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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

April 3, 2012

The Armoury Opens!

On Saturday, March 31st, the Armoury’s main building (the new blacksmith shop) and the Anderson kitchen opened to the public.  Under threatening (but ultimately accomodating) skies,  the opening ceremonies went off without a hitch.  If you were able to attend the event, you were in good company!  If not, we hope you enjoyed the webcams that were positioned to catch much of the action.  Below you will find some images capturing highlights of a memorable day.  Clicking on the images will bring them up in a larger format.  Enjoy!

Photo credits: Meredith Poole and Clyde Kestner.

 

 

 

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  1. Thanks for the pictures of opening day. Great fun to look at. We watched it for a couple hours on the web cams. Looked like a large crowd there. Will be there to see “up close and personal” in 9 days. Good to see Eleanor took the day off, she earned it.

    Noted that as things were just getting under way, I saw Jim Gay outside the kitchen stacking the wood pile. Presumed a “Suit” had gone by and noted it laying on the ground!

    Hope everyone is enjoying their new “digs”.

  2. Dale~
    I can vouch for the fact that everyone…from “suits” to “costumes” pitched in on Saturday. I caught sight of a director stacking that same wood pile!

  3. Glad Jim made the opening now he is cooking in higher places.

  4. Very nice pictures, thanks again for the web cam experiences. Wish I could have been there. Keep up the excellent job, especially all the explanations which make a great learning experience for us. Happy Easter to all.

    • Watching the site cpome together via webcam has been an adventure to all of us and thanks to the staff for making the time, in addition to all their other respeonsibilities, to make it as real as possible for those of use participating vicariously.

      As we see the kitchen start to function, including the bread oven, I wondered where all the invetory of meat, vegatables and flour, etc. were stored. Serving some 500 meals a week(6 days x two meals x 40 workers) must have required the kitchen manager/senior cook to maintain stores of food for a couple of weeks, I’d suspect. Were there other storage buildings on the original site or did the kitchen’s attic provide sufficient space?

      • Mike,
        What an excellent question. There are other storage buildings on the Armoury lot (2 of them, from what we can tell) but given their placement, it is unlikely that they were used for food storage. As you mention, the attic would have been useful for this purpose….but we may have to see who else is willing to weigh in on this question!

      • Mike – we know that flour was being delivered to the site in 220 pound barrels. We assume that salted meat was also arriving there in barrels, and the records show barrels of brandy and rum at the Armoury. One clue to food storage is the fact that the two-story frame house on the north side of the Armoury site used to be a tavern, and as such had facilities for storing the same kind of food and liquor…probably in the cellar. I suspect the bulk goods for the Armoury kitchen were stored in the cellar too, and locked up good and tight. The barrels could be rolled in and out of the cellar through the rear bulkhead.

    • Thanks, Ron~
      The nice thing about this Armoury is that it was built to last! It will be here whenever you are able to make the trek.

  5. Contratultions on a successful addition to the facililty. The careful planning and execution of the buildings as well as the ability to obtain funding is a complement to the entire staff of CW.

    I would like to see pictures of the armoury yard showing the forge and bread oven.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Dave,
      Thanks for your comments. I think if you go back to an earlier blog entry (Preparing for Opening Day) you’ll find some images of the armoury yard, and the bread oven in context. The outdoor forge is not yet being used, though as you can see in the images mentioned above, it has been completed.

  6. Meredith,

    Regarding the food and its storage. I would think that a lot of it would have been bought on a daily basis and some staples stored on site. I don’t think they would have been curing any of their own meats but they may have. Was there a smoke house on the property?

    If the logistics is anything similar to today many of the staples could have been stored offsite and contracted to be delivered at at future date. They would baiscally know how much they would need on a day to day basis and with the proximity of many of the vendors, they would be able to adjust those amounts as needed faily quickly.

    I have a feeling that our just in time delivery system that is used today is not a new concept. It may well have been used in those days. Plus left overs would have played a part in the storage/feeding of those there.

    I am thinking too today?

  7. Thanks for the great photos. Now that the Armoury is open, I was wondering if the blacksmiths had any particular projects in mind, that is, plans to make any particular types of reproductions for use at CW or at other historical sites.

