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Re-creating the American Past

Essays on the Colonial Revival
Richard Guy Wilson and Shaun Eyring, eds.

BUY Cloth · 432 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813923482 · $55.00 · Feb 2006

Although individually and collectively Americans have many histories, the dominant view of our national past focuses on the colonial era. The reasons for this are many and complex, touching on stories of the country's origins and of the founding fathers, the privileged position in history granted the thirteen original colonies, and the ways in which the nation has adjusted to change and modernity. But no matter the cause, the result is obvious: images and forms derived from and related to America's colonial past are the single most popular form of cultural expression.

Often conceived solely in architectural terms, from the red-brick and white-trimmed buildings that recall eighteenth-century James River estates to the clapboarded saltboxes that recall early New England, Colonial Revival is in fact better understood as a process of remembering. In Re-creating the American Past, architectural historian Richard Guy Wilson and a host of other scholars examine how and why Colonial Revival has persisted in modern times. The volume contains essays that explore Colonial Revival expressions in architecture, landscape architecture, historic preservation, decorative arts, and painting and sculpture, as well as the social, intellectual, and cultural background of the phenomena.

Based on the University of Virginia's landmark 2000 conference "The Colonial Revival in America," Re-creating the American Past is a comprehensive and handsome volume that recovers the origins, characteristics, diversity, and significance of the Colonial Revival, situating it within the broader history of American design, culture, and society.


Re-creating the American Past, a genuinely major achievement, provides a rich and fresh look at the diversity, complexity, and pervasive appeal of the Colonial revival in American cultural life. These essays and well-documented case studies offer us a kaleidoscopic vision of the multifaceted phenomenon. This volume is an invaluable resource that will be admired and mined for decades to come.

Michael Kammen, Cornell University, past president of the Organization of American Historians

"This important volume identifies the Colonial Revival as the most widespread and persistent (and perhaps the most mischaracterized and underappreciated) cultural impulse in the history of American art and design. These essays address the pressing need for more scholarship on this varied and durable expression, and they explore the role of Colonial Revival in the construction and preservation of American history and identity. Wilson and Eyring have made a substantial contribution to our understanding of twentieth-century American design that will be of particular interest to those in the field of historic preservation.

Ethan CarrUniversity of Massachusetts, author of Wilderness by Design

About the Author(s): 

Richard Guy Wilson is Commonwealth Professor of Architectural History at the University of Virginia and author of The Colonial Revival House among other books. Shaun Eyring is Manager, Resource Planning and Compliance, Northeast Region, National Park Service. Kenny Marotta is a writer and editor living in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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