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Personal Name Recipient

Allison, James W., 1833-1898


Letter from T. Henry Randall to James W. Allison discussing details of the specifications, especially those regarding the brickwork.


Dear Sir, Mr. Griffin sailed yesterday, and today I have taken up your drawings and specifications in detail to familiarize myself with them and to see where any small changes may be desirable before the work is begun. I think it will be necessary for me to go over the subject with you in a week or ten days but in the meantime I shall write you about a number of matters that suggest themselves and which I think you can decide just as well by letter. Taking up the Specifications first, I find in our copy that the granite base course has not been omitted as I understood it was to be. The brick, I believe, is to be of a special size to lay four courses to a foot; but its size is not mentioned as it should be to avoid trouble in the future. The base-course of main portion of house and the bases of pilasters are specified to be molded brick of special make also; but the "necking" of pilaster caps is not mentioned. It should also be molded brick. The specifications read that the "chimneys are to be topped out above roof with "arch brick." This should not be done differently from the walls or the effect would be obviously bad. I find too that the lintels and sills of cellar windows of main portion of house are marble. These [next word interlined with a caret] lintels would not look well white, besides being too near the base course. Instead of marble, they should be of brick arched, to carry through the solid, quiet effect of a base. Marble lintels would look disjointed and obtrusive. For practical purposes, besides for general effect, the sills of these windows should be of slate like those in extension. If you will look at the print of the "Harwood House" in Annapolis in that magazine I sent Mrs. Allison you will [next word interlined with a caret] see [word canceled] what I mean better than I can describe it. The specifications furthermore not state that the inside of walls, piers &c. will be made of this large specially made brick. This matter should also be made perfectly clear. The Brickwork of house is called for to be "pointed in 1/2 and 1/2 Rosendale" (cement). I do not see why the mortar used for the work generally is not much better for this purpose than 1/2 and 1/2 cement. It will be lighter, and will not cause the white solution of salt in the brick to be precipitated as cement without lime will. Furthermore the work can be done faster and cheaper, and there will be no chance of the pointing falling out of the joints, as so often occurs. I have no doubt that your mason will allow you something, in case the joint is struck when the brick is laid, and the "pointing up" is omitted. I notice that there is no "brick filling" called for between studding and outside walls, and between all studs at floor line and behind bases at bottom of partitions. This is a very important provision against fire as well as mice and costs but a trifle. There should also be a strip of tin carried around Pantries and Kitchen behind the base-board to keep out mice and vermin. Otherwise I think the specifications are O.K. I send by express F.S.D. of molded brick work. The other drawings will soon be in proper shape. Your's truly. T. Henry Randall. [ALS, T. Henry Randall to James W. Allison, April 26, 1894] [edited by TOC]

Personal Name Subject

Randall, T. Henry, 1869-1905 -- Correspondence; Allison, James W., 1833-1898 -- Correspondence

Topical Subject

Architecture, Domestic -- Designs and plans; Architecture, Domestic -- Virginia -- Richmond; Architecture -- Details; Brickwork; Lintels; Decoration and ornament, Architectural -- Virginia -- Richmond

Geographic Subject

Richmond (Va.) -- Historic houses, etc.; Richmond (Va.) -- Buildings, structures, etc.


Richmond (Va)


letters (correspondence)

Local Genre

text; archives


Still Image; Text

Digital Format





This material is in the public domain in the United States and thus is free of any copyright restriction. Acknowledgement of Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries as a source is requested.


Building VCU’s President's House


Original letter: Letter from T. Henry Randall to James W. Allison, 1894 April 26, James W. Allison papers, M 1, Special Collections and Archives, James Branch Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University.

File Name


Letter from T. Henry Randall to James W. Allison, 1894 April 26



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