Bryant, Gridley James Fox (1816-1899)
Gridley James Fox Bryant (1816-1899), an architect in the “Boston Granite School,” had one of the largest architectural firms in New England and planned major buildings in Boston and elsewhere. His only known southern commission was for a plantation house called Thornbury (early 1840s) for Northampton County planter Henry King Burgwyn, a graduate of West Point. The commission probably came via Burgwyn’s wife Anna Greenough of Boston, whom Burgwyn had met at Saratoga Springs.
Bryant provided (undated) specifications, comprising 23 pages, for a fine brick house, which apparently was never built. Perhaps it lay beyond the capacity of local builders in Northampton County. The document, held by the Southern Historical Collection, is among the most complete antebellum specifications for a residential work in the state. The specifications supply remarkably specific information about building techniques of the day, as conveyed by a Boston architect. The “Dwelling House for H. K. Burgwyn upon his estate Thornbury Plantation” was to be a brick residence consisting of a 2-story main block with flanking 1-story wings, set over a basement and featuring an observatory. The specifications referred to plans and drawings, which have not been located. There are detailed requirements for such matters as plumbing, bathrooms (with bathtub, shower, wash bowl, and seat “in the most approved manner”), drains, furnaces, water closets, and other conveniences then rare in the state. The hip roof was to be covered in tin, with copper gutters. Special attention went to the sturdiness of structural elements, including use of structural iron. Among the interior features was a drawing room with “a stucco cornice. . . of handsome oak leaf pattern,” a hall with niches flanked by fluted columns, and a staircase with St. Domingo mahogany rail. The tasks of various workmen were addressed in unusual detail, including the requirement that the carpenter was to “make all necessary patterns and moulds. He is to assist the mason in connecting all wood work with the brick work and see that the same is all properly arranged.”
- Samuel A. Ashe, et al., Biographical History of North Carolina (1907).
- Catherine W. Bishir, interview with William Burgwyn, Woodland, North Carolina, 1980.
- Burgwyn Family Papers, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
- Henry W. Lewis to Catherine W. Bishir, Aug. 2, 1981.
- Robert B. MacKay, “Gridley James Fox Bryant,” MacMillan Encyclopedia.
- Contributors:Gridley James Fox Bryant, architectVariant Name(s):Burgwyn HouseDates:Ca. 1840sLocation:Northampton CountyStreet Address:Northampton County, NCStatus:UnbuiltType:ResidentialNote:Architect Gridley James Fox Bryant's specifications for the house are in the Burgwyn Family Papers at the Southern Historical Collection, Chapel Hill.