This blog follows the reconstruction of the Revolutionary War Public Armoury on the James Anderson site
Reconstruction of the Blacksmith's & Public Armoury
August 11, 2011
First Peek at the New Public Armoury.
In this update from the Virtual Williamsburg project we show the first pictures of how the Public Armoury will look when it is finished. As can be seen in the following views, our modeler has been hard at work taking the Architectural Historian’s plans and realizing them as a 3D model. Though it may not quite look it yet, these pictures are the first steps towards a photo-realistic rendering of the Armoury as it was around 1780.
The first two pictures show the scale of the Armoury, along with the arrangement of the windows and their relationship to the forges. The building is large: 20’ wide x 68’ long. The gray walls in the picture will be white-washed weatherboards. This is an alteration from the previous reconstruction which used relatively rough, unpainted riven clapboards as its exterior covering. But this change is only one of the many revisions made to the design of the new Public Armoury building, which have been based on a thorough review of documentary sources, archaeological materials, and many hours of new research.
As the amendments to the exterior materials suggests, the new interpretation proposes that the building was better constructed than was originally thought and erected all at one time rather than in several distinct building campaigns. To reflect this new understanding, the form as well as the finish of the armoury has been changed from the previous reconstruction design. First, there are no longer any partitions dividing the interior and the brick foundations run continuously around the entire structure, with no interruption. Upon this new, firmer foundation, the wall and ceiling framing is more robust. Instead of the mixture of stripped logs, riven studs, and sawn framing found in the old building, the new structure will have a carefully sawn and joined frame composed of more substantial members. This sturdier wood frame supports improved finishes, installed with an eighteenth century eye to the security of the arms and raw materials inside. The exterior cladding has been changed from thin clapboards to more substantial sawn weatherboards, while the old clapboard roof has been replaced with cedar shingles. All the shutters and doors are double-sheathed—that is, composed of boards set perpendicular to one another and nailed together to form a firm, double-thick leaf. This configuration resists would-be intruders better than the lighter, board-and-batten doors of the previous design. These new shutters close in new, larger sash windows which better illuminate the interior work areas than the smaller openings of the old building. This adjustment reflects our understanding of the Armoury as a critical piece of the revolutionary infrastructure, rather than as a modest, private shop.
The four chimneys visible in figure 2 indicate the positions of the forges on the interior. The way the forges will look inside can be more clearly seen in figure 3. Imagine the dark-red as courses of brick, the brown floor replaced by brick pavers, and the brown cylinders that sit on them as roughly hewn wooden stumps with iron anvils on them. The gray walls will be white-washed butt-jointed boards running horizontally. This board sheathing represents another improvement over the old building and simultaneously reflects its higher status as well as another concession to security. Behind the forges at the back of the interior view is a diagonal panel that indicates the location of the stairs to the attic. Figure 4 illustrates these stairs with their sheathing removed, along with the framing in this corner, which will be exposed inside the stair enclosure. The stair box will be finished with board sheathing and a light board-and-batten door.
Figure 5 shows the attic, an area that for safety reasons will not be accessible to guests in the physical reconstruction, but in the virtual model you will be able to go where you please! The staircase rises on the left side of the door at the back of the picture, behind the forge chimney. The brick chimneys rise from the work area below and continue up through the roof. The floor will be roughly sawn, unplaned wooden boards, while the roof and walls will be unfinished, leaving framing elements exposed and unpainted. This space will be for storage and the large trap doors at the bottom of the picture will allow bulky items to be lifted up using a hoist. Finally, figure 6 shows the building with the east wall removed. The open trap doors to the second floor are located between the two left side forges. The forges on the right show another revision from the earlier design in the new location for the north forge (at the far right). Notice how it is oriented to the west, opposite the other three forges, which all face east. We are not absolutely clear why this was done, but it may have been to avoid the stair case in the northwest corner.
Keep watching for more as we progress through the entire block!
Contributed by Peter Inker, Digital History Center, and Jeff Klee, Architectural History.
Funded by a generous gift from Forrest E. Mars Jr., of Big Horn, Wyoming.