Exploring Virginia’s Capital on the James: Fall Symposium Celebrates Richmond

Oct 31, 2022

The Decorative Arts Trust’s sold-out Fall Symposium in Richmond, VA, was a thrilling success, with fascinating site visits and networking among enthusiastic Trust members.

Pre-Symposium Tour in Williamsburg

Our two-day Pre-Symposium Optional Tour began on Wednesday, September 21, with stops in the Williamsburg, VA, region. The morning featured visits to Historic Shirley and Westover, two 18th-century James River plantations still held in private hands, Shirley and Westover. After lunch at Cul’s Courthouse Grille, we explored Colonial Williamsburg’s historic district, with a special introduction to Palmer House with Tom Savage. After a visit to the Everard House, just steps from Williamsburg’s Governor’s Palace, we hopped over to the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg for curator-led tours. An evening reception amongst the stunning collection at the home of Carolyn and Mike McNamara capped off a lovely day. Thursday was equally enjoyable, anchored by lunch hosted at the home of Trust Governor Margaret Pritchard and exclusive tours of four stunning private residences in the Williamsburg area.

Opening Night at The Jefferson Hotel 

The Symposium officially commenced on the evening of Thursday, September 22, in The Jefferson Hotel’s Empire Room. Executive Director Matthew A. Thurlow kicked off the program with opening remarks, followed by a welcome from Trust Board President Brock Jobe. The night continued with two Jonathan L. Fairbanks Lectures. Calder Loth, Retired Senior Architectural Historian for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, presented Richmond: An Architectural Foretaste. Next, Ronald L. Hurst, Senior Vice President for Museums, Preservation & Historic Resources and The Carlisle H. Humelsine Chief Curator at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, presented Made Along the James: The Decorative Arts of Eastern Virginia. After the lectures, members enjoyed a delightful Opening Night reception in the Hotel’s striking Palm Court space, generously sponsored by Hindman Auctions. Members were eager to welcome the two Dewey Lee Curtis Scholarship recipients, Kyrie Blackman from the University of California, Riverside, and Amelia Lancaster from Washington and Lee University and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, to this year’s events.

Friday in Richmond’s Court End

Friday showcased a selection of historic sites, including The Valentine Museum and its Wickham House, the White House of the Confederacy, and a walking tour of important historic structures in the Court End district. A delightful lunch al fresco inThe Valentine’s garden  was followed by tours of the Virginia State Capitol, including special access to the governor’s offices. The evening’s festivities included a fundraiser for the Emerging Scholars Programs Fundraiser held at the privately owned Hancock-Wirt-Caskie House.

Saturday in Richmond and Environs 

We were out and about on Saturday, expanding our reach into the greater Richmond area. The morning included visits to Chastain, the home of long-time Trust Governor Helen Scott Reed, and Tuckahoe, Thomas Jefferson’s boyhood home. After a proper southern feast replete with fried chicken, cornbread, and “sly fox pie” at Tanglewood Ordinary Restaurant, participants split into two groups, one visiting the Virginia Museum of History & Culture and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the other touring Wilton, Agecroft, and Scott House. At the day’s end, a special reception was held at the Cole Digges House, an 1805 Federal house built by Revolutionary War veteran Cole Digges, which today serves as the headquarters for Preservation Virginia.

Sunday Features Emerging Scholar Lectures

The final day of the Symposium brought a morning of excellent lectures introduced by Trust Manager of Educational Programs Catherine Carlise in The Jefferson’s Grand Ballroom. Christina K. Vida, Elise H. Wright Curator of General Collections at The Valentine Museum, presented Edward Valentine’s Sculpture Studio and Lost Cause Power Play. Rachel Asbury Cole, Collections Project Manager and Registrar at The Valentine Museum, delivered the John A.H. Sweeney Emerging Scholar Lecture, From Northern Imports to Local Manufacture: Clockmaking in Richmond. We learned about The Art, History, and Mystery of Richmond Stoneware with Ceramics in America Editor Robert Hunter. Elyse Gerstenecker, Curator of Historical Collections at The Telfair Museum, closed the conference with the Marie Zimmermann Emerging Scholar Lecture about George’s Grimace: Political Frustrations on a Virginia Stoneware Jar.

Post-Symposium Tour in Petersburg 

After concluding another successful symposium, a group of tenacious members continued to Petersburg for the Post-Symposium Optional Tour. After lunch in the historic Farmers Market building, our first stop was Sandy and Karen Graham’s beautifully appointed McIlwaine House. Tours of the historic Farmer’s Bank followed, with a trolley excursion to see the Tiffany windows in Blandford Church (previously featured in an article from The Magazine of the Decorative Arts Trust). We traveled by trolley for a driving tour of important houses in Petersburg, and then we ended the day with a convivial reception at Battersea, a grand 1768 five-part Palladian residence built on the outskirts of Petersburg by Colonel John Bannister, maintained today by the Battersea Foundation.

Overall, everyone enjoyed the Fall Symposium in Richmond! Those who attended or wish they had can see more photos on Instagram, especially in the “Richmond” story highlight at the top of our page. For more information about upcoming symposia and other programs, visit our Calendar of Events. As a reminder, members at the Ambassador level and above receive advance registration benefits.

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Formerly known as the "blog,” the Bulletin features new research and scholarship, travelogues, book reviews, and museum and gallery exhibitions. The Bulletin complements The Magazine of the Decorative Arts Trust, our biannual members publication.


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