairies, tobacco sheds, or barns, varied depending on the resources and priorities of the landowner. She accumulates most of this information through contemporary newspaper advertisements with detailed descriptions of buildings, which did not survive because of their impertinent construction. This article illustrates that we need to be conscious of information that can expand our views of what the Northern Neck landscape entailed in the eighteenth-century. [C. Thomas]