June 27, 2006
Newly Formed Merchants Square And Historic District Added To National Register Of Historic Places
The newly created Merchants Square and Resort Historic District in Williamsburg, Va., has been named to the National Register of Historic Places. The district consists of two parts—Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchants Square and the Williamsburg Lodge and Williamsburg Inn--that form one discontiguous district. The buildings and landscapes in the two areas are historically and stylistically related and adjoin Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area, which was added to the register in 1966. All but two of the buildings—the Bruton Parish House and Suntrust Bank—are owned by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
“We’re extremely pleased to receive this national designation,” said Foundation President Colin G. Campbell. “The buildings in the Merchants Square and Resort Historic District represent distinctive 20th-century design intended to complement but not copy the colonial buildings for which Colonial Williamsburg is internationally known. Most of the buildings and landscapes are associated with benefactor John D. Rockefeller Jr. and reflect his architectural interest and his sustained commitment to the restoration and reconstruction of the 18th-century capital of Virginia.”
The establishment of the Merchants Square and Resort Historic District has enabled the Foundation to take advantage of state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits that reward careful rehabilitation of significant structures.
The Merchants Square and Resort Historic District, which was added to the Virginia Landmarks Register in 2005, consists of 22 buildings and occupies 49 acres. It recognizes the historic and architectural significance of Merchants Square, which was designed by Boston architects Perry, Shaw and Hepburn, who also were the architects of the restoration of Williamsburg. The original buildings in Merchants Square, which were constructed from 1929-32, are distinctive examples of the Colonial Revival style. Recognized as one of the first planned shopping malls in the United States, Merchants Square is home to 42 shops and restaurants, including local and national specialty stores and a selection of restaurants.
Gilbert Stanley Underwood, an architect who designed hotels in western parks such as Yosemite National Park, collaborated with Perry, Shaw and Hepburn on the Williamsburg Lodge in 1937-38. A dramatic renovation, restoration and expansion of the acclaimed Williamsburg Lodge and Conference Center is under way. When complete, the facility will offer Colonial Williamsburg’s leisure and conference guests 323 attractively appointed guest rooms; an all-new, state-of-the-art conference center with 45,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space; a 12,000-square-foot grand ballroom, a 7,000-square-foot junior ballroom, 28 meeting rooms and four outdoor function areas; and a new restaurant featuring the best of regional cuisine.
The Williamsburg Inn, the landmark property conceived and built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and designed by Perry, Shaw and Hepburn, opened in April 1937, remains today the crown jewel of Colonial Williamsburg Hotels. Guided by the Inn’s rich history and strong sense of place and led by an accomplished team of architects, craftsmen and artisans faithful to Mr. Rockefeller’s original vision, the Inn’s meticulous renovation in 2001 brought refreshed vibrancy and elegance to the comfortable Virginia country estate for discriminating guests. The Williamsburg Inn was individually listed in both the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register in 1997.
Since its inception in 1966, nearly 79,000 properties have been listed in the National Register, which contains information on more than 1.2 million individual resources--buildings, sites, districts, structures and objects--providing a link to the country's heritage at the national, state and local levels. The documentation on each property consists of photographs, maps and a National Register registration form, which provides a physical description of the place, information about its history and significance, and a bibliography.