You are here

Kingsmill

-A A +A
1969–present. U.S. 60 west of VA 199

Busch Properties purchased undeveloped woodlands and agricultural land between Colonial Williamsburg and Carter's Grove in 1969 and built a brewery, theme park, office park, and gated residential community, Kingsmill. By 1998, Kingsmill had grown to 5,000 people and 2,100 houses. Archaeologist William Kelso carried out excavations that for the first time revealed the broad spectrum of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century sites remaining on riverside Tidewater Virginia properties. Kelso's associated research contributed to the new residential identity of Kingsmill and influenced site planning and the names chosen for suburban enclaves. Sasaki Associates did initial planning, and, in 1974, the California firm of Callister, Payne and Bischoff designed the core site arrangement of sports facilities and enclaves of multifamily houses. All the multifamily complexes are the product of architectural offices, while most of the detached houses have been designed and built by contractors.

The first house designs, for an enclave called Winster Fox (1974, Fred Bainbridge), set the tone with attached versions of Charles Moore's work at Sea Ranch. Long, shingled roof slopes and rough-sawn vertical-board walls evoked old industrial buildings of the West, even though the architect was from Georgia and this was Virginia. The next enclave, Littletown Quarter (1975, Callister, Payne and Bischoff), designed by architects from California, followed with houses broken into much smaller parts. Virtually every room in these two- and three-bedroom houses has its own gable roof, creating a miniaturized quality that suggests unassuming vernacular farmsteads, crowded together as though land were limited by the oversettlement of a New England village. This woodsy idiom was continued in an expansion of Littletown Quarter (1977, Peckham and Guyton), designed by the St. Louis firm favored by Anheuser-Busch for its breweries and theme parks. The next enclave, Harrop's Glen (1977–1980, Carlton Abbott), designed by a Williamsburg architect, produced a distinctly personal rendition of the Sea Ranch look. The houses became pure form in Abbott's hands, with eaves reduced to a minimum and tiny private yards defended by high, unbroken fences.

A new, less ascetic age was announced at Archer's Mead (1980, Peckham and Guyton) where more than a hundred gray Mineshaft Modern houses were incongruously provided with big, round-headed church windows. At Moody's Run (1988, Bainbridge and Associates), Sea Ranch references receded in the presence of Reagan-Bush-era suburban historicism. Facade projections swelled into polygons, and the wood-sheathed chimneys morphed into Shavian brick stacks at Wareham's Point (1990, Bainbridge and Martin). The most recent unified housing, River's Edge (1994, Cline Davis) is a group of boastful historicist mansions, regrettably sited at the river. A second bold gesture to the James River is a suburb of large single-family houses in various styles, designed by contractors at Burwell's Landing and located around the original pair of service buildings that flanked Lewis Burwell's mideighteenth-century Kingsmill mansion.

The centerpiece, the Golf Clubhouse and Restaurant (1974–1975, Callister, Payne and Bischoff; 1988, 1995–1996, remodeling and expansion, Bainbridge) was originally relatively restrained, but the remodeling and expansion in the style of an oversized railway station, with shingled walls and exaggerated tapered pergola piers locally referred to as the “Bainbridge Order,” is cutesy postmodern. Bainbridge likewise designed large condominiums built around the new sports and conference center between 1988 and 1992. These combine vestiges of the architect's old Sea Ranch mode with wildly overscaled interpretations of the chimneys at Bacon's Castle, across the river.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Richard Guy Wilson et al.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.

, ,