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Architectural historian to speak Sunday about Cosby’s contributions / October 10, 2012
The Halifax County Historical Society will host University of Virginia professor, Richard Guy Wilson, Ph.D., noted author and architectural historian, at its annual meeting to be held Sunday, Oct. 14, 2 p.m. at the Halifax County Courthouse.

The free program will be held in the second-floor circuit-court courtroom and the public is invited to attend. Wilson’s presentation, “Thomas Jefferson’s Architecture and his workman, Dabney Cosby Sr.,” will cover Jefferson’s love of classic architecture and how his views have influenced builders for decades, especially in Virginia.

Wilson’s talk will be especially interesting to Halifax County residents as he will focus on the architecture of the local courthouse and Jefferson’s influence on Cosby, who with his son, Dabney Cosby Jr., built the courthouse as well as homes and several churches in the mid-1800s in Halifax County. The speaker also plans to share information about a building in the town that he believes was built by Cosby Sr., but never credited to him.

Wilson holds the Commonwealth Professor’s Chair in Architectural History at the University of Virginia, where he is also chairman of the Department of Architectural History. His specialty is in architecture as well as the art of design from the 18th through 20th century in America and abroad.

Wilson, who is as enthusiastic about modern architecture as he is about the craft of several centuries ago, grew up in Los Angeles in a Rudolph Schindler house, the leading modernist architect at the time. He received his undergraduate training at the University of Colorado and his MA and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. He taught at Michigan and Iowa State Universities before coming to U.Va. in 1976.

Wilson has received a number of academic honors, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and in 1986 was made an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). In 2001, Wilson received the Outstanding Professor Award at U.Va. and in 2007, was named a Thomas Jefferson Fellow at Downing College, Cambridge University, England. He directed the Victorian Society’s Nineteenth Century Summer School for over 30 years and serves as an advisor and commentator for a number of television programs on PBS, C-Span, History channel and A&E. The architectural historian has appeared on most of the sixty-seven segments of America’s Castles.

A frequent lecturer for universities, museums and professional groups, Wilson has a number of published articles and reviews to his credit. He is the author, joint author and/or editor of 16 books that deal with American and modern architecture. The most recent include books on Thomas Jefferson’s design of the University of Virginia and a contribution to a book on architect/builder Rudolph M. Schindler. Wilson was principle author and editor of the Society of Architectural Historians’ books, Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont (2002), The Colonial Revival House (2004), and Harbor Hill Portrait of a House (2008). His book Edith Wharton at Home: Life at The Mount, was published this summer.

He has been the curator for major museum exhibitions such as The American Renaissance, 1876-1917; The Art That is Life: The Arts and Crafts Movement in America; The Machine Age in America, 1918-1941; The Making of Virginia Architecture; and two exhibits on Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village.

Following Sunday’s 2 p.m. program, attendees may gather on the lawn (weather permitting) to learn more about the law offices that surround “Courthouse Square” and interesting facts about the statue that graces the front lawn. The public is invited to attend this informative program.

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