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

Reconstruction of the Blacksmith's & Public Armoury

March 19, 2012

Preparing for Opening Day: Saturday, March 31st 11a.m.-1 p.m.

Jay Howlett adjusts one set of bellows.

The images below, captured late last week and early this morning, record some of the final preparations for the Armoury’s March 31st opening.  The building has been painted, inside and out, bellows are being adjusted and hung, and the blacksmiths’ tools, carted over from the Deane Forge, are now hanging in their places.   Visitors familiar with the former Anderson Blacksmith Shop will notice some new “furniture.”  A steadily growing pile of musket crates is just one suggestion of Anderson’s transition from civilian blacksmith to Public Armourer.   

Long time visitors may spot new features in the Armoury yard.  A well and pump, built over archaeological remains of the 18th century well, is nearly complete.  In the days running up to “Opening Day” it will receive a coat of paint and all necessary hardware.   Across the yard, Colonial Williamsburg’s Masonry Trades team is finishing construction of an outdoor forge just south of the Armoury building (another archaeologically indicated feature), and will be applying additional layers of clay to the bread oven.  As you can see from the images below, the oven currently sports a “scratch coat” consisting of clay, lime, and straw. 

March 31st promises to be an exciting day, and we hope you’ll join us!  Although the Armoury reconstruction will not be completed until 2013, we have reached an important milestone worth celebrating.  The newly finished and furnished Armoury building and Anderson kitchen will be open for touring with special events and programming between 11a.m. -1 p.m.  The site will remain open beyond 1 p.m. (and for decades to come!) to Colonial Williamsburg ticket holders.  While an in-person visit offers the best view and full effect, the webcams will be stationed to capture the action.  We hope you’ll join us one way or another.  In the meantime, please click on the images below to enlarge the view and whet your appetite. 

Meredith Poole

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  1. WOW! The inside of the Armoury has really come together. It looks great. These photos are wonderful. The whole crew gets a well deserved HUZZAH!!! HUZZAH!!! HUZZAH!!! This is a job well done by all. I will try to watch on the 31st of March. Glad to see “Lady” Eleanor (The inspector kitty) appears to approve of the work that has been completed.

    Have a great opening,
    Chris

    • Thanks, Chris!
      We have some talented,hard-working (and likely tired!) people working here. All are exceedingly pleased with the result…Eleanor included. Thanks for your support!

  2. I have really enjoyed watching this project take shape, and look forward to viewing future endeavors. Kudos to all involved in the process, wonderful job!

  3. GREAT PHOTS!!!! Sooooo jealous I can not get away to get down on 3/31. BTW….a swedge or swage block. A “multi-tool of sorts. Used to form hot steel. Gauge and measure. Gun barrels, etc.

    • Rick~
      You’re exactly right…it’s a swage block. I should have known you’d be the first to identify this bit of blacksmithing equipment!

      We will miss you on the 31st, but as you know, there will be more Armoury celebrations to come as the workshop, tin shop, storage buildings, and even the privy are added to the mix. Perhaps next time….

  4. Why did you need to take the red building down next to the armoury?

    • Chuck~
      The Mary Stith Shop was reconstructed in 1940 on archaeologically discovered foundations, but little was known at the time about its function. It was rebuilt with some unusual characteristics (such as the overhanging porch), and using materials that were not as traditionally produced as those we prefer to use today. A fresh slate provides the opportunity to revise our interpretation of an 18th c. tin shop’s appearance and internal arrangement. More importantly, its reconstruction by our Historic Trades Carpenters will employ traditional methods and handmade materials, making it part of a larger teaching and learning opportunity.

      Prior to its demolition, the 1940 Mary Stith Shop was stripped of all usable material, which will be used in other places in the Historic Area. You will also notice that the foundation was left intact, and will be incorporated into the new reconstruction.

  5. Great work & thanks for all the photos. I hope Eleanor will get a special treat on opening day.

    • Thanks, Storrey. Glad you’re enjoying the updates on our progress. As for Eleanor, her average day is punctuated by special treats. I’m worried that she’s looking a little… well…”fluffy”!

  6. First, thanks for the wonderful articles updating us about the history of & progress on the Armoury. It is all much appreciated by those of us who can only join you via the web! I was wondering about when the reconstruction of the tin shop was planned to start, also about keeping the old foundation since it looks like it retains some modern construction materials. Thanks!

    • Russell,
      Good to hear from you again! Construction on the tin shop will begin in April with work on the foundation. We will retain the 1940 foundation below grade, because it is perfectly sound, but will add couses of the bricks made in our brickyard so that this is what will be seen above grade. The Historic Trades Brickmasons will be on site during the month of April. Framing of the tin shop will not begin until later in the summer. Though the timing has not yet been worked out, it will likely be June or July before that phase begins. We’ll provide an update when that schedule is set.

  7. Good Day Meredith,

    I am always interested in what is happening in my favorite place. It was interesting to watch the transformation on the west side of the Armoury. Where are the archaeologist working now or will be working from April through September and what will be the goals of the dig?

