Briery Church, Prince Edward County

Virginia Historical Highway Marker F75, Old Briery Church.

OLD BRIERY CHURCH

Just to the north stands Briery Church, organized in 1755 following the missionary work of Presbyterian minister Samuel Davies. The first church was built about 1760 and was replaced in 1824. The present gothic revival church was built about 1855 to designs of Robert Lewis Dabney.

Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission, 1971

Briery Church (credit: Virginia Department of Historic Resources).

Briery Church is a one-story, board-and-batten-covered frame structure built on a T-shaped plan. Emphasizing the vertical lines of the church are the steep gable roof, with overhanging eaves, the three cross gables on the south front, and the simple finials on each gable end. All the openings are in the form of lancet arches, the windows having diamond panes and the four entrances on the west, south, and east fronts being sheltered by small gable canopy porches with barge boarding in the form of simple curving strips of wood. The building rests on a masonry foundation (probably brick) covered with stucco.

Briery Church, Keysville vic., Prince Edward County, Virginia, c. 1930-1939, Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952.
Briery Church, Keysville vic., Prince Edward County, Virginia, c. 1930-1939, Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952.
Briery Church, Keysville vic., Prince Edward County, Virginia, c. 1930-1939, Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952.
Briery Church, Keysville vic., Prince Edward County, Virginia, c. 1930-1939, Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952.
Briery Church (CC image, photographer David Hoffman, Flickr).
Briery Church (CC image, photographer David Hoffman, Flickr).
Briery Church (CC image, photographer David Hoffman, Flickr).
Briery Church (CC image, photographer David Hoffman, Flickr).
Briery Church (CC image, photographer David Hoffman, Flickr).
Briery Church (CC image, photographer David Hoffman, Flickr).
Briery Church (CC image, photographer David Hoffman, Flickr).
View of pulpit, Briery Church.

On the interior, plain pews on either side of a central aisle face the pulpit from each of the three wings of the ‘T.’ The long pine pulpit has lancet-arched recessed panels with a row of pendants hanging from the top. The pine ceiling begins at the eaves line and follows the interior pitch of the roof up for several feet before curving into a horizontal level which combines with the vertical pine uprights at the corners and the ‘ribs’ to create the effect of vaulting.

View of sanctuary, Briery Church.
View of nave, Briery Church.

Organized in 1755 following the missionary work of the ‘New Light’ evangelist Samuel Davies, the first church was erected about 1760, probably following the issuance of permission to worship by the Prince Edward County Court to the Briery congregation. The original meeting house was replaced in 1824, and the third and present Briery Church on the site was constructed circa 1855. This Gothic Revival church was designed by the noted theologian, Rev. Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898), a professor of theology at Union Theological Seminary, then a part of Hampden-Sydney College, and author of a biography of ‘Stonewall’ Jackson for whom Major Dabney had served as Chief of Staff in 1862. Dabney was also the architect for three other churches, Tinkling Spring Church in Augusta County, Farmville Presbyterian Church, and College Church at Hampden-Sydney, all of which are constructed of brick and are in the Greek Revival style, making Briery Church all the more unusual.

Briery Church remains today as a symbol of the perseverance of Presbyterianism in Virginia and houses a congregation formed over two hundred years ago. It is significant as an architectural composition utilizing the vertical lines of the board and batten walls with the picturesque exaggeration of the roofline. Placed in its forest setting of tall pines, this small white structure expresses the essence of mid-19th Century romanticism.

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Breadalbane Mausoleum c. 1880

J. V. Royaume-Uni, Breadalbane Mausoleum, Finlarig Castle, c. 1880; albumen print, 19 cm x 29 cm.
Ruins of the Breadalbane Mausoleum, Finlarig Castle.
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Bruce’s Siege of Dunstaffnage

Ground plan of Dunstaffnage Castle, from MacGibbon, David, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Vol. I, Edinburgh: D. Douglas, 1887.

Courtyard of Dunstaffnage Castle, from MacGibbon, David, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Vol. I, Edinburgh: D. Douglas, 1887.
West elevation of Dunstaffnage Castle, from MacGibbon, David, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Vol. I, Edinburgh: D. Douglas, 1887.
Plan of battlements of Dunstaffnage Castle, from MacGibbon, David, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Vol. I, Edinburgh: D. Douglas, 1887.

De conflictu regis Roberti contra Ergadienses

Eodem anno [1308] infra octavas Ascencionis beatae Virginis Mariae idem rex Ergadiensis devicit in medio Ergadiae et totam terram sibi subegit, ducem eorum nomine Alexandrum de Argadia fugientem ad castrum de Dunstafinch per aliquod tempus inibi obsedit, qui eidem regi Castrum reddidit et sibi homagium facere recusans, dato salvo conductu sibi et omnibus secum recedere volentibus in Angliam fugit et ibidem debitum naturae persolvit.

John of Fordun, Chronica Gentis Scotorum, cxxvi.

The king that stout wes stark and bauld
Till Dunstaffynch rycht sturdely
A sege set and besily
Assaylit the castell it to get,
And in schort tym he has thaim set
In swilk thrang that tharin war than
That magre tharis he it wan,
And ane gud wardane tharin set
And betaucht hym bath men and met
Sua that he lang tyme thar mycht be
Magre thaim all off that countre.

John Barbour, The Brus, x. 112-122.

Egyptian Building

Egyptian Building, Richmond, Virginia.
Egyptian Building, north-west (front) elevation.
Egyptian Building, from College Street, south-east (rear) elevation.
Cover of Sunday Magazine section of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 19 July 1936, depicting the Egyptian Building.

