Collections › MESDA Collection › Parlor


Place Made:
Southampton County Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
Accession Number:
This woodwork comes from the parlor of a nineteenth century addition to an eighteenth century house on land acquired by Robert Ricks, Sr., (d.1764) in 1742 and 1750.

The earliest part of the house was a frame hall-and-parlor plan house with a center chimney. Visitors entered directly into the hall of this early house. Sometime between 1803 and 1812 Robert Ricks, Jr., (1746-1831) and his wife Ann (Pretlow) Ricks (1758-1814) modernized by adding a two-story frame addition to the front of the earlier house. In the new house visitors entered through a center hall from which they could proceed into a fashionable new parlor and dining room.

The exact date of the addition is not known. However, based on the number of stars on a patriotic plaster overmantel in the dining room—seventeen—the addition probably dates to between 1803 and 1812. Ohio was admitted as the seventeenth state in the Union in 1803; Louisiana was admitted as the eighteenth state in 1812. The addition has been attributed, based on a signed brick, to Edmond Godwin (d.1818), a master builder from Isle of Wight County.

Robert Ricks, Jr., and Ann (Pretlow) Ricks were married in 1782 and were part of Southside Virginia’s extensive Quaker community. They were members of the Blackwater and Upper Monthly Meeting and Western Branch Monthly Meeting. Over the course of the eighteenth century it became increasingly impossible to be both a Quaker and a slaveholder. In 1807 members of their meeting were dispatched to visit Ann and confront her about her family’s continued ownership of slaves. Unable to change her views, a certificate for her disownment from Quakerism was sought. The 1810 census records 21 slaves in the Ricks household.

The decorative new addition including elaborate woodwork and plasterwork coincides with the period during which the Ricks family’s relationship to Quakerism was eroding. Symbolically it could be read as indicative of their embrace of a slave-owning identity over their Quaker beliefs.

In 1968 the architectural woodwork from the house’s parlor and the plaster overmantel from the house’s dining room were acquired for MESDA. Other material was salvaged from the earlier 18th century part of the building and incorporated into other Old Salem restoration projects.

WALLPAPER: The wallpapers for this room were reproduced by Adelphi Paper Hangings. The main paper is based on the surviving paper ordered by Thomas Worthington for his house, Adena, in Chillicothie, Ohio. Built in 1808, Worthington ordered this French paper from Thomas & Caldcleugh, a Baltimore firm. The complementary cornice paper is based on paper found at Locust Grove, the late 18th century home of William Clough near Louisville, Kentucky. The sawtooth border paper is a typical early 19th century paper.

RELATED OBJECTS: MESDA also owns a patriotic plaster overmantel recovered from the dining room of this house (acc. 5882). MESDA also owns a Sampler worked by Robert and Ann Ricks’ daughter Ann (1790-1850) (acc. 5739.4)

Credit Line:
Original Installation: Frank L. Horton; Renovations: The MARPAT Foundation of Washington, D.C. and Ms. Margaret Beck Pritchard