Many of Jamestown’s first buildings were constructed using “mud-and-stud” architecture, a style which would have been known to some individuals in the fort from their hometowns. Captain John Smith and Carpenter William Laxon both hailed from Lincolnshire, England, where mud-and-stud architecture can still be seen today. Archaeological evidence of these buildings is found in posthole patterning, and the recovery of daub, which formed the mud walls of the buildings.

However, daub walls and thatched roofs soon gave way to sturdier structures with the construction of two row houses in 1611, and James Fort’s second church, constructed in 1617. Both buildings included cobblestone foundations laid in clay, and a timber framed structure with lath and plaster walls. The recovery of architectural elements including plaster fragments, mortars, and cobblestones by archaeologists help us understand what these buildings looked like. Some of the foundation cobbles were gathered locally, while others were brought to Virginia as ship ballast, highlighting the global travels of the colonists and their use of all resources available to them to establish a permanent settlement in Virginia.

Archaeological and documentary evidence indicates that bricks were made on site beginning about 1610, and bricks were used on a small scale to construct ovens, hearths, well linings, and in building foundations beginning in the earliest years of the fort. Structures made entirely of brick began to be built in the second quarter of the 17th century and their popularity only increased. By the beginning of the 18th century, buildings both on and off Jamestown Island including private homes, political buildings, and churches were largely built entirely from brick.