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

March 27, 2012

Furnishing the Anderson Armoury Kitchen

The Anderson kitchen before furnishing.

As the opening of the Armoury site draws closer, we thought it might be interesting to include a blog entry that focused on the Armoury kitchen furnishings.  This past year, the curators have worked on researching and acquiring authentic objects to furnish this unique kitchen.  The Armoury kitchen is unlike any of Colonial Williamsburg’s other furnished kitchens in that it was used to prepare massive quantities of food for the Armoury’s 40 workers! 

How did we decide what objects to place in the kitchen?  Since we do not have an inventory telling us for certain, we can only make an educated guess as to which objects were really there during the Revolutionary War.  There was very little archaeological evidence left intact around kitchen to suggest which objects were used there during the Armoury period.  Instead, we allowed James Anderson’s account book (owned by the DAR library and transcribed by Master Blacksmith Ken Schwarz) to help us understand how the kitchen was used, and which objects would have been essential to Anderson’s operation. 

From the large quantities of salted meats and flour coming to the Armoury, it became clear that the Armoury worker’s diet closely resembled the common soldier’s daily military ration. Animal bones recovered by our archaeologists and analyzed by zooarchaeologist, Joanne Bowen, helped to identify cuts of meat that were prepared in the Armoury kitchen.  Many of these cuts were tough and were likely stewed, suggesting both a method of cooking…and the pot to cook it in.  In addition to large stews, the Armoury cooks were certainly baking bread for the men.  Even though we have not yet found archaeological evidence of a bake oven on the site, it would have been much cheaper to make the bread on site than to purchase it.  We made the decision to order a dough trough and iron and wooden bread peels to indicate the large scale bread production that likely took place right outside of the kitchen.

 Due to the fact that the Armoury Kitchen will be fully functioning, with cooking demonstrations for our visitors, we are unable to furnish it with antique objects.  All objects needed for installation had to be ordered and reproduced for the kitchen.  But we are incredibly fortunate to be able to work closely with the Historic Trades department; using antique prototypes from the Colonial Williamsburg collection, we have been able to produce some of the most authentic reproductions possible.  The joiners made the kitchen table and pine press, the blacksmiths made all of the iron objects for the fireplace and cooking equipment (andirons, tongs, shovel, trammel, pot hooks, flesh forks, spoons/ladles), the coopers produced barrels, wash tubs, and buckets, and the basket weavers made utilitarian baskets to hold everything from vegetables to flatware for the table.  We did have to order some items from outside vendors, including tinware, which was made by Master Tinsmith, William McMillen and the stoneware storage containers, which were ordered from Westmoore Pottery in North Carolina.  Since the Armoury workers were surrounded by and working with metal, we believe that tin cups and plates were used by Armoury workers at the table.  Similarly, other tin forms -funnels, graters, canisters, and coffee pots- likely saw heavy use in the kitchen.  These items were cheap and quickly made in the Armoury tin shop next door.

We look forward to installing kitchen furnishings in the Anderson kitchen on the morning of Friday, March 30th, just before the Armoury’s (March 31st) opening. We hope you will watch via the Roving Webcam and enjoy behind-the-scenes fun as the curators install these objects in the kitchen.   Our Historic Foodways department will begin cooking demonstrations in the Armoury kitchen the very next day on March 31st.  We can’t wait to see what our talented staff in Historic Foodways cook up for the Armoury workers next week!

-Submitted by Amanda Rosner Keller, Assistant Curator of Historic Interiors and Household Accessories


Leave a Reply

  1. Hi Meredith,

    Hope you are having a great day. Think I saw you on the cam at the Tin Shop. Lots of brick packs around, looking forward to watching it go up. Will the Foodways folks be doing any cooking in the kitchen here like they do at the Palace and the Wythe house?

    • Hi Jim~
      Yes, I’m sure you saw me on the webcam…I seem to spend an awful lot of time at the Armoury (happily, I should add!). The Foodways folks will, indeed, be cooking in the Anderson kitchen …. though not quite “like they do at the Palace”. As you can probably imagine, there will be big differences between cooking for the Governor and his guests, and cooking for 40 Armoury workers. What’s simmering in the pot at the Armoury will certainly reflect those differences.

  2. Meredith,

    That sounds great. Hadn’t thought about the differences. It will be very interesting to see what they cook and compare it to the other locations as well as our own experiances with 18 century recipes.

  3. I so wish for a full motion webcam instead of the refresh every 5 seconds. I am really enjoying watching all the activities and looking forward to construction of the Tin Shop. Who will eat the food prepared in the Armory?

    • Mary,
      We’re glad that you’re enjoying the Armoury webcams, even with their halting views of the action! Construction began on the Tin Shop yesterday with the Historic Trades brickmasons laying some of the new brick from the kiln. It is true that there is never a break in the action. As for the food prepared in the Armoury kitchen, we have not yet determined how to use that… although I believe Eleanor has secured a spot at the front of the line!

  4. Thanks for the pictures and explanation of the kitchen. Everything looks great, really nice job on the cupboard and dough trough. Wish I could be there for the opening.

  5. All I can say is, You area all “living the dream”. I know it’s hard manual work, and loads of research, but rather than communting into an office you are all creating living history. That’s what I consider living the dream.

  6. It’s truely interesting how one can be so excited about the opening of a new building / exhibit at CW….but yep, that’s me! I’ll be web-camming it tomorrow morning for sure. And jealous beyond words. But alas, a trip is being planned for fall. CHEERS TO “Y’ALL” WHO HAVE MADE THIS POSSIBLE! And Thank you Mr. Mars! A candy bar for lunch in your honor, Sir!

