Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory - Virginia


Robert Carter

Robert Carter House, Williamsburg, Virginia (37.273324, -76.702556)

(a) Primary House Felling Date: Winter 1726/7

(b) Raised Roof, Felling Dates Winter 1756/7 and Summer 1759

(a) Summer beams (0/4); Internal hip rafter (0/1); Rafters (2/6) 1726 (C); Wall plate (1/1) 1726 (C). (b) Upper rafters (2/2) 1758 (½C), 1756 (C); Upper hip rafters (1/2) 1751.

Site Master 1637-1726 RCHTP (tulip poplar) (t = 6.78 SFS3; 6.74 prts1; 6.66 EVAYP7). Site Master 1669-1758 RCHOAK (oak) (t = 6.29 MONTP; 5.96 PIEDMONT; 5.93 BPTS).

The following building description has been provided by Jeffrey Klee, Architectural Historian at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation:

The Robert Carter House was erected in the second quarter of the 18th century and sold to Robert Cary in 1746. Cary sold the property to Dr. Kenneth McKenzie in 1747, and in 1751, it was purchased by the Virginia colony to serve as the residence of Governor Robert Dinwiddie, while the nearby Palace was being refurbished. It was owned by Robert Carter Nicholas from 1753 until 1761, when Nicholas sold it to Robert Carter of Nomini Hall. Carter kept the property until the end of the 18th century.

This grand house follows an unusual plan for Williamsburg, with the most elaborate entertaining room at the rear, facing a broad garden. Its fenestration also responds to this orientation, with just three bays of doors and windows across the Palace Green side and five bays across its rear. The views from the rear rooms took in a terraced garden, and were unobstructed by the customary collection of domestic work and service buildings, as these were all set to the sides of the lot.

Like the Peyton Randolph House, the roof originally followed an M-profile, with long wooden gutters conducting water out of internal valleys. Before long, and still using wrought nails, this roof was raised to a hip-on- hip, at which time the attic was refitted as a quarter for slaves. Many original and early finishes remain in the house, including flooring, many doors, mantels, and a rare plaster cornice on the second floor.

Dendrochronological analysis has shown that the original structure was built from timbers cut during the winter of 1726/7 and that the raising of the roof took place three decades later from trees cut during the summer of 1759. Such a timeline suggests that the house was built by Robert ‘King’ Carter when he was the acting governor of Virginia from 1726-27, and that the modifications to the roof were undertaken by Robert Carter Nicholas during his ownership in the third quarter of the 18 th century.

Worthington, M J and Seiter, J I 2015 “Robert Carter House, Williamsburg, Virginia” unpublished Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory archive report 2015/07

Link to news report on Robert Carter House here




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Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory

Michael Worthington
Jane Seiter, Ph.D

25 E. Montgomery St.
Baltimore, MD 21230