From any angle, Carpenter's Hall is a beautiful
Georgian building. It's built like a little Georgian jewel,
displaying all the characteristics of the classic
Georgian style. Its wonderfully executed details and its
balanced proportions combine to form a unified whole.
The cruciform plan creates four pedimented pavilions,
each with the proportions of a Greek temple front.
These facades illustrate my favorite thing about the
building - its sense of balance. Each of the four
facades gives just enough vertical emphasis not to be
too horizontal, and just enough horizontal emphasis not
to be too vertical.
Like many great buildings, you can appreciate Carpenter's Hall's overall form from a
distance, but the quality of the detailing becomes obvious as you get closer. For example,
in order to avoid an awkward joint, the water table on the north and south facades stops
short of the columns at the at the doors, creating what architects call a reveal. Half sized
glazed headers have been inserted at the ends of the walls to make Flemish bond spacing
come out correctly. Dentil work in the pediment over the door is echoed in a larger scale on
the gable end pediment above. Finally, a spectacular fan light has been placed over the
south entrance, flooding the interior with sunlight.
The Carpenter's Company was (and is) an association of master builders (now with
architects and engineers) - something like an association of general contractors of its time.
It was exclusive, made up of the distinguished builders of the era. As a closed society, they
wanted to control the availability of knowledge for their members use in the form of a rule
book which gave instruction on how to do estimating as well as how to design certain
construction details. Upon the death of a member, two representatives from the Company
would go to the member's widow with a small payment to help with funeral costs and other
expenses on the condition that the two members recovered the dead member's copy of the
There is a letter from Thomas Jefferson asking for a copy of the rule book to help him when
he was building the University of Virginia. The reply back is direct and to the point -
Jefferson wasn't a member and a rule book would not be sent. If Jefferson wanted to
secure the services of a member of the company, one would be happy to come down and
assist him in Charlottesville.
The paint wasn't even dry
on this jewel of Georgian
design, almost perfectly
executed, when the First
Continental Congress met
here to begin to discuss
treason. Interiors, though
nice are Victorian creations