Paul Bartow

Date of Award

Fall 2018

Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Woody Holton


This study compares Williamsburg and Charles Town as colonial capital cities with attention to how their political culture was reflected through public buildings and the built environment. Drawing on traveler accounts, contemporary descriptions, government records, and maps, this thesis analyzes the character-defining features of public architecture in each city. I examine the capitol buildings, governor’s residences, churches, and town plans to see how the colonists in these respective cities viewed their society, their political order, and their place within the British Empire.

I argue that due to its development in the late seventeenth century and its reliance on the architectural tastes of local craftsmen, Williamsburg as a capital city reflected earlier English building styles than Charles Town. Furthermore, Virginians created Williamsburg as a city whose primary purpose was politics. Politics was a way of life and could be easily seen through the urban planning and the built environment of its capital city. By contrast, Charlestonians built their city at the turn of the eighteenth century with the help of Atlantic craftsmen and builders. Their city was built to reflect the more recent trend of baroque architecture emanating from London. Charles Town was primarily a bustling Atlantic commercial hub and a fabulously refinement city. Political public architecture was secondary to these ends and began in earnest in 1756 with the construction of the statehouse.


© 2018, Paul Bartow

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