    • Good morning, Rick,
      For the record, WE’RE excited, too…so there are more of us than you might think. We’ll try to train the webcams on various aspects of tomorrow’s action so that you don’t feel left out. While fall may seem far away, you can console yourself with the thought that by then the site will have just the right “patina”!

      And if you have a chance, check the Roving Webcam this morning to see installation of the kitchen equipment. They say that people always congregate in the kitchen…but this is over the top!

  7. I’m excited too-will be there next Thurs. thru Sun. to see all of this in person and in action! Since it is Easter weekend, will there be a full complement of CW “residents” on hand? I would love to meet you!

    • Mimi,
      All hands should be on deck next week and into the weekend. Please make yourself known!

  8. Thanks for the view of the kitchen. It looks great. Hate I missed seeing inside last week but will get to see it in the fall. Meredith, was the table made by CW craftsman? I know that there was work for the Armoury being done at the Ayscough House.

    I too will be watching in the morning and to all those who have made this possible “Huzzah”!!!!!!!!

    • Jim~
      The table (constructed of yellow pine) was, indeed, made by our Historic Trades joiners. It is based on an antique in Colonial Williamsburg’s collection.

      Glad that you’re enjoying the view. We’ll switch the camera around to the other side this afternoon so that you can see the rest of the furniture!

  9. I’m enjoying seeing all of the new equipage in the armory and the kitchen. I’m especially enjoying how new it all looks. Nowadays we see something from the 1770’s and we expect a patina and the signs of great age, but in the 1770’s it would’ve been brand new. Right out of the tinsmith’s or the joiner’s shop. Accuracy dictates it should be new, but I bet that doesn’t meet most folks’ expectations.

    When I win the lottery tomorrow night I’ll donate a goodly chunk to Williamsburg; what would be your next fantasy project?

  10. Ed,
    We’re crossing our fingers for your big lottery win tomorrow, and will start making a list of our fantasy projects!

    At this precise moment, however…on the eve of the Armoury opening…we’re feeling extraordinarily content, and grateful for what we’ve been allowed to accomplish.

  11. Hi Meredith!

    Let me join the chorus of congratulations, thanks, and Best Wishes! I, too, will follow the opening as best I can via the webcam. Speaking of which, I’m impressed that the roving webcam seems so readily moveable and weatherproof. What does it use for power? To be greedy for a moment, let me suggest having more than one available to add more views of CW would be a great idea :-)

    • Hi Russell~
      Yes, the Roving Webcam is incredibly portable. It sits on top of a wooden stand, and can be lifted and repositioned with one hand. Unfortunately, it has to be plugged in, so a power source must be close at hand (or alternatively, one must have a long extension cord!)

  12. Hello, everyone. I am sitting here far away from Williamsburg watching the beauty of a new adventure taking place in your fair city. How fun is that? Am turning on my Colonial Williamsburg CD and basking in your joy and mine. Thanks again for the wonderful cams and detailed information of all you do. And congratulations on your “opening day”!

  13. Wow! Look at all those people. That must be incredibly satisfying for a job well done. I can almost smell the stew simmering and the bread baking down here in Maine. Thank you.

  14. Very much enjoyed checking the cam over the last few hours. Thank goodness for technology, which has connected me to one of my favorite hostorical places. Imagine that!

    • Diane, Ed, and Rick,
      Have just broken away from the Armoury festivities to check in on our blog friends, clebrating from afar. This has been a wnderfully satisfying day! Despite sprinkles in the morning, the rain held off and the crowds came. I’m not sure who was more excited….

      Ed, the stew was fabulous. I got to taste it on a hunk of grainy bread on my way out. Once we get the webcams perfected, I vote that we move on to bottling the tastes and smells of Williamsburg. Nothing beats them (well, except maybe Diane’s CD of Williamsburg’s music)!

      Thanks to you all for marking this occasion with us. You were not forgotten!

      p.s. I think Ken and crew are extremely pleased with their new “home.”

  15. Hi Meredith,

    Have been watching for two days now and it is wonderful to see all those visiting the Armoury. Think this is going to be a very busy site this year!!! Wonderful job and am looking forward to the Tin shop reconsturction and opening. Way to go!!

  16. With the Armoury now open, what sorts of items will the blacksmiths be working on? Any particular projects in mind to create certain types of reproductions for use at CW or other historical sites? Thanks!

  17. Was there on Sat for the opening, What a great new addition to CW. I also got a early peek on Friday and early Sat. before the crowd showed, it was nice to get to chat with a few folks without all the crowd. Looking forward to seeing the tim show when finished. Thanks for a great time as always at CW.

  18. Hi Meredith,

    I watched the crowds on Saturday. I was glad to see the rain go and the sun try to come out. Will there be a pod-cast of the opening ceremonies and such for those of us who could not be there? I hope someone was recording it for posterity at least. We will get there one of these days. Will the portable wbcam be placed inside the Armoury for a time so we can see the action of the blacksmiths and the reaction of the visitors? How long before construction begins on the Tin Shop?
    How did “Lady” Eleanor cope with the festivities?
    And as always, THANKS for all you do!
    Have a great Easter,
    Chris 😉

  19. watched as much as I could. We will bring the grandson in the fall and I am so looking forward to seeing everything up close. It looks terrific and I am glad things went well.

  20. Good morning,

    Thanks for moving the cam to the Tin Shop site so we can watch as it goes up.

    It is 9:45 A.M. and already people are lined up to get inside the Armoury. Keep up the good work!!!