Wednesday, August 26, 2015

35/15 Part 2 - Merchants Square

What is 35/15? Read the Introduction first.

(Note: All 1935 photographs are on the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library Omeka site. They are viewable by clicking the link provided, scrolling to the bottom of the page, then clicking the image.)

   After the College comes Merchants Square. When store buildings along Duke of Gloucester were bought up for the Restoration, new ones were built by the College. Called Merchants Square, the new shopping area opened in 1932. All of the fanciful exteriors were inspired from colonial style buildings in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. The interiors could be changed to fit their lessees' needs. In 2005, Merchants Square was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Merchants Square, Craft House

Merchants Square A&P Food Market (Picture not used in AR)


Craft House of Merchants Square, August 2, 2015, 8:01am

   This view is looking southeast from the corner of Duke of Gloucester and North Henry Street.

   The pavement now imitates the dirt the street would have had in the 18th century, while making it easy to walk on for pedestrian traffic. Most curbs are gone due to this stretch of the street no longer being open to vehicular traffic

   In 1935, the building on the corner was home to an A&P Food Market. It was open from 1932-1959. From 1959-1983, it went through a few tenants, a gift shop and two antique stores on the first floor, most notably a Colonial Bowling Parlor in the basement, among others. In 1983, The Craft House opened up, and remains there to this day.

Post Office / Christmas Store



The Christmas Shop in Merchant Square,
August 9, 2015, 9:20am

Unimpeded view of The Christmas Shop,
August 9, 2015, 9:20am

   In 1935, the city of Williamsburg was mainly still on Duke of Gloucester Street. Today, the city has spread out more. Municipal buildings are now not on the main stretch of the road. The post office has left Merchants Square. Williamsburg now has a couple, the closest to the Historic Area at 425 N. Boundary Street. A post office is still on Duke of Gloucester, but it is now a historic 18th century post office with limited mail services available. 

   The trees of 1935 are gone, as is the ivy and its wooden box. New plants and huge trees are now here, one tree blocking most of the 1935 view.

   For this picture, let's go building to building, starting from the left.

   In the leftmost shop was Pender's Grocery Store. For almost 50 years, this corner shop housed the Toymaker of Williamsburg Store, which closed in early 2014. The Everything Williamsburg Store now fills this space.

   The doorway and room left of the Post Office has now been demolished to create a breezeway to more shops on the backside of Merchants Square's main block.

   The Christmas Shop occupies the former Post Office left window and doorway. It is the oldest operating Christmas store in Williamsburg. The building itself is no longer painted white. Some has been left on, giving the building an aged, weathered look. New first floor windows and doorway jut out from the building, while flowerboxes hang from the second floor windows. Above the half-circle window at the top, the Post Office sign has been removed, but if you look carefully, you can still see evidence that something was there. The flagpole is also gone.

   The Trellis now occupies the rightmost window of the former Post Office, as well as the door and building to the right of the Post Office. Originally a Rexall Drugstore in 1935, The Trellis opened in November 1980. They have added an arbor and hanging grapevines along a ramp to their door.

John Blair House



John Blair House, August 13, 2015, 12:48pm

   The John Blair house is an original building. He's a pretty spiffy guy. The building you can see in the background on the left in 1935 is now the front building of the William and Mary Barnes' and Noble Bookstore. The Bruton Parish Store now sits between that and Blair's House, built 1938-1939 (the store itself opened in 1995). The cupola peeking out in the far background was a bank, now the DoG Street Pub.

   Like the Brafferton and Wren Buildings, no plants are close to the building anymore. A lot more trees are growing on the Bruton Parish Store site. Where I am standing is under a new small tree, which might have replaced the tree pictured at the top of the 1935 image. 

   This was the second time I tried to capture this shot. The shadows at that hour move quickly. Blink, and you will miss the right angle.

Bruton Parish Church

Bruton Parish Church (Picture not used in AR)


Bruton Parish Church, August 22, 2015, 11:45am

   The church is one of our town's original buildings. Built 1711-1716, it still holds church services to an active congregation. W.A.R. Goodwin partially restored the church in 1905. It was completely restored in 1939. This building is not owned by Colonial Williamsburg, but is open to the public with a suggested donation (Trust me, it's worth it).

   If the trees weren't blocking as much, you would see the church steeple now has plainer walls on its upper wooden levels. It also lost its clock (this picture was not based on time because it was hard to read the time on the picture) (10:25am?). The steeple was restored to its current look in 1939. Gone are the shutters and ivy. The trees are much smaller in 2015 than the ones in 1935.

Duke of Gloucester Street, Towards Capitol

View Towards Capitol (Picture not used in AR)


View Towards Capitol down Duke of Gloucester Street,
August 2, 2015, 5:36pm

   Unlike the caption on the Rockefeller Omeka stating "The east end of the Market Square lawn is visible in the foreground to the left," that lawn is actually the south end of the Palace Green.

   Beyond the Palace Green you can still see the Geddy House (which opened as a exhibition building in 1968). Way down the street is the Capitol and more trees. The right hand side of the street has changed dramatically. The building on the right in 1935 is the Travis House, where the Greenhow Store now stands. The Lumber House Ticket Office is now between our view and Greenhow. The road you can barely see on the right in 1935 is now gone (it led to a parking lot behind the Travis House).

But what happened to the Travis House? Find out in Part 3...

Sources Used:
"The Restoration of Colonial Williamsburg" Architectural Record, December 1935
"Behold Williamsburg" Book by Samuel Chamberlin, 1947
"Williamsburg Before and After" Book by George Humphrey Yetter, 1988
Bruton Parish Church Architectural Record
Merchants Square - Colonial Williamsburg
Merchants Square - National Register of Historic Places
Bruton Parish Shop
Bruton Parish Church History
"Geddy House, Wetherburn Tavern Will Open as Exhibition Buildings By 1968," CW News, February 9, 1966
"Merchants Square welcomes new Trellis Restaurant," CW News, November 1980
"Merchants Square welcomes new Craft House," CW News, April 1983
"Looking Back..." CW News, April 1983
"Governor's Palace Approach" blueprint, pg 71 of Landscape Architecture magazine, January 1937.

View the whole 35/15 Project:
Part 1 - College of William and Mary 
Part 2 - Merchants Square (You are currently viewing this one)
Part 3 - Buildings that Move
Part 4 - Market Square
Part 5 - Ludwell-Paradise
Part 6 - Queen Street to Botetourt Street
Part 7 - Raleigh Tavern
Part 8 - Paints
Part 9 - Botetourt Street to the Capitol Area
Part 10 - Capitol
Part 11 - No Longer Here
Part 12 - Francis and Nicholson Streets
Part 13 - Garden Edition
Part 14 - The Governor's Palace Gardens
Part 15 - Inside the Governor's Palace

Bonus 35/15 Posts:
35/15: A Dessert Order
35/15: Life in Williamsburg in 1935
35/15: Governor's Palace Wallpaper
35/15: Governor's Palace Wallpaper II

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