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First, A Story.

When I was young, my parents bought me an American Girl doll, which I’m sure I begged them to buy. If you’re uninitiated, the American Girl dolls were part of a series of dolls, each belonging to their own time period and had their own book series. The bonus was that you could buy all the furniture and clothing and all the other nonsense that went along with these character’s lives. Well, I received the Samantha Parkington doll which was from the 1910s – a time period that I was fascinated with at the time. However, my mom, being the teacher she was, was able to rent(?) a doll to go with her lesson unit. One year, she received a Felicity doll and I LOVED her. I probably begged mom to purchase this doll for me as well. (Spoiler: I didn’t get the Felicity doll).

Felicity lived in Williamsburg, Virginia, and apparently lived on Duke of Gloucester Street. And you know what exists in real life? The Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, Virginia. And you know whose parents always took them on educational summer vacations and has been to the living museum commonly referred to as Colonial Williamsburg? You got it - yours truly!

interior of the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, VA
Figure 1 A very young me completely captivated by the tour guide at the Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg.

Let us take a look at a few houses and see if we can find Felicity’s home.

collage of colonial homes
Figure 2 Which house will it be?

Felicity House Option #1

Plimouth Plantation
Figure 3 Photo by Jane and John Bodenberg, July 1997

This is a bit too early for Felicity! Plus it would be really hard to keep Felicity’s clothing clean in one of these houses. This is where the Puritan colonists made their home, Plimoth Plantation. They made simple structures made of wood and thatched roofs. You might compare these to structures built in the late medieval time period. Why? Because we’re not that far from medieval times and you build what works. The Pilgrim’s arrived in New England on November 11, 1620, while we consider the end of the medieval period to be in the mid 15th century. Now get this, from the end of what is considered the medieval period to the time that Felicity is portrayed (Revolutionary War), this colony was built almost right in the middle – about 150 years between either time period.

Felicity House Option #2

Washington's Headquarters in Valley Forge, PA
Figure 4 Photo from Wikimedia Commons, Isaac Potts House commonly referred to as Washington’s Headquarters

Well, this looks more like it! But it still doesn’t seem quite right. This house is located in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, built circa 1773 and was Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War. It follows the German Colonial aesthetic common to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. This style typically has heavy stone walls, steep gabled roofs with clay or wood shingles. While this could certainly be a house that Felicity would live in, it’s too far North to be something she would live in.

Felicity House Option #3

Carter's Grove Plantation in Williamsburg, VA
Figure 5 Carter's Grove Plantation, photo by Jane and John Bodenberg, 1995

We are so close! But this isn’t it. This is Carter’s Grove Plantation which is located in Williamsburg, but it’s actually seven miles away from what is considered “Colonial Williamsburg”. Not really within walking distance for many tourists visiting the historic area. Stylistically we’re just about spot on, but this is a bit grandiose for Felicity and her family.

Felicity House Option #4

Ryleigh's Tavern in Williamsburg, VA
Figure 6 Raleigh Tavern taken by John Bodenberg, 1992

This one is just right. And it’s located on Duke of Gloucester Street. While the Raleigh Tavern isn’t the house noted on the American Girl map of Colonial Williamsburg, it’s a good stand in since it has two stories, with three dormers, symmetrical façade and wood siding.

Quick Facts:

Well known colonial period architect: Christopher Wren

Local Place to Visit: Hager House, c. 1740, Hagerstown, MD

Far Out Places to Visit: Colonial Williamsburg, Fort Ligonier, Valley Forge, Plimoth Plantation

Random Factoid: Lower Swedish Cabin located in Drexel Hill in Pennsylvania was building ca. 1640-1650 and may be one of the oldest log cabins in the United States.

Ending Thought

The thing with American Colonial architecture is that it’s kind of all over the place. People from other countries had discovered this new interesting place and were building their typical structure. So we ended up with all these little niche styles that harkened back to whatever the originating country was. But while they all have their own little quirks, they all have similar attributes.

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