Wednesday, November 20, 2019

John Hawks speaks

The architect of Tryon Palace describes his greatest work

Detail of John Hawks' written description of Tryon Palace, 12 July 1783

by John B. Green III

John Hawks (c. 1731-1790), English born and trained architect, was brought to North Carolina by Royal Governor William Tryon to design and superintend the construction of the governor's residence at New Bern. This he did, remaining in North Carolina for the rest of his life. Although there is ample evidence that he continued to work as an architect in North Carolina, and even sought work in New York and Charleston, no other building designed  by Hawks is as well documented as Tryon Palace. Multiple sheets of plans survive for the Palace as well as the construction contract between William Tryon and Hawks. Together they form what is probably the most complete set of design documents for any building erected in America in the 18th century.  To this wealth must be added one last treasure: John Hawks' own written description of the Palace.

In our last post we discussed the plan of the Tryon Palace grounds sent to Francisco de Miranda by John Hawks in 1783. The plan was accompanied by a four-page document in which Hawks described the layout of the grounds and the design of the Palace and its wings.  While we quoted from this description in  our last post, we now present a transcription of the entire, remarkable document. The original can be found in the Francisco de Miranda Papers at the Academia Nacional de la Historia in Caracas, Venezuela.

The inclos'd is an original sketch of the situation of the House and Gardens for the residence of the Governor or Commander in chief for the Province of North Carolina. It was agreed for the advantage of a prospect down the river, that the South front should be thrown more to the Eastward which leaves the Gardens not quite so regular as appears in the sketch.  The opening or entrance from Pollok street is likewise much wider than here described, the present fence now ranges with the inside fronts of the two Offices, And the Circular fence to form a Court yard which was to be china or Iron railing with a pair of Iron gates is now totally abolished.

Plan of the Governor's Palace and grounds, Francisco de Miranda Papers, Academia Nacional de la Historia, Caracas, Venezuela

The dimensions of the House exclusive of the projection in each front is 82 by 60 feet.  The principal floor divided into seven rooms and two staircases.

The Hall at entrance in the North front is 26 by 18 feet The walls finished with stucco, pediments over the doors, niches in the walls, and a Modillion Cornice.  

To the left or N.E. angle is a Library 22 by 16 feet.  The Chimney piece of Philadelphia marble, a mahoginy fixed Book case, pedistals on the dado to receive the Window architraves, Caps over the doors, and a solid dentil double Cornice to the room.  

To this Joins the Council room at the E. end or S.E. angle 36 by 23 feet.  The walls covered with modern wainscot with a Carved enrichment in the Base and Sur Base, each window Architrave forms a scrole at Bottom and is supported by a pedistal, over the doors are flat Caps with contracted swelling Friezes, and Ionick Entablature complete finishes to the ceiling, The Chimney Cap or shelf is of statuary marble fully enriched and supported by two Ionick Columns of Seana marble, on the Tablet in the Center is an Urn in B[as] relieve with foliages, to the Frieze is a Siana fret laid in statuary and a Bust of the King over one Column, and Queen over the other in mozzo [sic] relievo at each end of the frieze, the Ornaments over the marble Chimney Commonly called [a]Tabernacle Frame consists of Corinthian Columns and pillasters fluited with the proper Entablature fully inric[hed] and an open pediment.  The quality of the floor is not [the] most inconsiderable part of this room.

Drawing Room details, John Hawks, c.1766-1767. New-York Historical Society

In the center of the South front is the drawing room 26 by 18 feet.  The Chimney of plain statuary marble with a frame for a picture or Land scape over it, the Base and Sur Base inriched with fret work, kneed architraves to the windows, pediments [and] Caps to the doors, and the cieling Coved, this is alowed the most light and Airy finished room in the House.

The dining room in the S.W. angle is 28 by 22 feet and wainscoted with a plain molding and flat pannel, architraves and Caps to the doors and windows as before, and a double cornice with a dentil Bedmould to the Cieling, the Chimney piece of black and white Vein'd marble over which is a frame with an Ogee [scrole] pediment.

The Center room at the west end is about 16 by 12 feet, for a Housekeeper, and the room at the N.W. angle 22 by 14 feet (on the right hand of the Hall at entrance) for the Steward or Butler.

The hand rail, Baluster and Carved Brackets to the best staircase are of mahoginy, the steps and risers of fine grain clear pine, the light is conveyed to this staircase by a sky light 9 feet Diameter of an octagon plan or [  ] domical section, and finishes with a cove at the foot of the skylight from the center of which is a Chain for a shandelier.  The Back staircase is like wise in the Center of the House receives its light from a hiped skylight, to these staircases all the rooms in the one pair of stairs or Bedroom floor one excepted have a Communication.

Second-floor plan, John Hawks, c.1766-1767. New-York Historical Society

The Basement story consists of apartments for the use of the Butler[,] Housekeeper and Cellering &c, and is 7 ft. 6 Ins. only in the clear.  The principal story 15 feet high in the clear, and the upper or Bedroom story 12 feet high in the clear.

In the center of the North front a pediment spans 32 feet, in the Tympan of which is the Kings Arms in alto relievo, and attributes painted, a Block Cornice finishes this pediment and Continues round the house with a parrapet wall and an Ornament vause at each corner Brake and center of the pediment, A Lead Gutter to receive the water from the In and outside of the roof also runs round the Building with 6 stacks of Lead pipes to convey the water into drains which lead to Reservoirs.  An Ionick portico Frontispiece to the North front and a range of Iron palisadoes from this to each Circular Colonade.

Plan of drains and reservoir, John Hawks, c.1766-1767. New-York Historical Society

The Kitchen and stable Offices are each 50 by 40 feet. [In] the one is a kitchen[,] servants Hall[,] cooks Larder, Scullary [and] Brew House, the one pair of stairs in this Office are a Laundry and three good Bedrooms. 

In the other Office are two la[rge] stables and a coach House and Bedrooms for the servant[s] employed in the stables and Lofts for hay or fodder &c.

North Carolina
New Bern   12 July 1783                                                        J. Hawks