Pear Valley House 1740, Northampton County, Virginia
Pear Valley is the earliest surving single-room-plan house in Virginia. The Pear Valley house represents a rare survival of what was once a common building type in the Chesapeake Bay region. After nearly one hundred years of refinement, it is an improved version of the post-in-the-ground Virginia House. Like Cedar Park, it was built for a wealthier planter although the original builder is not known.
This little house was preserved until today because of its original brick foundation upon which the horizonal wooden sills were laid. The ground floor had supporting joist and wooden planks. Originally, the wood siding was riven clapboard and the roof was round-butt shingles.
Around 1830, the clapboard siding was replaced with sawn and beaded weatherboards and the single attic space was partitioned into two rooms. In 2004, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiqueties installed new round-butt, oak shingles, like the originals.
Typical of the Virginia House, the tie beams (joist) protrude beyond the wall line and support the angled "false plate" running horizonally across their ends (clearly seen above). The tilted "false plate" is secured to the tie beam with wooden pegs. This ingenious invention simplified the roof joinery and enabled the opposing rafters to be attached anywhere along the false plate - not just above the joists. Together, these innovations saved the builder much time and expense.
The original north wall was brickwork in the Flemish bond pattern with alternating headers and stretchers in a single row. The 10 foot, 4 inch wide pyramidal chimney encloses an 8 foot wide fireplace. For the upstairs loft area, there were small windows on each side of the chimney as well as a larger window on the opposite wall to light the loft.
As on the earlier Adam Thoroughgood House, the brick mason's skill is demonstrated in the gable brickwork. The Flemish bond of alternating stretchers and headers in a single row is juggled to produce rows of glazed blue headers paralleling the slope of the roof. Note the small window squeezed between the roof line and chimney.
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Architects Office
Drawn by Jeffrey Bostetter. Measured by Bostetter, Edward Chappell, Willie Graham, D. Hurley and Mark R. Wenger 7-17-92
You may read the Historic Structures Report containing drawings, old photographs and a discussion of the significance of the Pear Valley house by clicking here.
If you came to this webpage directly, you may read more about the innovation of Virginia House here (link) .