    • Russell,
      We haven’t forgotten your question! In fact, it was such a good one that we are planning to us it as a “Reader’s Question” Blog posting. Things have been a bit busy during these early weeks of Armoury operation, but we’re working on it. Please stay tuned…..

  8. I enjoyed the entire experience from the Kimball theatre, down Duke of Gloucester Street and Colin Campbell`s comments. I took many photos and am in the process of making a slide show with 1700-1800 background music for my relatives and friends I plan ro revisit this new addition to our community often. Fantastic piece of work by all.

  9. I’m curious, what would be stored in that beautiful cabinet in the kitchen? Thanks for the photo of Eleanor for the animal lovers.

  10. Hi Tee,

    That is a great question! I’m glad you agree that the CW joiners did an absolutely beautiful job when they made the pine cupboard for us. The cupboard was an essential part of many 18th century kitchen interiors because it allowed the cook to keep ingredients and other valuable kitchen equipment under lock and key. Right now, the cupboard is storing extra stoneware storage jars, bone-handled flatware, and additonal kitchen textiles. In the period, it would have also been a space to keep valuable ingredients, such as sugar and other spices as well.

  11. Nothing like seeing things up close and personal. The space between the kitchen and the armoury and the armoury and the tin shop looks even more snug in person! A really tight squeeze for working. Excellent workmanship-doing things with hand tools adds so much more character to a building and a better appreciation for a job well done. We had a great visit to CW over the weekend. Very nice to meet you in person Ken (and Kenneth and Jason the Mason!) Maybe I will catch Meredith the next time we visit. So, now that the kitchen is cooking, does that mean the blacksmiths/armourers are “stuck” eating what they cook? ;) Does CW ever have a “hands-on” day when visitors can try out a trade or get their hands dirty in one of the archaeological sites? That would be a fun/educational day-maybe during an off season time.

    • Mimi- it was great to see you, and the other “Armoury bloggers” who have visited and introduced themselves to us. It is nice to be able to put a face to the name in our conversations.

      We have indeed been “stuck” eating what the kitchen staff cooks. Of course we are not consuming the food because it is flavorful and hearty- we are eating the food in order to help re-create the appropriate Armoury environment! We must do it for the sake of offering our guests a realistic experience (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). So far the food has been fantastic. I am looking forward to the day that the bread oven comes to life. I suppose that in time the food will seem dull- just as a lobsterman on the coast of Maine gets tired of eating lobster. We will periodically reflect on our good fortune of having cooks on site.

      Colonial Williamsburg does offer hands-on experiences in the Historic Area, although those experiences have to be carefully designed and monitored. As you might imagine, there are huge risks in having an inexperienced hand hammering on 2,000 degree iron, so much of the hands-on involves activities with less risk. There are many hands-on activities related to daily life offered at the Powell House. We also conduct a “Young Apprentice” tour in the summer, which involves some simple, well-supervised hands-on activities. You can learn more about those tours by searching “apprentice tour” on the main Colonial Williamsburg web page.

  12. We are heading that way in the fall with our grandson. I can hardly wait. A question about the new building. Will it be completely brick or is that just the foundation?

    • Margaret – The Tin Shop will be a timber-frame building with a brick foundation and brick chimney. We understand the foundation fairly well, because much of the original foundation survived for archeology to uncover. We believe the building was a tenant house before being reworked for use as a tin shop during the war, so the wooden portion of the building is being designed as we speak to represent that converted tenant house. We hope to have it built and open for you to visit early next summer.

  13. A question about the new building. Will it be completely brick or is that just the foundation?

  14. Please tell us about your plans for the tin shop?

    • Hiram- Our plan for the tinsmith shop is to complete reconstruction and furnishing of the shop over the next 9-12 months, and then to open and operate the shop as an eighteenth century tinsmith shop. We have extensive records listing the tinwork produced in the shop during the Revolution (see a previous blog entry on the tin shop) and our plan is to recreate the activity, employ historic process, and reproduce historic tinware as was being done on the site in 1779 and 1780. We hope to have the shop in full operation by the summer of 2013.


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