A Guide to the Alexander Jackson Davis Architectural Drawings, 1859-1870 Davis, Alexander Jackson. Architectural Drawings mss 00276

A Guide to the Alexander Jackson Davis Architectural Drawings, 1859-1870

A Collection in
Virginia Military Institute Archives
Collection Number mss 00276


Virginia Military Institute Archives

Virginia Military Institute Archives
Preston Library
Virginia Military Institute
Lexington, Virginia 24450-0304
Phone: (540) 464-7566
Fax: (540) 464-7279
Email: archives@vmi.edu
URL: http://www.vmi.edu/archives

© 2002 Virginia Military Institute

Funding: Web version of the finding aid funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Processed by: Virginia Military Institute Archives Staff

Archives, Preston Library, Virginia Military Institute
Collection number
mss 00276
Alexander Jackson Davis Architectural Drawings 1859-1870
Physical Characteristics
The collection consists of 27 items.

Administrative Information


There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Alexander Jackson Davis Architectural Drawings, mss 00276, Virginia Military Institute Archives, Lexington, Virginia.

Alternative Form

The Alexander Jackson Davis Drawings can be viewed online on the VMI Archives website at: http://www.vmi.edu/archives/manuscripts/ms276.html

Biographical/Historical Information

Alexander Jackson Davis (1803-1892), a notable 19th century American architect, designed the Virginia Military Institute Barracks, professors' residences and other Institute buildings during the 1850's-1860's. Born in New York, Davis studied at the American Academy of Fine Arts and the National Academy of Design. He helped to popularize the Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and Italianate styles, and his many important projects included private residences as well as public buildings. Davis has long been recognized by historians as the most significant American practitioner of the "secular gothic," and VMI was the first American college planned entirely in the Gothic Revival style. This style incorporates towers, turrets, and other design elements first used in medieval castles and cathedrals. The VMI Barracks was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966, and the VMI Post was named a National Historic District in 1974.

Davis's association with VMI came about as a result of his design work for Philip St. George Cocke, a wealthy Virginia planter and member of the VMI Board of Visitors. Cocke, an impassioned advocate of the Gothic style, employed Davis to design "Belmead" the Cocke residence in Powhatan County, Virginia. Cocke became Davis's patron in the state, and when VMI began its building program in the late 1840's, it turned to Davis to create a comprehensive plan for the Institute. During the period 1850-1861, a significant portion of the Barracks, a Porter's Lodge, Mess Hall, the Superintendent's residence, and several faculty residences were constructed using Davis's designs. Davis's dream of completing the Barracks quadrangle was interrupted by the Civil War and VMI's post-war financial problems, and his work for the Institute ended in the 1870's. It was not until the early 20th century that his vision for the Parade Ground facade of Barracks was realized, based on a Davis-inspired design by another noted architect, Bertram Goodhue.

Scope and Content Information

The Alexander Jackson Davis collection consists of 27 architectural drawings executed for the Virginia Military Institute (Lexington, Virginia) between 1859 and 1870. Included are designs for the VMI Barracks, the Superintendent's residence, and faculty residences. The bulk of the drawings are ink and wash plans.

Contents List

Superintendent's Residence, Virginia Military Institute, 1860
9 items
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Faculty Residences, VMI Parade Ground, 1850's
8 items
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Barracks, 1870
10 items

These post-Civil War designs for "Claytor Hall" -- intended to complete the Barracks project begun in the 1850s -- were never executed. VMI was struggling to recover from the destruction of Institute buildings by Union General David Hunter, and would not be able to continue with Davis's ambitious design. The parade ground facade of Barracks, as originally envisioned by Davis, was completed in the early 20th century.

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