Monday, September 14, 2015

35/15 Part 10 - The Capitol

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.)

   "In 1705, after the seat of government had been moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg, the original Capitol was completed on this site. It burned in 1747 and a second building was erected on the foundation in 1751. Here the General Assembly of Virginia met until the seat of government was removed to Richmond in 1779 [1780]. This second building was destroyed by fire in 1832. . . . The Capitol of 1705 has been reconstructed on the old site and foundations, which were preserved and presented to Colonial Williamsburg, Incorporated, for that purpose by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. The building has been completely refurnished in accordance with original records. . . . The east wing was occupied by the House of Burgesses, with an assembly room on the first floor and committee rooms on the second. The west wing housed the General Court on the first floor and the Governor's Council on the second. A piazza on the first floor, between the two wings, served as a meeting place before and after assembly; over it, on the second floor, was a common room for prayers and conferences."
- Architectural Record, December 1935 

   The reconstructed Capitol opened to the public on February 23, 1934. From time to time, the current Virginia legislature has met here, so it has been used as a real seat of power.

   Let us go on a tour!

The Capitol from Blair Street



Capitol from Blair Street, July 24, 2015, 6:18pm

   Nowadays, there are only a few vantage points where you can get a good picture of the Capitol. The trees have taken over. You can still see the top of the Capitol's weather vane and the base of the wall.

   The back of a stop sign features prominently in the foreground. Further down the street are movable barriers to block vehicular traffic from 8am to 10pm. (If you ever get a chance, take a ride down the street at night). Wide oyster shell paths now carve their way next to the Capitol's wall.

   Back in 1935, there were 8 Paper Mullberry trees along that side of Blair Street. Now, there are 5-6. A lot of people say they look pretty bad/sickly. Well, I think that's just how they've always looked.




Capitol, August 12, 2015, 3:59pm


   Let's go inside.

House of Burgesses



House of Burgesses, 2015

   I love how much this room has not changed. You watch Story of a Patriot (1957) shown in the Visitor Center, and this room is still the same. 

   The floor looks shinier in 1935. The chandelier today is similar, yet not the same. Its ceiling topper is missing. Less props on the table.

Speaker's Chair



Back wall of the House of Burgesses, 2015

   The Speaker's Chair is no longer against the wall. Instead, it stands on a new platform a yard in front of the wall with ropes surrounding it.

Speaker's Chair, 2015

   This is an original from the first Capitol of 1705. When the Capitol burned down the first time, people pulled the chair out of the building. If you look closely, you can still see some damage marks from that fire. When the capital moved to Richmond, so did the chair. In 1930, the Commonwealth of Virginia loaned the chair to Colonial Williamsburg. A reproduction of this chair is now in the House of Delegates room in the Virginia Capital Building, built 1964 at the Cabinetmaker's Shop.

   The candlestick arms are now missing off the chair.

House of Burgesses



House of Burgesses, 2015

I don't know why the banister was added to. 

The 1935 paintings are King William III and Queen Mary II. They were on loan from William and Mary, and are now back. Now hangs the coronation portraits of King George III and Queen Charlotte. You can also see these exact paintings in the Palace Ballroom.

Committee Room



Committee Room, 2015

   This room is no longer visited on tours. You get a peek inside, but that is all. Just out of sight of visitors (and this shot) is an overhead projector. This room is sometimes used for employee training. I was good friends with this room during my training. 

   Were all the floors shiny back then? The furniture remaining has stayed pretty much the same. The only things missing here are the table props, the chandelier, and the warming machine.

   The warming machine on the left in 1935 is another original fixture of the Capitol. It was made for the 2nd Capitol in 1770. It is now on display in the Art Museums.

Capitol Warming Machine in
the Art Museums, 2015

   It is also not as shiny as it was in 1935.

Governor's Council Chamber



Governor's Council Room, 2015

   This room is blocked off from visitors, only viewable through the double doors at the back of the image.

   This is the only room that has been made fancier. Smaller, yet crystal chandelier and a fancy tablecloth added, while keeping those elaborate chairs? More props? The addition of the table in the back left? Also on the table is a square gray box with a digital number display, hiding from visitors behind books. This governor had all the luxuries!

   The only downgrade is the artwork, which makes sense if no one can see it. The portrait of Queen Anne and her coat of arms have now been traded out for maps.

General Court



   The woodwork and use of paint in here is gorgeous, but I digress. I matched this perspective (Though a little off, I was in a rush) by standing on a bench, which is how F.S. Lincoln would have had to get this shot. Good for you, Lincoln.

   The chairs for the justices are gone. They might be stools now, as they are at the other tables, or were out of the room at the time of shooting. The coat of arms above the Governor's chair is missing. Less props. The wooden platform wood is shiny.

The wall sconces are simpler, and the chandelier is gone. I want to imagine there's a whole warehouse of these missing chandeliers and wall sconces somewhere. 

North Side of the Capitol



North side of the Capitol, August 2, 2015, 7:29am

   Here again, I tried to match the time on the clock (7:25am) instead of the shadows. The final shot was taken a bit later because the sun was playing hide-and-seek.

August 2, 2015, 7:25/26 am... and no sun.

   Yet again, trees.

   On the Piazza, there is no iron circle anymore. That was used to show where the Botetourt statue was when it was in the Capitol. The statue was only a feature in the 2nd Capitol, when the Piazza was enclosed. This circle is no longer there. There are plenty of nice benches now for people to sit upon when it rains.

   The barrel is a camouflaged trash can. The brick path leading to the exit is now wider, matching the size of the exit. Finally, there are no longer screened doors here.

Thank you to all the Capitol staff, especially my friend who likes to blow bubbles.

Sources Used:
"The Restoration of Colonial Williamsburg" Architectural Record, December 1935
"Behold Williamsburg" Book by Samuel Chamberlin, 1947
"The Williamsburg Restoration and its Reception by the American Public 1935-1942" disseration by Thomas H. Taylor, 1989
Virtual Tour of the Virginia Capital

View the whole 35/15 Project:
Part 1 - College of William and Mary 
Part 2 - Merchants Square
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 (You are currently viewing this one)
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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