Few people who don’t live along the creeks or beneath the shaded canopy of Mathews County know its historic architecture. Like many who reside in this wonderfully out-of-the-way community, the building afficionados of this region relish its architectural gems, and appreciate the sometimes eclectic combination of agricultural and maritime landscapes, along with the occasional urban influences that arrived with early vacationers or through steamboat routes connected to Norfolk, Baltimore, and other cities. Mathews County has a little bit of everything, ranging from palatial Georgian mansions, to the modest 1920s farmhouse, with the occasional International-style house or Civil War earthwork thrown in for good measure.
We have had the pleasure of getting to know the buildings, people and places of Mathews County through our work with the Mathews County Historical Society and several other local historic interest groups who have teamed up with the County and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) to support an architectural inventory. The project involved our team of architectural historians driving throughout Mathews County, working with local residents to survey buildings of every type and period. After filling out (or revising) over 200 inventory forms for sites across Mathews, we’ve gotten to know a lot more about the buildings, wharves, country stores and post offices from Bohannon to Bavon, Gwynn’s Island to Mobjack, and North to Mathews Courthouse (and a few places in between – like Moon, Shadow, and Bayside). We love the place names of Mathews, as they tempt us to delve further into the county’s history. At the end of the survey we were both impressed and inspired. What an amazing place, replete with great architecture and a great sense of place where the residents truly appreciate their history.
We’ve met many wonderful people during this process who have shared many of their stories, pictures, and research. From the wonderful staff at the Mathews Memorial Library, to the dedicated members of the Mathews County Historical Society, we’ve made new friends and shared in new discoveries. We feel like we are walking in the footsteps of prominent local historians, like Milton Murray II, who did so much and should be recognized even beyond Mathews for their hard work. And so our project, which will be available to the public soon, will continue in the months to come.
The first outgrowth of this project that we will pursue, is to work further with the G.B. Lorraine Collection for Mathews at the Virginia State Library. This collection include photos, property notes and other information for more than 300 properties sold by real estate agent and historian George Lorraine from the 1930s to the 1960s, and includes both historic and relatively recent buildings from across Mathews County (not to mention Gloucester, Middlesex, and other localities in Virginia).
We would like to locate all these buildings, or building sites, if they are no longer standing. Do you have an older home? There may be pictures of it in this collection. This is a great opportunity to bring these things to life, to build up an already amazing archive at the Mathews Memorial Library, and add to the history of Mathews County. Contact us if you have a home you’d like to learn more about – and don’t forget about archaeology too (our archaeological survey of the county is just beginning, and we’re looking to document those sites as well, from the Prehistoric period up through the early 20th century). Mathews County history is all around us – and we can’t wait to discover it with you.