A Romantic Architect in Antebellum North Carolina

This exhibition examines the work of a most influential architect in America prior to the Civil War.

alexanderdavisOne of the first non-Europeans commissioned to design major buildings in this country and one of the principal founders of the American Institute of Architects, Alexander Jackson Davis was equally adept in the Greek Revival, Roman Revival, Italianate, Gothic, Egyptian, Elizabethan and Oriental styles. In collaboration with A.J. Downing, Davis invented the American Bracketed style and adapted the revolutionary ideas of the Picturesque Aesthetic for American houses. Davis, who approached architecture as an artist, called himself and “architectural composer.”

A Romantic Architect in Antebellum North Carolina, curated by national and regional scholars, reviews Davis’ extensive, but largely unstudied North Carolina work. Although based in New York, Davis became acquainted with Fayetteville native Robert Donaldson and Governor John Motley Morehead of Greensboro.

Between 1839 and 1860, Davis received nearly as many commissions for projects in North Carolina as he did in his home state of New York. His commissions included remodeling Old East and Old West at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and completing the design of the State Capitol in Raleigh, Smith Hall (now Playmakers Theatre) and the Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, Blandwood in Greensboro and the original campus of Davidson College.

Visitors will be able to explore an impressive variety of architectural styles through 40 panels, which show reproductions of Davis’ exquisitely drawn building elevations and perspectives and photographs of actual buildings. A large-scale model of Playmakers Theatre is also included with this exhibition.

A handsome book about Davis’ work in North Carolina is available for resale.

Previous Venues: North Carolina Museum of History, Greensboro Historical Museum, and Chapel Hill Historical Museum.

  • Participation Fee: $2500
  • Exhibition Period: 10 to 12 weeks (negotiable)
  • Space Required: 250 linear feet
  • Number of Panels: 40 (plus scale model)
  • Shipping: Crates