Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory - Virginia


Adam Thoroughgood House

Adam Thoroughgood House, Virginia Beach, VA (36.893533, -76.113916)

(a) Pine structural timbers Felling Date: After 1703

(b) Oak roof clapboards Felling Date: After 1716

(a) Rafters (5/7) 1703, 1681, 1680, 1650, 1622; Collar 1644; Floor joists 1676, 1671, 1668, 1651, 1643; Front plate 1651. (b) Roof clapboards (12/14) 1716, 17133, 1712, 1710, 1707, 1701, 1697, 1694, 1678, 1666. Site Masters (a) 1551-1703 ATHx1 (pine) (t = 7.9 WVVAP; 4.1 VA021; 4.8 TUVA; 3.6 PIEDMONT), (b) 1608-1716 ATHx2 (oak) (t= 5.8 VA021; 4.1 PIEDMONT; 3.9 MONTP).

The building is a one story, single pile brick house that is laid out on a two-room, center-passage plan. Center passages, while known as early as the 1690s in Virginia, are rare locally until the 1720s. The scale of the building when combined with its brick detailing makes it part of a small group of Chesapeake buildings erected between ca. 1720 and 1750, dwellings that were foreshadowing the larger brick mansions of the late colonial period. Although clapboard roofs were the staple covering of 17th-century houses, they continued in routine use throughout the colonial period, most notably seen on the ca. 1749 roof of the Benjamin Waller House in Williamsburg and should not be considered an oddity here. Perhaps the most important datable feature in the house is its tilted false plates. These first show up in the region in the mid 1710s; that at Sotterley in Southern Maryland, recently tree-ring dated to 1715, is now the earliest known example. A recent analysis of archaeological evidence on the Thoroughgood site by Nicholas Luccketti of the James River Institute for Archaeology (based on a new survey and re-examination of Floyd Painter’s 1965 excavations) failed to produce evidence of 17th-century usage of the site and instead indicates that first significant historical occupation occurred in the second quarter of the 18th century. While earlier writers were predisposed to date the Thoroughgood House sometime between 1640 and 1680 depending on their reading of the documentary record, contemporary knowledge of Chesapeake colonial building practices plainly demonstrates that the dwelling is conceptually 18th century in plan, form and detail. Several key features suggest that the most plausible date of construction for the house is about 1720, based on the probate documentary evidence of 1719 suggesting that the house was in the process of being built, and strongly supported by the terminis post quem date of after 1703 for the pine structural timbers, and after 1716 for the oak roof clapboards.

Miles, D H, and Worthington, M J, 2005 “The Tree-Ring Dating of the Adam Thoroughgood House, Virginia Beach, Virginia”, ODL unpubl rep 2005/15




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Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory

Michael Worthington
Jane Seiter, Ph.D

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