Vernacular Architecture visits North Carolina and Virgina

Dr. Reinberger’s Vernacular Architecture Class at Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson’s Retreat

Students in Dr. Reinberger’s Vernacular Architecture course this semester had the opportunity to participate in a field trip from March 23-25 visiting sites in North Carolina and Virginia.

Students started the three day journey with a stop at Mendenhall Homeplace in Jamestown, NC before visiting Old Salem in Winston-Salem, NC.  Old Salem is an historic Moravian community featuring Germanic architecture, founded in mid-18th century.  The students were able to learn about the interesting singing culture of the Moravians while exploring the amazing collection of vernacular buildings.  Students were able to see many of the different German building techniques they had been learning about in class first hand as well several examples of the Flurkuchenhaus plan.

On Friday, the class headed north to Virginia stopping at Poplar Forest, Thomas Jeffereson’s retreat, near Lynchburg, VA.  The house was built in the early 19th century in the shape of an octagon.  In the afternoon, students visited the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  The university was designed by Thomas Jefferson as an academical village and an architectural museum in the early 19th century.

On Saturday, the group made one last stop at the Museum of Frontier Culture in Stauton, VA, before returning to Athens.  The museum features examples of a 17th century English farm, as well as 18th century settlements of Igbo West Africans, Native Americans, Irish, and Germans. In addition, there were two examples of 19th century valley of Virginia homes. One student likened it to being the Epcot of vernacular architecture.  Most of the buildings there are authentic historical houses that were shipped from their original location and reassembled at the outdoor museum. Some, like the Native American village and the Nigerian Igbo village, were built on site using tradition techniques and in the case of the Igbo village with people who knew how to build in the traditional way.

Students particularly enjoyed the visit to the Museum of Frontier Culture.  First year MHP student Bethany Moore said that “it was very exciting to see several different examples of vernacular architecture from around the world in one place and with knowledgeable interpretation.”  Second year MHP student Audrey Thomas said that this was her favorite stop of the trip as “it was very interesting to be able to see examples of architectural concepts we’ve discussed in class – especially those from other countries that we might not be able to see often here.”

University of Virginia