Saturday, April 20, 2024

New Exhibition in Colonial Williamsburg Shows the Process of Restoring 18th Century Town

Restoring Williamsburg will debut at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg on April 30. (Courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

WILLIAMSBURG — A new exhibit will debut at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg (CW) on April 30 that focuses on the work of architectural historians and preservationists.

A simple wooden board was discovered decades ago at Belle Farm, an 18th-century house in Gloucester County. Etched into the board was the original design for two arches that are still in the house today.

The discovery helped guide CW’s architectural historians regarding design and layout in the last half of the 1700s. The design was also later used as the model for the arches in the southwest dining room of the reconstructed King’s Arms Tavern.

The etched board, along with with 80 other objects, will be on display in the new exhibition, “Restoring Williamsburg,” in the James Boswell and Christopher Caracci Gallery at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, 301 S Nassau St.

The exhibit, which opens April 30, will feature rare objects and artifacts from CW’s architectural collection. Visitors will be able to explore the restoration and preservation work undertaken since the 1920s. 

“The art and science of accurately restoring original 18th-century buildings and meticulously recreating lost structures had their geneses at Colonial Williamsburg in the 1920s,” Ronald L. Hurst, the Foundation’s vice president for museums, preservation, and historic resources, said. “As we enter the institutions 96th year, this is an exciting opportunity to reflect on the astonishing accomplishments of generations of Foundation scholars and tradespeople.”

The new exhibit features rare artifacts including this 1695 scuttle door from the Nelson-Galt House on Francis Street. (Courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

Other artifacts on display in the new exhibit will include a 1695 scuttle door from the Nelson-Galt House on Francis Street, which served as an access hatch for the attic, with foliated hinges and molded battens, detailing that was typical of Williamsburg buildings in the 17th and early 18th centuries.

Also on display will be a a well-preserved 17th-century leaded casement window from Massachusetts.

“The architectural elements in the exhibition offer a snapshot of our collection, which forms the basis for the restoration and preservation work undertaken here at Colonial Williamsburg,” Dani Jaworski, Colonial Williamsburg’s manager of architectural collections, said. “They not only provide us actual 18th-century profiles, colors, and materials, but help further our understanding of Williamsburg’s 18th-century built environment.”

CW’s ongoing restoration process leads the architectural preservation team to reevaluate their understanding of individual buildings, the Foundation said.

In an attempt to date an overmantel painting of a landscape scene, originally installed in the 18th-century George Reid House, the team restudied the building itself, discovering that the earliest section likely dates to the 1710s, making it the oldest surviving domestic structure on Duke of Gloucester Street.

The exhibit will remain on view through December 2024.

For more information, visit the Foundation’s website.

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