A Meeting With Calder Loth
    by Jessie Meager


Today, we met with Jim Wilson (University of Virginia Foundation) and Calder Loth (Virginia Department of Historic Resources) in front of Birdwood Manor, in order to take a closer look at the architectural design. 

Calder Loth, a highly respected architectural historian with the state of Virginia, has a deep knowledge of classical design and Virginia's architectural history. He provided us with many insights into what the architecture of Birdwood could tell us about its history the people who lived there. We worked our way through the house, beginning with the front porch and portico, and then through the first and second floors, the attic, and the basement. Our goal was simple: to answer the question, why is this building here and why does it look like this?  

The answer is complicated, and further tools -- such as paint analysis -- can help make the picture clearer. But, Mr. Loth maintains, while much of the building was remodeled in the early 20th century, there are still significant traces of the original 19th century structure, including details in the mantelpieces and the doorways upstairs. So, do we try to restore the building to its original early 19th century state, or do we keep true to the early 20th century design? Either way, Birdwood's stately architecture points to a wealthy past as the manor house of a plantation built upon enslaved labor. Classwork with Calder Loth delved deep into the details of the interior and exterior, in order to find the seams between the original and its subsequent remodels.