From the 1630s to the end of the 17th century, this area along Backstreete boasted some of the finest dwellings in Jamestown. Governors, councilmen, burgesses, and lawyers all made this neighborhood home.
Richard Kemp, an ardent supporter of Governor Harvey, secretary to the colony, and councilman, built Virginia's first all-brick house here in 1638-39. Walter Chiles, a merchant and burgess, purchased the "Brick house formerly Mr Secry Kemps" in 1649 and lived here with his family into the 1670s.
Instructions from King Charles I in 1639 directed Governor Francis Wyatt to build a "convenient house for the meetings of the council . . . ." This structure, called the "country house," was used both for official business and as a residence. It stood to the east of Kemp's house.
After 1676, lawyer William Sherwood built two houses to replace these earlier structures. Sherwood most likely lived in a fine brick house to the east. The high-status home to the west included one room with ornate plasterwork, highly unusual in 17th-century Virginia. Lord Howard of Effingham, a Virginia governor, apparently lodged here, and he and later governors regularly met here with the council until the capital moved to Williamsburg in 1699.
. . . there are twelve houses and stores built in the Towne, one of brick by the Secretayre, the fairest that was ever knowen in this countrye for substance and Uniformitye . . .
Governor Sir John Harvey, 1639