Rosewell Plantation in Gloucester County, Virginia, was for more than 100 years the home of a branch of the Page family, one of the First Families of Virginia. Begun in 1725, the Flemish bond brick Rosewell mansion overlooking the York River was one of the most elaborate homes in the American colonies. In Mansions of America, the architectural historian Thomas Tileston Waterman described the plantation house as "the largest and finest of American houses of the colonial period." Through much of the 18th century and 19th centuries, and during the American Civil War, Rosewell plantation hosted the area's most elaborate formal balls and celebrations. The home burned in 1916.
Rosewell Mansion and part of its history were described by author James Joseph McDonald in "Life In Old Virginia" (The Old Virginia Publishing Co., Norfolk, Va., 1907) thus:
"The mansion is substantially built of brick, three story and basement. The foundation walls are three and one-half feet thick. The reception hall is large, the ceilings lofty, and the whole mansion is indicative of refined taste and wealth. From the upper windows, a magnificent view is had of the surrounding level lands and the waters of the creeks and the York River.
"During the life of Governor Page, Thomas Jefferson was a frequent and welcome visitor there. While on one of his visits he wrote the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence in what is now known as the 'Blue Room,' situated on the northwest corner of the second story of this house."
The elaborate Flemish bond brickwork, the towering three stories, and the siting of the mansion were all meant to recall elaborate London homes of the era. In that sense, Rosewell was among the most sophisticated early buildings built in America. "Rosewell was the largest and most advanced brick building in Virginia at the time," writes architectural historian Daniel Drake Reiff. "It was unique in being of London townhouse design, and it seems likely that a London bricklayer was brought over to supervise the massive undertaking and to execute the more complicated detailings in brick – like the door casings." The similarity in Flemish bond brickwork between Rosewell and Christ Church built by Page's father-in-law, Robert Carter, in Lancaster County has led some to speculate that the same masons might have had worked on both.
The home was also the first in the American colonies to have a projecting central pavilion, "antedating any other by a score of years," wrote architectural historian Fiske Kimball in Domestic Architecture of the American Colonies and of the Early Republic. "At Rosewell the pavilions, front and rear, are masses deep enough to affect the spaces of the interior, but a glance at the plan reveals that they were adopted for plastic exterior effect."
As originally completed, the home boasted a flat lead roof behind a parapet atop its three stories, and twin octagonal cupolas at each end. Flanking dependencies in front of the mansion formed an elaborate forecourt. The interior was painted in high style, such that the restorers of Colonial Williamsburg relied, in part, on an order by John Page for paints from London to give a sense of the colors in the Governor's Palace at Williamsburg. In 1771 Page wrote to John Norton and Sons of London for new materials, appending these instructions: "As my house is very much out of repair, I shall be much obliged if you will send me the following articles: 100 lbs. white lead; 20 lbs. yellow ochre; a bri of oyl; 20 lbs. of Venetian Red; 2 gallons of spts of Turpentine; 5 lbs. of Red lead; 3 lbs. lamp Black; 2 lbs. of white Coperas."