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July 3, 2009

Exhibition at John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library showcases work of Boston architectural firm during CW's Restoration

The Boston architectural firm of Perry, Shaw & Hepburn was selected in 1927 by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Dr. W. A. R. Goodwin to carry out the restoration and reconstruction of buildings in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area. Ten rarely exhibited field drawings representative of the 18th-century Virginia architecture and conceptual sketches produced by the trio for the project are on display at the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library through August. The John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library is at 313 First St. in the Bruton Heights Education Center and is open Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

“There was no precedent for restoration of an entire town representative of a particular time period. It was a unique opportunity for these three men to restore and reconstruct Williamsburg to its 18th-century appearance," explained George Yetter, associate curator of architectural drawings and author of the popular book, “Williamsburg Before and After: the Rebirth of Virginia's Colonial Capital.”

The architects produced detailed drawings of the proposed structures based on their study of extant 18th-century buildings, documents and archaeological fieldwork. Hepburn remarked: “We became regular Sherlock Holmses. We had to throw out things that were just pure guess work if we could possibly find anything definite.”

The firm maintained a field office in the colonial capital from 1928 through 1934, after which The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s architectural office was established. Architectural historian Charles B. Hosmer has observed that “the studies in Williamsburg set a new standard for research efforts and literally began the profession of restoration architecture.” All three of these principal partners were recognized in their field by being made Fellows in the American Institute of Architecture.

William Graves Perry (1883–1975) attended Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Adept at digesting the mass of historical data which Goodwin provided him, he was particularly skilled at rapid production of preliminary conceptual sketches. Thomas Mott Shaw (1878–1965) graduated from Harvard and studied at the École in Paris. Several of his lovely pencil drawings are displayed. Andrew Hopewell Hepburn (1880–1967) studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Colonial Williamsburg’s John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library is committed to advancing knowledge of colonial British America, the American Revolution and the early United States. Through a specialized collection of books, journals, manuscripts, visual resources and online services, linked with fellowship and conference programs, the library supports and encourages research in 17th- and 18th-century colonial America, the Revolutionary War era and the early republic, including the colonial Chesapeake, African American studies, the decorative arts, archaeology, architectural history and historic preservation. The John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library serves scholars, advanced students, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation staff and the public.

Two of Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area exhibition sites that were part of the Restoration project– the Capitol Building and the Governor’s Palace – celebrate their 75th anniversaries as exhibition buildings in 2009. Special focus tours allow guests to:

  • Examine the beginnings of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the people who were instrumental in bringing the Historic Area into being, the creation of public awareness of America’s architectural treasures and the development of preservation techniques;
  • Learn about the era in which the Capitol Building and the Governor’s Palace were reconstructed; and
  • Understand the techniques used to research, reconstruct and furnish these two buildings by examining photos, documents and the buildings.

    During the summer, the anniversary tours of the Capitol are offered from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays through July 17 and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, July 21-Aug. 29. Special tours of the Governor’s Palace are offered 3:30 p.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays through July 18 and Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, July 20-Aug. 30.

    A Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket or Good Neighbor Card provides access to the tours of the Governor’s Palace and the Capitol. For more information, call 1-800-HISTORY.

    Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. 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., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

    Media Contact:
    Penna Rogers
    (757) 220-7121

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