Collections › MESDA Collection › Baluster


Place Made:
Isle of Wight County Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
white oak
HOA: 29
Accession Number:
This turned baluster was once part of the interior of St. Luke’s Church in Isle of Wight County, Virginia. Though the church still stands, the interior was essentially lost during the period following the American Revolution when the Episcopal (formerly Anglican) Church underwent a period of decline in Virginia. It has been theorized that the present baluster may have once been part of either the original communion rail or rood screen. Other surviving woodwork from St. Luke’s includes another baluster with a different turning sequence that was reused in the church’s present altar rail as well as a molding and lintel above an interior door.

Architecturally the church has a single nave, a three-story tower, stepped buttresses and gables, and Gothic-arched windows. It’s brickwork is laid in Flemish bond. It is the earliest surviving church in Virginia. Local legend dated the building to 1632. Dendrochronology carried out by Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory in 2008 dated the building to after 1676. For more information see:

The building was documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey in 1934:

It is open to the public:

A paper label on the baluster reads: “Banister from the Chancel/ of an ancient Church near Smithfield/ Isle of Wight Co. Virginia, made in England [sic in error] in 1631 obtained at the above Church (said to be the second erected in Virginia) by Elisha M. Benham of New Haven Ct/ and by him presented to the Con. Hist. Soc./ by J.W. Barber Aug. 1845.”

The baluster remained in the collection of the Connecticut Historical Society until the 1980s when Robert F. Trent, then curator of that collection, arranged for its transfer to MESDA.

Credit Line:
Gift of The Connecticut Historical Society