News from the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library at Colonial Williamsburg: Archival Collections Available for Viewing


The Rockefeller Library is pleased to announce that a number of archival collections relating to the restoration of Williamsburg to its 18th-century appearance are now available for viewing via the library’s Omeka site. They include the Thomas Mott Shaw Pencil Sketches, the F.S. Lincoln Photography Collection, and the Singleton P. Moorehead Streetscapes Collection.

Thomas Mott Shaw was a principal architect of the prominent Boston architectural firm Perry, Shaw, and Hepburn, which John D. Rockefeller Jr. hired in 1928 to design, plan, and supervise the historical restoration of Williamsburg. His collection of thirty-four graphite and mixed media sketches depict various exteriors and interiors of buildings in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area.
F.S. Lincoln, a contract photographer hired in 1935 to take the first promotional photographs of Colonial Williamsburg, donated his collection of prints and negatives in 1972. His beautifully composed images document the pristine gardens, building facades, and exhibition building interiors as they looked when the museum first opened.
Singleton P. Moorehead, another employee of Perry, Shaw, and Hepburn, came to Williamsburg in 1928 as a member of the firm’s architectural field office. He created the collection of streetscapes to give John D. Rockefeller Jr. a preliminary idea of intended restoration work for specific blocks within the town.
A new exhibit opened at the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library at Colonial Williamsburg in early September. It highlights four photo collections held by the Rockefeller Library that feature pre-restoration photos documenting Williamsburg as it appeared from the Reconstruction Era up until the eve of restoration work. Selections from each collection illustrate the value of the photos both as a record of the appearance of 18th-century buildings still standing and of 19th– and early 20th-century “lost” architecture that was torn down or moved during the restoration period.
To aid visitors in understanding the layout of pre-restoration Williamsburg and the location of buildings that were moved or demolished, a reproduction of a late 1920s pre-restoration map of Williamsburg is mounted on the wall opposite the exhibit cases. Titled City Plan of Williamsburg and thought to be executed by draftsman George S. Campbell under the direction of Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, the map documents the layout and location of structures in 1929, when preliminary planning was underway to transform the town
A final component of the exhibit is a brief video with segments of moving footage shot in the late 1920s from the back of a truck moving up and down Duke of Gloucester Street. Produced by the University Film Foundation in Cambridge, Massachusetts, under the direction of John Haeseler, the film known as The City of Williamsburg documented the condition of the town prior to the start of any major restoration or reconstruction work on its historic district. This historic footage shot between March 14th and April 11th, 1930, offers a fascinating glimpse into what it was like to travel up and down Duke of Gloucester Street in an early automobile.
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