Wednesday, September 16, 2015

35/15 Part 11 - No Longer Here

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.)

   Dearly Departed... Here we rattle the ghosts of architectures past. Here the wisps of memories and the echoes of old stories remain. Here, we talk about what was in 1935, yet no longer in 2015. If you allow, we will shake the cobwebs up for these stories of old.

Kerr / Palmer House Kitchen


Palmer House backyard from Blair Street, 2015

   The 2015 picture is an approximation, drawn from the location of the fences, and the ability to see the main house to the left of the kitchen in the 1935 image. Missing is the gate, its path, and the kitchen.

   This missing kitchen was a reconstruction built sometime between 1932-1935 for the Kerr House, now known as the Palmer House. It was built behind the house next to Blair Street.

The 1947 book Behold Williamsburg states that the kitchen was used as "an atmospheric shop for the sale of books, etchings and old prints."

   The Palmer House property was restored to its colonial appearance 1951-1953 after the life tenant passed away. After archaeological excavations, the various outbuildings and current kitchen building were built on their original locations during this time. Nothing I have read thus far says what happened to the previous kitchen building or why it was built by Blair Street in the first place.

The current Palmer House kitchen, 2015

   The present-day kitchen, while looking similar with two dormer windows, is elevated, and the chimney is built into the wall, instead of jutting out. In the architectural report done on the property, it's noted as a reconstruction during 1951-1953.

   Pure speculation on my behalf: Perhaps the Restoration owned the land behind the Kerr House, couldn't do anything on the actual Kerr House property, and wanted to fill in blank spaces on Blair Street?

   It is possible the kitchen has moved somewhere else in the Historic Area, behind some other house. If someone finds it in the nearly 600 18th century-looking buildings, I will treat you to Aroma's.

Lamp Post


   This picture is here, because no one seems to know which lamp post was photographed. It's possible this lamp post has moved or been taken away entirely. In the November 1936 Architectural Record, this picture is shown with the caption, "On the Corner of Duke of Gloucester Street." The Rockefeller Library Omeka theorizes it was somewhere near Bruton Parish Church on Duke of Gloucester Street. Me? I have my own theory.

I drove down DoG Street and the Palace Green (August 2nd before 8am, the same morning I took the early-bird Capitol picture). I did not see any lamp that had a similar building behind it. During my breaks from work on another day, I looked down side roads. Typically in Williamsburg, chimneys are on the sides of smaller buildings, so it could be possible the lamp was down one of those. No luck.

I was kept thinking about it, then about a certain former building with a very simple chimney and two dormer windows...


Lamp post? 2015

   Here is my theory. I think the lamp post is on the corner of DoG Street and Blair Street. In 1935, you would have been able to see the lamp post and the Palmer House Kitchen, which has since been removed. The lamp post matches the same design as the one pictured.

Lamp Post in question, 2015. Palmer House is on the right.
Palmer House 1935 kitchen would have been behind on the left.

   If this indeed the same lamp post, its post has changed from white to dark green.

James City County Courthouse

"The first Colonial court house was built on this site in 1715. It was superseded by the Court House of 1770 which still stand on the Duck of Gloucester Street. A new building of Colonial design has been erected on the original site; it serves as a Court House for James City County and a City Hall for Williamsburg."
 - Architectural Review, December 1935

2015: August 2nd, 6:05pm, between the Nicholas-Tyler Office and Laundry buildings on Francis Street.

Between Nicholas Tyler Office and Laundry, 2015

   Missing is the court house and its brick entrance path, but there are more trees, fences, and cars.

   It seems too good to be true that anything could be left from the 1935 shot. I really did not think I would be able to find anything when I ventured over here. It seemed very peculiar the white fence went by on an angle, then a blank space, then picked up again, following the angle, yet leaving a straight line in the opening parallel to the road.

   A line shown on the Frenchmen's Map of 1782 goes from the corner of the Nicholas Tyler Office to the corner of the Nicholas Tyler House, which also could have been the courthouse.

   After the town agreed to give the courthouse over, a new one had to be built. The court building pictured was erected around 1931 on the southwest corner of Francis and South England Streets. Some time passed. A new building was built for the courts on Newport Avenue between Henry and Nassau Streets in the 60's-70's. This building was then used by the Fife and Drum Corp as a practice space until their current building was ready in 1978. This building was subsequently demolished to excavate for the Nicholas-Tyler House foundations. Now, the area serves as a parking lot for the Williamsburg Lodge.

   The court building itself was bigger than the 1935 picture shows. What we are seeing is the short side of a roughly rectangular building.

   The James City County Courthouse has moved yet again. They can now be found on 5201 Monticello Avenue by the New Town shopping district.

Path by Capitol/Coke-Garrett House


Looking towards the Capitol from the Coke-Garret House, 2015

   The trees have filled in quite nicely over the years, you can barely see the Capitol behind its wall. A lot has stayed the same, the lamppost, the utility box cover near it, and the oyster shell path (no longer having a border or is as wide). What has disappeared? A road.

What you see in 1935 is a result of unfinished acquisitions. Until 1937, the Secretary's Office was still not owned by Colonial Williamsburg. Its front property line was slanted, and right in front of it was Capitol Avenue. Due to this, the Foundation could not finish the Capitol's square wall, instead building as much as they could and building a temporary wooden fence against the road.

   After the 18th Century but before the Restoration, the roads on both sides of the Capitol cut across its property diagonally. See a really good picture HERE.

   As the wall was unfinished and Williamsburg did not want to show the world that it was unfinished, you won't find many pictures of this time, especially online. Typically, you will see it at the end of a picture, such as this F.S. Lincoln picture from the North side, standing on Capitol Avenue. I don't know when Capitol Avenue disappeared.

   You can still see evidence of where the wall initally ended. On either side, there are bricks in a line that stand out, like they connected the two pieces at a later time.

North side of Capitol Wall, 2015
Added bricks 1/4 in from the right

   A little on the 20th Century life of the Secretary's Office. It was owned by the Jones Family. Mr. Jones was the life tenant in the building from 1937 until his death in 1964. The Jones' family plot is east of the Office. Dates are left off, presumably to keep the year of their deaths ambiguous in this "18th century" town.

Capitol Circle



Capitol Circle, August 2, 2015, 6:18pm

   I wanted one good photo of the Capitol not entirely obscured by trees. Here is the best. It appears in this section because on the left hand side of the wall in 1935, you can see another sliver of the wooden wall.

   The trees make the Capitol look smaller than they used to. The door is now painted black, while the balcony railing has been painted white. The brick sidewalk in the foreground still curves, but now curves away from dirt instead of many plants. A modern drain has been added in the gutter.

Now that their stories have been told, may all these places hereafter rest in peace.

Sources Used:
"The Restoration of Colonial Williamsburg" Architectural Record, December 1935
Architectural Record, November 1936
"Williamsburg Before and After" Book by George Humphrey Yetter, 1988
"Behold Williamsburg" Book by Samuel Chamberlin, 1947
[PDF] Buildings located in Neighborhoods in an Architectural Preservation District - Williamsburg
Palmer House Architectural Report
Nicholas-Tyler House Archaeological Report
James City Courthouse, 20th Century Williamsburg History Binders, Guest Services and Orienatation
Williamsburg Postcards

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
Part 11 - No Longer Here (You are currently viewing this one)
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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