A-to-Z Index

A.J. Davis and

Andrew Downing’s

“Gothic Villas”


When Virginia plantation owner Philip St. George Cocke commissioned New York architect Alexander Jackson Davis to design Virginia Military Institute in Lexington in 1848, it impacted not only later designs of Valley military schools, but also residential housing. From VMI faculty housing and the Presbyterian Manse in Lexington, through the Sears and J.C.M. Merrillat houses in Staunton, to Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters in Winchester, the popularity of the “gothic villa” is evident. The style spread through pattern books published by Davis in collaboration with Andrew J. Downing. They advocated the practicality and healthful qualities of Gothic design for rural living. The plans could be adapted by local builders, and Davis himself was known for his “mail order” business. He would send plans and advice to anyone who asked for a modest fee.

Merrillat House, Staunton

Altavista (Stonewall Jackson Headquarters), Winchester