Primary Source of the Month
Top: 3D Rendering of the Armoury Site
Bottom: Plan of the Armoury Site
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
In 2012, Colonial Williamsburg opened a reconstructed Armoury on the site of the eighteenth-century complex. The largest building is the armoury itself, with several chimneys and forges at which blacksmiths and gunsmiths work. There is also a tin shop, a workshop, and two storage buildings. A kitchen provided food for the peoplemore than forty menwho worked there, and of course, there were privies (outhouses). The men employed at the Armoury came from many walks of life. Some were soldiers; some were skilled Frenchmen working under contract, enslaved men, prisoners of war, apprentices, or tradesmen. These workmen ate and worked together on the half-acre site, and slept in a dormitory nearby.
The process of researching and rebuilding the armoury took several years. First, written records were studied for evidence of the armoury, including invoices for building materials, references to the armoury in official documents and letters, and James Anderson's account books. Then the archaology began. Archaeologists looked for evidence of foundations, post holes from fences, and bits of metal and tin in the ground to indicate where each of the buildings was originally located. Architectural historians began drafting plans for the site, and Colonial Williamsburg's Digital History Center began creating 3D models like the one above.
The construction of the armoury complex was funded by a generous grant from Forrest E. Mars, Jr. Tradespeople from across Colonial Williamsburg came together to help build the structures using eighteenth-century techniques, including brickmakers, who created thousands of bricks and laid the foundations, and carpenters raised the framing and shingled the roof. Today, visitors to the armoury complex can see Foodways cooking in the kitchen, blacksmiths hammering in the armoury building, and soldiers, enslaved people, and assorted workers busily assisting in the day-to-day operations of this bustling historic site. Soon, Colonial Williamsburg will have a tinsmith creating tin goods and interpreting for the public in the tin shop.
For a live webcam of the armoury and the armoury blog, visit http://research.history.org/armoury/.
For podcasts about the archaeology, trades, and history behind the armoury, visit http://podcast.history.org/?s=armoury.
For more about how virtual modeling was used to help reconstruct the armoury, visit http://whatsnew.history.org/2011/06/virtual-armoury/ and http://whatsnew.history.org/2011/08/first-peek-at-the-new-public-armoury/.