Bacon’s Castle

In Surry County, Bacon’s Castle kicks off preservation work. 

At the ripe old age of 357, Bacon’s Castle is getting a million-dollar facelift. With its triple-stacked chimneys, the house is the oldest building in Virginia, says Eric Litchford of Preservation Virginia. It’s also the oldest surviving brick structure in North America and an extremely rare example of Jacobean architecture. 

Built in 1665 by Arthur Allen, a wealthy planter and merchant, the use of brick trumpeted his social status. “If you’re building an all-brick structure in the 17th century, you’re part of the one percent,” Litchford says. The original bricks were made on-site by indentured servants and slaves, who mixed sand with lime from oyster shells for the mortar. The design, an Artisan Mannerist style, was popularized by Flemish craftsmen in England. “It was an exaggerated classicism,” Litchford notes. 

A Save America’s Treasures grant, awarded by the National Park Service, will fund much of the three-year preservation project, which has begun on the west set of chimneys on the Flemish gable ends. Remarkably, most of the original 17th-century mortar remains in good shape, but mortar used for mid-20th-century repairs was intentionally more permeable. “It didn’t last,” says Litchford, “but it didn’t blow up the brick either.” 

“Allen’s Brick House” earned its current name after Nathaniel Bacon’s men occupied it 1676 ahead of Bacon’s Rebellion. Ironically Bacon never lived at or even visited Bacon’s Castle. The site remains open to visitors. Be on the lookout for special guided haunted history tours. PreservationVirginia.org


This article originally appeared in the August 2023 issue.

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