Every house, given the right interpreters, has the ability to speak of its own past. It serves as a material document disclosing design, building practices, furnishings, and decoration. Embodying conceptual ideas, social aspirations, and even the mind of its creators, a house tells about its owners and builders, their cultural practices, and social interactions. Gunston Hall is a statement in brick and stone of the wealth, status, and intellect of its owner, George Mason (1725-1792). Regarded as one of the nation’s most notable expressions of colonial architecture, Gunston Hall shows a balance of simplicity and practicality with a remarkably elegant interior displaying elaborate design with masterful carving.
Built circa 1755-1759, the house incorporated a number of fashionable and even innovative design elements. The ground floor had imposing public rooms which were separate from a private bedchamber and a family parlor/dining room, and the surprisingly spacious second floor included seven bedchambers and a storage room. The architectural design is thought to be primarily the work of a young indentured servant from England, carpenter/joiner William Buckland, who later went on to design a number of distinguished buildings in Virginia and Maryland. He and carver William Bernard Sears, another indentured servant, were responsible for elaborate interior carved woodwork. These decorative embellishments, combining rococo, chinoiserie, and Gothic elements, are extraordinary for the region because they far exceed the typical colonial Virginian style of “neat and plain.”