Friday, September 18, 2015

35/15 Part 12 - Francis and Nicholson Streets

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.)

   The roads in town that run parallel of Duke of Gloucester are named Francis Street and Nicholson Street. A colonial governor who set up Williamsburg's city, Francis Nicholson, named the streets after himself, because that is what one does when one can.

   The initial restoration of Williamsburg mainly covered Duke of Gloucester Street, but some buildings on Nicholson and Francis Streets were also restored and added. As Colonial Williamsburg has aged, these streets have been filled out more.

   Like DoG Street, Nicholson is closed off from vehicular traffic. Francis Street is still open to cars.

Basset Hall Gate - Francis Street



Basset Hall Gate, August 9, 2015, 11:23am

   Bassett Hall, an original building, was the in-town residence for Mr. and Mrs. Rockefeller off of Francis Street. After a fire in 1930, the life tenants traded the house for a cottage next door. After the house was repaired in 1936, the Rockefeller's moved in. They stayed here every fall and spring for six weeks. In 1979, the Rockefeller family gave the house to Colonial Williamsburg, which turned it into a museum. The house is currently open for tours every Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Unlike the rest of town, the house and grounds are set in the 1940's, when the Rockefeller's lived there. It truly is one of Colonial Williamsburg's hidden gems. 

   This is the view from Francis Street, looking up the driveway leading to Bassett Hall. The house can be seen at the very end of the drive. The gate is now perpetually closed and painted white. There is a pedestrian gate that opens on the left of the main gate for visitors to walk up.

The trees are not the same trees. The 1935 trees are right on the edges of the entrance road. The 2015 trees are farther back. There are less plants inside the gate, but now there are plants in front of the gate.

The Semple / William Finnie House - Francis Street



William Finnie House, July 28, 2015, 2:35pm

   This original house is rumored to be designed by Thomas Jefferson, and at one time mistakenly said to be the Peyton Randolph house. By 1935, it was known as the Semple House. It retained this name until 1986, when it was changed to the William Finnie House. When it was restored in 1932, the building only had slight alterations done, due to the building not changing much since the 18th century. The building is currently used for administrative offices. 

   St. George Tucker described this house as "the handsomest house in town," and I have to agree it is one of my favorites.

   In 2015, the fence is not as far out as it used to be. The fence's pattern is fancier now and the gate is an entirely different color. The sidewalk path is now brick. Plants have come and gone. The building has stayed the same.

Keeper's Quarters at the Public Gaol - Nicholson Street



Keeper's Quarters in the Gaol, 2015

("Gaol" is pronounced and has the same meaning as "Jail," it's only spelled differently.)

   This building is partially original. The Keepers Quarters and western jail rooms are reconstructed, opened to the public March 1, 1936. F.S. Lincoln did not take any exterior shots of the Gaol nor the prison rooms.  

   The basic structure of the room has not changed. The room is much plainer than it was. Less props in here. Most likely, to fit as many people as possible, bigger furniture pieces were taken out. Look! Floors that were never shiny!

   It looks like the chimney in 1936 was actually used. There was a smudge over lip of the fireplace, now gone. The chimney in 2015 looks more black, suggesting it was used more since 1935.

The Quarter - Francis Street



The Quarter, August 9, 2015, 8:38am

   The Quarter! In a town of huge houses and shops, this one is so tiny. It sits right next to the road that goes to the Williamsburg Inn's car loop. I never knew it existed until I saw the picture, the Inn always captured my attention.

   The Quarter was believed to be servants' quarters. By 1947, it was being used as a guesthouse for the Williamsburg Inn. For folks staying there back then, "hot breakfast [was] pedalled down to them in an insulated velocipede." Today, it is still used as a Colonial House you can stay in.

   On the building itself, the screen is gone off of the door. Decorative grass is now growing next to the house. The fence line has moved back to be in line with the front of the house. The big tree on the right in 1935 is now gone, replaced by a new tree.

Nicholas-Tyler Office - Francis Street



Nicholas Tyler Office, August 2, 2015, 5:56pm

   The building itself is a reconstruction, but its chimney is original, reused in the new building. It was part of the James City County Courthouse lot, used as a library from 1933 to 1973. It had a capacity for 10,000 books! Now, it is yet another house you can sleep a wink in as part of the Colonial Houses division.

   The property is named after two of its owners, Robert Carter Nicholas and John Tyler, President of the United States. Roscoe Cole also owned the building, in-between Mr. Nicholas and Mr. Tyler (Don't feel too bad for him, he has his name on another house right on Market Square).

   Look at all the brick that is no longer here! By the 1960's, they had discovered the building had been actually covered in weatherboard siding, so the the siding was put up. The brick wall was removed later.

   That lamppost is probably the same one as in 1935.

The St. George Tucker House - Nicholson Street


"... St. George Tucker, who succeeded George Wythe as professor of law at the College of William and Mary. He was an accomplished author in the fields of law and letters, and for his legal works was called, "the American Blackstone." His descendants continue to live here. The house has been restored."
- Architectural Record, December 1935 


St. George Tucker House, July 14, 2015, 4:45pm

   And we are back at the Tucker House, former Tucker residence, present-day Donor Reception Center. A fun story I heard when I first toured it: When Colonial Williamsburg acquired the property in 1993, they had their top donors walk through. They told the donors their plan to renovate the house into a place for a donor center. At the end of the tour, Williamsburg had gained around $200,000 for the renovation.*

   It looks a lot less wild here today. The plants are controlled. The path now has pepples, instead of looking like people wore the grass away to create a desire path to cut the upcoming corner. The boxwood has grown in the garden. Oh, and there is a new tree dominating the sky from this angle.

St. George Tucker House - Nicholson Street



St. George Tucker House, July 14, 2015, 4:05pm

   Again, less wild. Less plants by the house. The fence has remained the same. The trees have been replaced. Those 1935 ones must have been fun to climb. The path to the front steps is still the same. 

St. George Tucker House Kitchen Chimney - Nicholson Street



Tucker Kitchen Chimney, August 4, 2015, 6:12pm

Less obstructed view of chimney

   The first Williamsburg F.S. Lincoln photograph in the Architectural Record was this shot of the Tucker House Chimney. It is quite striking.

   The biggest change here is how high the boxwood have grown. There is boxwood almost a full story high. It is very happy here.

   CW's first landscape architect, Arthur Shurcliff, was very fond of boxwood. According to Elizabeth Cushing's book on Shurcliff, "By March 1934 the Restoration had purchased and transplanted one and a half miles of dwarf and tree box." Maybe saying he was fond of it is an understatement...

   We will talk more about Shurcliff next time in the Garden Edition!!

Sources Used:
"The Restoration of Colonial Williamsburg" Architectural Record, December 1935
"Williamsburg Before and After" Book by George Humphrey Yetter, 1988
"Behold Williamsburg" Book by Samuel Chamberlin, 1947
"Who is Grissell Hay and What is she Doing at Archibald Blair's House?" Fresh Advices, May 1986
"Our Little Colonial House"
"Williamsburg Facts & Fiction 1900-1950" Book by Ed Belvin, 2002
[PDF] Colonial Williamsburg Colonial Houses Guide
"Colonial Williamsburg Official Guidebook & Map," 1960
"Aruthur A. Shurcliff: Design, Preservation, and the Creation of the Colonial Williamsburg Landscape," Book by Elizabeth Hope Cushing, 2014
* I heard this in on a tour in 2014, $200,000 is the amount I remember, but I could not find any other source with this story, so I apologize if the number is not right. Please correct me if I am wrong.

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
Part 12 - Francis and Nicholson Streets (You are currently viewing this one)
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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