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Pohick Episcopal Church

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1769–1774, attributed to James Wren and William West. 1901–1916, restoration, Glenn Brown. 1931, restoration, Edward W. Donn, Jr. 9301 Richmond Hwy. (U.S. 1) (12 miles south of Alexandria), Lorton

One of the most sophisticated (and famous) of Virginia's colonial churches, Pohick has a complicated history. It is traditionally associated with George Washington (Mount Vernon is 6 miles distant), who served on the vestry from 1762 to 1784, and George Mason (Gunston Hall is five miles distant), who also served on the vestry for thirty-five years. They have frequently been named as designers, Washington credited with drawing an elevation and plan and selecting the site and Mason with taking a hand in the construction. Recent research tends to support an attribution of the design to James Wren and William West, though, as with many buildings of the time, the design was probably a group effort. In March 1769, Wren and West were paid for building plans “furnished the Vestry.” Pohick does resemble Wren's other northern Virginia work, the Falls Church in Falls Church and Christ Church in Alexandria. The original undertaker was William French, and the mason was William Copein. The carver for the interior, of which only the cornice and a baluster survive, was William Bernard Sears, who also worked at Gunston Hall. The stonework on the exterior of the two-story brick box is some of the most lavish in Virginia, with quoins and door surrounds of carved Aquia Creek sandstone. (It is also covered with nineteenth-century graffiti, some of it from the Union army's occupation during 1862–1863, when the church was used as a stable and partially destroyed.) Copein also created a stone font, with the directions that it be “according to a draught in the 150th Plate in Langley's Designs—for the price of six pounds, he finding for himself, everything,” and that the font should be appropriate for “dipping the Infant in the water discreetly and warily.” Also in the church is a large font, which reputedly is medieval and was brought from England; the carved date A.D. 1773 is a later insertion. The church received a new roof and ceiling in 1840. Union troops stripped most of the interior during the Civil War. A partial restoration occurred in 1874, and then, between 1901 and 1916, Glenn Brown created the present Georgian Revival interior, closely following what he found as evidence. The interior is white and bright and contains features reminiscent of English Dissenter chapels of the eighteenth century. The entrance is on the long south side, and on its axis on the north wall is the pulpit. The altar is on the east and a balcony on the west. Box pews are on either side of the aisles. In 1772 the vestry “Ordered that a Vestry House be built at this Church of Brick …“but canceled the project two years later. In honor of the bicentennials of Washington's birth and the establishment of Truro Parish, in 1931 Edward W. Donn, Jr., designed the vestry house following the original specifications. Donn also designed the brick walls for the churchyard, copying Ware Church in Gloucester County.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Richard Guy Wilson et al.
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Citation

Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Pohick Episcopal Church", [Lorton, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/VA-01-NV52.

Print Source

Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, Richard Guy Wilson and contributors. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 75-76.

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