Designed by noted Greek Revival architect Thomas S. Stewart of Philadelphia, the Egyptian Building is one of the finest examples of the rare “Egyptian Revival” style. The building was the first permanent home of the Medical Department of Hampden-Sydney College, which later became the Medical College of Virginia. The Egyptian Building has been in continuous use since its construction in 1845 and remains the oldest medical college building in the South. While the interior has since been extensively altered to accommodate administrative office space (with the notable exception of the 1930s lobby and ground floor lecture hall), the monumental exterior is extremely well preserved. The building once housed lecture rooms, a dissecting room, an infirmary, and hospital beds for medical and surgical cases.

Entrance to Egyptian Building, Richmond, Virginia.

In 1939, Richmond architects Baskervill & Son oversaw extensive restoration of the exterior of the building. Bernard Baruch, a wealthy industrialist, financed the restoration in memory of his father Dr. Simon Baruch, an 1862 graduate of the Medical College of Virginia and a Confederate surgeon in the War Between the States. The 270-seat Baruch Auditorium on the first floor dates to this renovation and is still in use. The restoration included remodeling the interior of the building to follow the Egyptian style. None of the original interiors survived.

Egyptian Building, detail of column capitals.
Egyptian Building, detail of east portico.
Egyptian Building, c. 1920s-1930s, with students or recent graduates?
Egyptian Building, prior to removal of ivy during 1939 restoration.

Detail of cast iron fence, with herm or mummy posts, by R. W. Barnes of Richmond.

What old Nassau Hall is to Princeton, what the Wren Building is to William and Mary, what the Rotunda is to the University of Virginia, the Egyptian Building is to the Medical College of Virginia. It is a shrine, a sanctuary of tradition, the physical embodiment of our genius. It is a spiritual heritage. In a world often accused of cold materialism, with an ideology of human self-sufficiency, and an adoration of objects that can be handled and seen, there is a need for things of the spirit, if science is to do more than make life safer, longer and more comfortable.

Dr. Wyndham Blanton at Founders’ Day exercises held at the Egyptian Building, 5 December 1940.

Not an House but a Village

View of the University of Virginia in Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Virginia, Charleston: Babcock, 1852.
View of the University of Virginia in Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Virginia, Charleston: Babcock, 1852.

Large houses are always ugly, inconvenient, exposed to the accident of fire, and bad in cases of infection. A plain small house for the school & lodging of each professor is best. These connected by covered ways out of which the rooms of the students should open would be best. These may then be built only as they shall be wanting. In fact, an University should not be an house but a village.

Thos. Jefferson to Littleton Waller Tazewell, 5 January 1805.

The Sacred Wreck

An isometric drawing of monastery buildings restored by the Iona Community by the architect, Ian Gordon Lindsay. The restoration was completed in 1965.
An isometric drawing of monastery buildings restored by the Iona Community by the architect, Ian Gordon Lindsay. The restoration was completed in 1965.

XXX. IONA.

ON to Iona!—What can she afford
To us save matter for a thoughtful sigh,
Heaved over ruin with stability
In urgent contrast? To diffuse the Word
(Thy paramount, mighty Nature! and time’s Lord)
Her temples rose, mid pagan gloom; but why,
Even for a moment, has our verse deplored
Their wrongs, since they fulfilled their destiny?
And when, subjected to a common doom
Of mutability, those far-famed piles
Shall disappear from both the sister isles,
Iona’s saints, forgetting not past days,
Garlands shall wear of amaranthine bloom,
While heaven’s vast sea of voices chants their praise.

XXXI. IONA.

(Upon Landing)

HOW sad a welcome! To each voyager
Some ragged child holds up for sale a store
Of wave-worn pebbles, pleading on the shore
Where once came monk and nun with gentle stir,
Blessings to give, news ask, or suit prefer.
Yet is yon neat, trim church a grateful speck
Of novelty amid the sacred wreck
Strewn far and wide. Think, proud philosopher!
Fallen though she be, this glory of the west,
Still on her sons the beams of mercy shine;
And hopes, perhaps more heavenly bright than thine,
A grace by thee unsought and unpossest,
A faith more fixed, a rapture more divine,
Shall gild their passage to eternal rest.

XXXII. THE BLACK STONES OF IONA.

[See Martin’s Voyage among the Western Isles.]

Here on their knees men swore: the stones were black,
Black in the People’s minds and words, yet they
Were at that time, as now, in colour grey.
But what is colour, if upon the rack
Of conscience souls are placed by deeds that lack
Concord with oaths? What differ night and day
Then, when before the Perjured on his way
Hell opens, and the heavens in vengeance crack
Above his head uplifted in vain prayer
To Saint, or Fiend, or to the Godhead whom
He had insulted–Peasant, King, or Thane?
Fly where the culprit may, guilt meets a doom;
And, from invisible worlds at need laid bare,
Come links for social order’s awful chain.

— William Wordsworth, The Poetical Works, vol. 5, Sonnets Composed or Suggested During a Tour in Scotland, in the Summer of 1833, London: Edward Moxon, 1837.

Feelings of Pleasure and Local Love

Stratford Hall Plantation, birthplace of Robert Edward Lee, set on high bluffs overlooking the Potomac River in the Northern Neck of Virginia.
Stratford Hall Plantation, birthplace of Robert Edward Lee, set on high bluffs overlooking the Potomac River in the Northern Neck of Virginia.

[I]n the absence of a home I wish I could purchase Stratford. That is the only place I could go to, now accessible to us, that would inspire me with feelings of pleasure and local love. You and the girls could remain there in quiet. It is a poor place, but we could make enough cornbread and bacon for our support and the girls could weave us clothes. I wonder if it is for sale and how much.

Letter of Robert E. Lee to his wife, Christmas Day, 1861.