With one child and another on the way, in 1754 Ann and George Mason committed themselves to moving out of an old, out-of-date house that George had inherited. They planned a spacious new house designed according to the latest fashions in England. Construction began in 1754 and continued for four years. George, himself, seems to have designed the basic shape and size of the house. Enslaved workers made the bricks and helped a skilled mason build the exterior. We do not know the names of the enslaved laborers who did this work. At least some of them must have been people George had inherited from his father’s estate.
Meanwhile, George’s younger brother Thomson—who was studying law in London—found a skilled craftsman to design and create the interior. This young man, named William Buckland, agreed to an indenture contract of four years. He arrived in Virginia with plan books showing the newest styles in interiors. Buckland’s vision was realized with the help of another indentured servant: William Bernard Sears. Sears was a master carver whose finely detailed work helped make Gunston Hall a showplace.
From its symmetrical design, Flemish bond arrangement of bricks, luxurious carvings, rich paint colors, and graciously proportioned rooms, Gunston Hall was intended to demonstrate the Masons’ refinement and good taste. Visitors in the 18th century must have been dazzled by the magnificence of the home, as they compared it to the much more modest dwellings of most other Virginians. Today, Gunston Hall continues to impress us. Its design, both inside and out, reminds us of the Masons’ prominence and wealth. We see that just as George Mason was a leader of political thought, the family was a leader in architectural style.