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March 28, 2012

Anderson Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury Opens Saturday, March 31

Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums will lead guests through the Historic Area along Duke of Gloucester Street to the opening of Colonial Williamsburg’s newest exhibition site, the James Anderson Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury, at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 31.

Following remarks from Colonial Williamsburg President Colin Campbell, actor-interpreters dramatize the urgency of the war effort early in the American Revolution. As they enter the armoury complex, guests encounter Historic Trades blacksmiths, coopers, basketmakers, carpenters and armourers, and staff from masonry trades and the Historic Foodways program. Guests also have the opportunity to learn about the excavations, re-creation and future expansion of the armoury from Colonial Williamsburg’s archaeologists and staff of the Digital History Center.

The industrial site that supported Virginia’s war effort during the Revolution opens to guests with interpretive programs after more than a year of reconstruction. Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury reflects the complexity and urgency of waging war against the world’s most powerful 18th-century nation. A $5 million gift from Forrest E. Mars Jr. enables the reconstruction and endowment of the site. Mars is director emeritus of Mars, Inc. and former CEO of the company. He was elected to The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Board of Trustees in 2010 and is a Life Member of the Raleigh Tavern Society, a group of generous Foundation friends founded more than 30 years ago.

The newly reconstructed main armoury building, which includes four blacksmith forges, and the recently reconstructed kitchen will open on March 31. Reconstruction of the tin shop and several other buildings on the site will continue for another year. When complete, the site will include the armoury, the kitchen, a tinsmith’s shop, an outdoor forge, a work shop, two storage buildings, a privy, a bake oven and a wellhead.

The reconstruction plan re-creates 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 blacksmith shop and armoury 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, tinsmiths fashioning all sorts of military accoutrements and other trades artisans repairing and rebuilding military arms while historic foodways interpreters recreate the meals the kitchen provided to Anderson’s diverse 40-strong work force.

The interpretive objective of the blacksmith and armoury 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 represent some of the economic, political and social factors that contributed to the eventual success of the war effort and the achievement of independence.

No ticket is required to enter the armoury site before 1 p.m. on opening day. For more information, telephone 1-800-HISTORY or visit

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, 20th and 21st 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. Philanthropic support by individuals, corporations, and foundations benefits the educational mission of The Colonial Williamsburg 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:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121