You are here

Moses Myers House

-A A +A
Before 1797. c. 1800, before 1815, additions. 1953, kitchen restoration. 1960–1962, restoration, Finlay F. Ferguson, Jr. South side of E. Freemason St. at Bank St. Open to the public
  • Moses Myers House
  • Moses Myers House

One of Virginia's finest Federal town houses was built for one of the city's most prominent merchants. The house set a new standard for urban sophistication in post-Revolutionary Norfolk, and its location beyond the limits of the old town presaged northward expansion. Moses Myers purchased the land in 1791 and erected the first phase of the two-and-one-halfstory house before 1797. Constructed of brick laid in a Flemish bond with a limestone belt course, the house is distinguished by a pedimented upper gable with graceful fanlight. A central entrance on the first level of this facade opens laterally into a side passage, beyond which are a front and back parlor, each containing a hearth. Additional exterior doors at the north and south ends of the passage provide cross ventilation during the often sweltering Tidewater summers. A U-shaped staircase fills the south end of the passage, leading to an upper passage and three chambers. The original basement kitchen proved to be impractical because of the heat it generated in warm weather, and a freestanding kitchen with upper chamber was constructed c. 1800 and connected to the main house by a two-story hyphen. To accommodate the expanding family, a new wing, containing a dining room and two upper chambers and terminating in an elegant polygonal bay, was added to the west of the main house before 1818. This third phase may have been executed in imitation of Benjamin Henry Latrobe's design for the William Pennock House in Norfolk (c. 1796; demolished), which included a similar dining room window bay. The house underwent significant restoration around 1906, in time for the Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition.

As the city's first Jewish citizens, Moses and Eliza Myers encountered little prejudice from their Protestant neighbors, and they emerged as leading taste makers in Norfolk society. Their house was a showcase for the latest American, English, and French fashions, represented most notably by the Adamesque plaster ceiling in the passage. Some furniture was custom made for the house, including the sideboards in the dining room and the window seats in the front parlor. Portraits of Moses and Eliza by Gilbert Stuart hang in the latter room. The house remained in the possession of the Myers family until 1931, when it and its furnishings were sold to the Colonial House Corporation for conversion to a museum. The city assumed ownership of the property in 1951, and the house was restored to its late eighteenth-century appearance in 1960–1962. It is now operated as a historic house by the Chrysler Museum of Art.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Richard Guy Wilson et al.
×

Data

What's Nearby

Citation

Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Moses Myers House", [Norfolk, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/VA-01-NK42.

Print Source

Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, Richard Guy Wilson and contributors. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 417-418.

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.

, ,