    Ron Trabandt

    • Hi Ron~
      Always good to hear from you! The archaeologists are currently inside, writing up reports and wishing (as Spring takes hold) that our schedules were otherwise!

      Beginning in June we plan a return to the south (Francis St.) end of the Armoury to finish a project begun in 2010. If you recall, we were tracing the Armoury’s fence, and exploring some features located along that fenceline. The tin shop excavation drew us away in early 2011, and our earlier project has been languishing under soggy black plastic tarps since then. It is time now to finish what we started!

  8. With the “Ribbon Cutting” to the Shop 1 week away now it’s now feeling like I’ve been reading a good book for the last 11 months watching the day to day progress. Now that we have reached the last part of the last Chapter one gets the sinking feeling, now what do I do every day. You don’t want the book to end but it must.

    I have enjoyed the web cams to a degree I didn’t think was possible when I started the end of April last year. I can’t thank you all enough for all the updates, pictures answering all of our questions and your comments.

    I knew I would enjoy Williamsburg once I got there but it took me 65 yrs to get there. Enjoy has proven to be an understatement. We will be back the middle of April for another visit. The first place I will visit is the Armoury.

    Thank You all for the last year.

    • Dale~
      Thank you for your words of appreciation! As you know, we have enjoyed this journey every bit as much as our audience has, but to hear that the webcams and blogs have had an impact on our readers is always gratifying. That said, don’t leave us yet!….We’re just getting to the good part!

      True, the main Armoury building (along with the kitchen), will open on March 31st, bringing one chapter of Armoury reconstruction to a close. But without skipping a beat (and indeed, with some potential overlap), our Historic Trades Brickmasons and Carpenters will begin reconstruction of the tin shop, a workshop, two storage buildings and a privy. You can be certain that the webcams will be trained on their progress, and the blog will provide running commentary. This work will take us deep into 2013. So while you may ultimately have to decide how to spend your days, rest assured that the decision is still more than a year away.

      Please identify yourself when you visit the Armoury in mid April. We always enjoy putting faces to our “blog friends”! Again, many thanks for your comments,

  9. we are bringing our grandson this fall. This is the first area I’ll want to see. I has been fun watching everything. I agree with the person who said it was like reading a really good book.

  10. What a beautiful journey you have let us take with you at Colonial Williamsburg. As with the Charlton Coffehouse, you have kept us informed and intrigued and let us peek into our past. I am so grateful for your magnificent website. It is one of the most complete, engaging and satisfying sites I use.
    Am wondering about the pathway you have on the side of the building. It looks like asphalt. Is it compressed rock? Would asphalt have been used in colonial times or is it used for the heavy traffic expected at the site?
    Also, what is that lovely brick building with the beautiful red doors? A tavern?
    Again, another beautiful job and I will be watching on March 31st. Thank you so much.

    • Hi Diane – the pathway that looks like asphalt is actually made of coal dust. As you can imagine, asphalt would look very much out of place in the Historic Area, but we needed hard paths to accommodate visitors on the site, especially those with wheelchairs, so we mixed up coal dust, sand, clay and a little Portland cement to create a hard surface. Looks like the paths are going to work out just fine…
      The brick building with the red doors is the Brick House Tavern, which is one of our hotel properties. You can actually rent a room right next to the Armoury if you like.

      • Thank you, Garland. I knew you wouldn’t use asphalt but couldn’t figure out the material. My hope is to some day attend the Burgesses meeting and maybe take a room at the Brick House Tavern! Have not been to your fair city since the 1980’s. Thanks again and have a great day! Diane

  11. My husband and I have enjoyed “watching” this building go up and we are visiting again next week but leaving before the 31st, so sad. But as usual, we’ll be back again.

    Thanks for all the updates and information you gave us while visiting in the fall.

  12. Good afternoon Meredith,
    Again thanks for all the work you and the other members of the Armoury crew do.

    I hope CWF has enough web-server power ready for next Saturday. Your Web-Meister will be very busy keeping the system from an over load at eleven o’clock. I wish them luck and clear internet lines.

    Will you have audio available with the webcams on Saturday? Need to know so I have my headphones ready to go.

    I suspect “Lady” Eleanor will avoid the opening ceremonies. She will probably head for someplace quiet that day so she dos not get trampled.

    Have a great opening,
    Chris

  13. Look’s really good! It’s been a treat to watch the reconstruction. Good luck with the new armoury!

  14. I look forward to the opening on March 31st! I will be there you can be sure-especially since it’s my birthday as well. What better event to celebrate on my birthday than the opening of your shop….or should I say what better way to celebrate the opening of the Armoury than on my birthday? Either way, the opening will be grand…and good to see Ken and everyone back at work over multiple forges.

    • Hi Jim,

      Many happy returns. Have a great birthday at the Armoury opening. That is one nice birthday present to give yourself. Of course we will expect a full report from you. As a visitor you will have a different perspective. You’ll be in the middle of the crowd and feel the vibes. Have a great birthday. HUZZAH!

      Safe trip,
      Chris

  15. Glad to be living in Williamsburg and bask in all this history of our developing country. Opening day was great.


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