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May 25, 2010

CW To reconstruct Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury

Colonial Williamsburg will reconstruct the industrial site that helped forge the American Revolution. When complete, Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury will reflect the complexity and urgency of mounting a war effort against the world’s most powerful 18th-century nation. A $4.5 million gift from Forrest E. Mars Jr. will enable the reconstruction and endowment of one of wartime Williamsburg’s most important industrial sites.

Plans call for reconstruction of the industrial complex owned and operated by James Anderson, appointed Public Armourer in 1776 by the General Assembly of the newly independent Commonwealth of Virginia. In the immediate wake of his appointment, Anderson began to enlarge his small, commercial blacksmithing operation into an extensive and diverse public manufactory. The new buildings, which include the armory, a kitchen, privy, two storage buildings and a tinsmith’s shop, will be located on the site of the present blacksmith’s shop.

“Forrest Mars’ foresight and philanthropy once again will lead to a new and exciting experience for our guests,” said Colin G. Campbell, president and CEO of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “The reconstructed Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury will demonstrate the roles of diverse people and extraordinary energy inherent in waging the war for independence and establishing a new nation.”

When complete, the blacksmith shop and armory will reflect the beehive of activity present during the Revolution, with numerous trades working together in support of the American war effort: blacksmiths forging and repairing hardware, gunsmiths manufacturing firearms and rebuilding old guns, and tinsmiths fashioning all sorts of military accoutrements. The operating tinsmith’s shop will be the only one of its kind in America to use 18th-century methods. The tin ware produced will be put to widespread use in the Historic Area.

“Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury was a bustling, noisy, fiery hub of activity,” said James Horn, vice president of research and historical interpretation and the Abby and George O’Neill director of the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library. “At its peak, a diverse group of more than 40 men worked here, including local smiths, French armorers, Scottish Highlander prisoners of war, American soldiers, enslaved African Americans and young men serving apprenticeships.”

The 21st-century purpose of the blacksmith’s shop and armory site is to convey this complex and diverse scene: to engage guests in the hustle and bustle of work; to impress upon them the daunting tasks confronting the fledgling republic as it took on the greatest military power in the world; and to convey some of the economic, political, and social factors that contributed to the eventual success of the war effort and the achievement of independence.

The Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury project represents another step depicting Williamsburg’s leading role in the American Revolution — when former royal subjects took on new freedoms and responsibilities as self-governing citizens of an independent republic.

A research team currently is compiling evidence to support the construction and interpretation of the site. Prior archaeological investigations have provided much of the evidence for the character and arrangement of the buildings and work site. Further archaeological work in areas not explored in earlier excavations will begin this summer and will be open to the public.

Once reconstruction begins, daily activities and interpretation will focus on the redevelopment of the site and construction of buildings. Using 18th-century methods to prepare materials and hardware, lay foundations, and frame and finish the structures, nearly all building fabrication will be undertaken by Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades brickmakers and masons, carpenters, joiners and blacksmiths. The sole modern aspects will be those few elements that require modern utilities—wiring, security and safety systems, fire suppression systems and other code requirements. The entire construction phase is estimated to take 30 months.

Forrest Mars Jr., Director Emeritus of Mars, Incorporated and former chief executive officer of the company, recently was elected to the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. Reconstruction of R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse was made possible through his $5 million gift. Mr. Mars is a Life Member of the Raleigh Tavern Society and listed on the Courtyard of Philanthropy at the Visitor Center.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. This town-sized living history museum tells the inspirational stories of our journey to become Americans through programs in the Historic Area and through the award-winning Revolutionary City program. Explore The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and discover the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum featuring the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670 – 1830 and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, comprising more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Colonial Williamsburg Hotels feature conference spaces and recreation activities from spa and fine dining to world-class golf. Colonial Williamsburg is committed to expanding its thought-provoking programming through education outreach on-site and online. Purchase of Colonial Williamsburg products and services supports the preservation, research and educational programs of the Foundation.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Jim Bradley
(757) 220-7281