History.org: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's Official History and Citizenship Website

This blog follows the reconstruction of the Revolutionary War Public Armoury on the James Anderson site

Reconstruction of the Blacksmith's & Public Armoury

November 18, 2011

A Brief Update.

The Brick Clamp.

The big news this week is taking place in the brickyard.  Brickmakers are now in Day 3 of a 5-day brick burn, preparing materials for the Armoury and its outbuildings.  Although this event takes place beyond the reaches of our webcam, please look for a full photo spread and report early next week.  And if you live close enough to visit, please do!  The brickyard is open to visitors from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. through Sunday, November 20th… although you can be sure that there will be intrepid brickmakers tending the fires all night.

There is breaking news at the Armoury as well.  This morning, the first fire was lit in the Anderson kitchen fireplace.  Jim Gay, of the Historic Foodways department is, at this moment, simmering the inaugural pot of stewed beef and vegetables (please click on images to enlarge).  While the proof may be (as they say) in the pudding, the chimney draws well, and the fireplace itself is an unmitigated success.  Today is simply a trial run for the kitchen.  The building will be fully functional and open to the public beginning in early April 2012.

Also at the Armoury, a window and two doors were installed on the north side this morning, giving the building a sense of substance.   All is coming along smoothly.   If the opportunity presents itself, please take advantage of the lovely fall weather and see for yourself!

Meredith Poole, Staff Archaeologist.


Leave a Reply

  1. Looks great! What is the smaller “set back” area on the back wall of the fireplace?

    What is your experience with keeping a fire going with no fireback in place? Does it break up the brick much over the years? Or is the damage of a normal fire to normal brick somewhat overstated?


  2. On Thursday I was inspired to visit the reconstruction in

    person due to your superb coverage here on C.W.’s

    website. Why are the “new” roofing shingles so thin and not painted or stained to promote longevity and economy? They appeared to be yellow pine or cypress.

    • Our roof shingles are cypress,and we are making them to the measurements of actual 18th-century shingles in our Architectural Fragments Collection. They are about 18 inches long, three to six inches wide, and 5/8″ to 3/4″ at the butt. There are plenty of examples from the period of cypress shingles lasting 80 to 100 years on a roof…unless they caught fire. We are spraying our shingles with a fire retardant material to reduce that problem.

      Some shingles actually were painted – we have St George Tucker’s recipe for the fish oil paint he used on the roof of his house on Market Square. And of course General Washington’s house Mount Vernon has a very famous red-painted shingle roof, which was originally made of cypress shingles from the Great Dismal Swamp.

    • Your Eighteenth century shingles were virgin growth bald cypress;taxus distychens. Unless you can obtain ancient cypress logs salvaged from southern rivers you will not have durable goods from the present new growth cypress trees. Would not a coat of tar be appropriate?

      aklyd top coat. If I

  3. I was coming to comment on the window and doors. They look so terrific. I want to come soooooo bad. Wish I could taste the stew. It is such a joy to see the things you do to preserve and promote our history. Thank you all.

    • Margaret~
      It probably won’t make you feel any better to know that the stew was delicious! Everything in it was grown in the Historic Area. We dipped chunks of that grainy bread (also made by Jim Gay) into the pot simmering on the fire…a memorable food experience.

      As for the doors and windows, they do look terrific. Given that we built on the same footprint (as the Anderson blacksmith shop), it is amazing to me how transformed the property is. Please visit when you’re able. It will all be waiting for you!

  4. I have been following the transformation and really enjoy seeing the progress. I visited this past July and will be back during the Christmas Holidays…can’t wait. Thank you for sharing with us…I live 500 miles away and would be there everyday if I could..treasure what you have, Williamsburg is not like any place else…thank you for keeping the past alive!!! Have a wonderful holiday to everyone!!!!

  5. We will definitely be visiting in 2012-can’t wait to see all of this in person!

    • Marie and Mimi,
      We look forward to your visit(s). Please introduce yourselves when you come. It’s always good to connect with blog readers!

  6. Question for Jim Gay
    I know there were a lot of iron used in 18th century cooking and salt was used to season without rust but did copper or tin lined pans rust form the use of salt or did they wait and salt their food at the table.I love the new kitchen and was shown it up close when I was there in May.
    Would like to see more blog on Cooking in CW. Thanks

    • Kerry,
      Jim Gay asked me to pass along the following response:
      “We use salt for seasoning the food throughout the cooking process. It could also be used at the table. We combat rust on our iron pots by keeping them well seasoned. If we notice rust beginning to appear, we re-season the pot or pan immediately. ”

      “Tin lined copper that is in good shape doesn’t react with food. However, if we notice oxidation beginning to occur, then we have to take action quickly as the copper oxide is toxic. We inspect the tin lining frequently to ensure that no copper is showing. As copper will react with any acid, we don’t use anything like wine or fruit in unlined copper pans.”

      “We do have a food blog. It’s call “History is Served” and can be accessed at http://recipes.history.org/