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The Brush-Everard House

Thomas Everard House
  • Located next to Governor's Palace
  • Built of hand-split weatherboard
  • Home to first keeper of Williamsburg's Magazine
  • Yard paved with original brick found during site excavation

Simple elegant home built by John Brush in 1718

Built in 1718 by the first keeper of Williamsburg's Magazine, John Brush's five-bay, timber framed, story-and-a-half house of hand-split weatherboard stands in modest contrast to its lofty next-door neighbor, the Governor's Palace. But it is not without elegance of its own.

Brush, a gunsmith and armorer who died in 1727, left an early example of the fashionable center-passage plan house on the east side of Palace green for his successors to improve upon. Although the house has been modified many times, it has reached the 20th century replete with many examples of and clues to its 18th-century interior decor. Newfound fragments of original wallpaper and patches of original paint have recently been used to inform the house's continuing restoration.

House noted for fine staircase and elaborately turned balusters

The Everard House is noted for its fine staircase with its elaborately turned balusters, sweeping handrails, and richly ornamented carving on the stair brackets. The yard between the house and the smokehouse and the brick kitchen – both original and restored – is paved with original brick discovered during archaeological investigation.

After Brush's death, the house went to his daughters, Elizabeth and Susanna. Elizabeth sold her share of the property to Susanna's husband, Thomas Barbar. After her husband's death, Susanna sold the property to Elizabeth Russell, a widow from York County. Sometime in the 1730s Elizabeth married Henry Cary, a prominent local builder or undertaker as builders were called in the 18th century. Cary was responsible for completing the Governor's Palace and for building the chapel and president's house at the College of William and Mary. It was during their time in the house that the staircase was added, as well as much of the wood trim seen in the house today.

In 1742, the Carys sold the property to William Dering, a painter and dance master. Dering had continuing financial problems which resulted in the house being mortgaged and eventually sold.

Thomas Everard purchased property in mid 1750s

In the mid 1750s, Thomas Everard purchased the property. Everard was born in London and was an orphan by the age of ten. At that time he was admitted to Christ's Hospital, a school for orphans that is still in existence today.

At Christ's Hospital Everard learned bookkeeping and record keeping skills. In 1735, Everard was discharged from Christ's Hospital in the care of his uncle, Edward Everard and a London merchant, Edward Athawes, to be apprenticed to Matthew Kemp in Williamsburg. Kemp held several important clerkships: clerk in the Secretary's Office, clerk of the General Court, clerk of James City County, and clerk of the Committee for Propositions and Grievances of the House of Burgesses. Everard trained for seven years in the Secretary's Office, the first four under Kemp (who died in 1739). Within a year of completing his apprenticeship, Everard received his first public appointment—clerk of the Elizabeth City County court. Everard served in many other public offices, including clerk of the York County court from 1745 until his death in 1781, deputy clerk of the General Court, clerk of the Secretary of the Colony's office, mayor of Williamsburg (he served two one-year terms), and was a member of the Court of Directors of the Public Hospital.

Supported Virginia's move to independence

In the 1770s, Everard showed his support of Virginia's move toward independence by signing the 1770 Non-Importation agreement and by serving on the committee to elect Virginia's delegates to the Continental Congress.

By the 1770s, Everard had become a very prominent member of the Williamsburg community. He owned a house and property in Williamsburg, 600 acres of land just outside of town and more than 1,000 acres of land in the western part of Virginia. He had a number of slaves on the property. At least two of these slaves wore livery to greet Everard's guests and determine their reason for coming to see Mr. Everard. He also had at least two of his slaves that would accompany his carriage as he rode to Yorktown to attend to business at the county court. It was also in the early 1770s that Everard made changes to the house to make it more up-to-date, including rebuilding the rear or south wing which had been taken down by John Brush, adding wallpaper to several of the first floor rooms, putting carpeting into and repainting the parlor and adding wainscoting to the first floor rooms.

Everard married into prominent local family

Everard's move up in prominence in the community was helped by his marriage in the mid 1740s to Diana Robinson, member of a prominent local family. Thomas and Diana had two daughters, Francis (nicknamed "Fanny") and Martha (nicknamed "Patsy"). Diana died in the late 1750s or early 1760s, leaving her daughters to help manage the household for their father. In 1765, Francis married Reverend James Horrocks, rector of Bruton Parish Church, president of the College of William and Mary, Commissary to the Bishop of London (making him the highest ranking church official in the colony) and member of the Governor's Council. Reverend Horrocks died in 1772 while he and Francis were in Europe. At that time Francis, who was in poor health herself, returned to Williamsburg to stay with her father. She stayed at the house until her death in December, 1773. Martha lived with her father until at least 1774. By 1774, she had married Dr. Isaac Hall and moved to Petersburg, Virginia. Martha and Isaac would eventually inherit property and slaves from both Thomas and Francis.

Home had many owners following Everard's death

After Everard's death, the house went through a series of owners. In the mid 19th century, Sydney Smith purchased the property. He made several changes to the house including replacing the south wing with a shed addition, putting a porch/veranda on the front of the house and putting a dormer window in the center of the second floor front to provide access to the roof of the porch/veranda. Smith also built an interesting brick office building next to the house which was removed when the house was restored in the late 1940s.

Early in this century, the Thomas Everard House achieved a measure of fame as the home of the heroine of Audrey, a popular novel by Mary Johnston. Today the home appears as it did in 1773, when it was in habited by Thomas Everard, widower, and his two daughters Francis and Martha.