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“All Dressed Up, But No Place To Go” – November 19th Distinguished Speaker Series

Cary Carson, Ph.D., Colonial Williamsburg, retired. Credit: Milestone Portraits

Credit: Milestone Portraits

Cary Carson, Ph.D., Colonial Williamsburg, retired

Inaugural Chipstone Lecture

November 19, 2015, Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series –  South Carolina Society Hall, 72 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC

Cary Carson served as the Vice President for Research at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation until his retirement in 2006. He received his professional training in early modern British and colonial American history from Harvard University and in American decorative arts, architecture, and material culture from the Winterthur Museum Program at the University of Delaware.

As Colonial Williamsburg’s chief historian from 1976 to 2006, he was the principal author of three interpretive master plans and was deeply involved in the Foundation’s many restorations, reconstructions, exhibitions, and publications. Among the latter, Mr. Carson contributed to and co-edited The Chesapeake House: Architectural Investigation by Colonial Williamsburg.

His written work focuses on the social history of colonial America and early modern Britain, Americans’ addiction to consumer goods, and the role that history museums play—or should play—in public education. He has served for many years on the National Historic Landmarks advisory board. Currently Mr. Carson divides his life between Williamsburg, Virginia, and The Hague, Netherlands.

Dr. Carson’s presentation will examine the extraordinary archaeological discovery of three of Colonial Virginia’s most lavish structures: Green Spring (ca. 1660), Fairfield (1694), and Corotoman (1726). Respectively built by a trio of the colony’s highest grandees, Sir William Berkeley, Lewis Burwell II, and Robert “King” Carter, scholars concluded that these buildings were over-the-top, eye-popping, plantation houses, similar to the colonial stature of Drayton Hall (ca. 1738). However, none of these Virginian elites resided in their grandiose mansions, choosing rather to live in the smaller houses they had been occupying for decades. This fact then begs the question: was there a different purpose for these extravagant, brand-new structures?

Dr. Carson answers the mystery through the introduction of the FFV’s amazing FPPs, the First Families of Virginia’s newly re-discovered, heretofore unsuspected, but indisputably Fabulous Pleasure Palaces.


The mission of The Chipstone Foundation is to promote and enhance appreciation and knowledge of American material culture (emphasizing the decorative arts) by scholars, students and the general public. For more information, visit


Doors open at 5:30pm with a Wine and Cheese Reception.
Presentation starts promptly at 6:30pm.
No advance reservations; please arrive early as seating is limited.

Sponsored by The Francis Marion Hotel, Charleston, SC.