Colonial Williamsburg Plans Summer Launch of Illuminated Historic Area

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LED linear light strips bathe the Governor's Palace in light. (Ian Brickey/WYDaily)
LED linear light strips bathe the Governor’s Palace in light. (Ian Brickey/WYDaily)

For the first time in its 75-year history, the City of Williamsburg’s Historic Area will have nighttime illumination.

The Williamsburg Architectural Review Board approved the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s request to install lights for nighttime lighting on eight buildings throughout the Historic Area at its meeting Tuesday night.

The ARB approved the use of LED strip lighting elements at the eight buildings from dusk to midnight. The approved light fixtures are set in flush with the ground and are not visible from a distance or at a low angle.

Colonial Williamsburg has presented the plan as a way to boost visitation to the Historic Area at night after years of flagging attendance.

“The Historic Area seems closed at evenings, so we’re trying different things,” CWF Interim Vice President of Operations Robert Underwood said.

The buildings selected for illumination are:

  • The Governor’s Palace
  • The Courthouse of 1770
  • The Capitol
  • The Magazine
  • The Public Hospital
  • The George Wythe House
  • The St. George Tucker House
  • The Peyton Randolph House

Underwood said those eight buildings were chosen for their prominence in the Historic Area, architecture and connection to American history.

Some residents have come out against the plan as disruptive of the “historic” aura of the downtown area, and several reiterated such concerns at the meeting Tuesday. ARB members remained supportive of the plan.

“I’m a fairly enthusiastic supporter of this lighting,” ARB member Joe Hertzler said. “It will make the space much more lively. … I know Colonial Williamsburg would pull it off well.”

Colonial Williamsburg set up lights at the Governor’s Palace on April 16 as a demonstration for the ARB, which at least one board member said convinced him to support the plan.

“At the initial meeting [when the request was made], I was very apprehensive,” Demetrios Florakis, who represents the Planning Commission on the ARB, said. “Seeing the mockup, I was extremely impressed. It’s very tasteful.”

Ron Kirkland, executive director of the Williamsburg Hotel and Motel Association, also came out in support of the plan.

With the project approved, Colonial Williamsburg will solicit bids for its completion. Underwood pegged the project’s total cost at more than $500,000.

Colonial Williamsburg hopes to have lights installed at the four highest-visitation sites — the Governor’s Palace, Capitol, Magazine and Courthouse of 1770 — by summer, with the remaining buildings illuminated by fall.

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