Monday, September 28, 2015

35/15 Part 15 - Inside the Palace

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.)

   Here we are. The final photo part. Inside the Palace.

   The Governor's Palace was originally built from 1706 to 1722. As the years went on and the project (and taxpayer cost) continued to grow longer, people sarcastically started calling the mansion a "palace." The name stuck. A later addition of the Ballroom wing was added to the back of the house sometime between 1749 and 1751.

   Seven royal governors lived here, the last two, which we will talk about more, were Lord Botetourt and Lord Dunmore. After Dunmore fled, Virginia's first two elected governors lived here, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. In 1780, the Virginia government moved to Richmond, leaving the Palace behind. After sitting empty for a bit of time, it became a hospital for American soldiers. In December 1781, the main building of the Palace caught on fire and burned down. The advance buildings and other outbuildings survived until the Civil War, where they were taken apart for their bricks.

   When the site was acquired for the Restoration, many buildings were on the property. Notably, two schools were in the Palace's front yard, one a new 1921 high school. Roads and power lines crossed the property. A power plant and railroad station were located at the back of the property. Everything had to be demolished.

   Excavation work started in 1930. Information from the foundations, artifacts found, plans drawn by Thomas Jefferson, and the Bodliean Plate led to an accurate reconstruction of the Palace. The Palace opened to the public during Garden Week, April 23, 1934.

   The Palace was first interpreted as period rooms, not entirely conveying one particular resident governor. It was based off the Palace inventories of Governor Fauquier and Botetourt, with a little bit of "might have been" interpretations as well. Like the rest of Williamsburg, it was unintentionally styled in what is now called the Colonial Revival style. It was a fantastical romanticism of what 18th century life was actually like.

   In 1981, the Palace interiors got a complete refresh. Using the detailed Botetourt inventory, taken of the Palace at the time of his death, an accurate portrayal of all Palace life was created. Botetourt resided in the reconstructed Palace 25 years (much longer than his actual 2 years).

   When the interpretation of town advanced some years to "Revolutionary City," consisting of the events leading up to and during the Revolutionary War, the Governor became Lord Dunmore. No complete inventory remained from his tenure, though he did make a Losses of War declaration of some of the things he left at the Palace when he fled. Dunmore also bought some of former Governor Fauquier's furnishings, so his items are based off of some of Fauquier's. 

   And that's where we are today. Let's look around!

The Governor's Palace



Governor's Palace, July 28, 2015, 9:49am

   [Same picture, but the one in the Architectural Record was cropped right before tree's trunk on the right]

   This view has largely remained unchanged. Unlike the Capitol, the Palace has retained good sightlines. Lincoln framed a quite a few of his shots around town under tree branches. I am happy that one of his shots still retains a similar view.

   The front gates and balcony railing are now painted white. The extra exterior doors have been removed. Bushes by the front wall and house are gone. Old trees in the front courtyard have mostly disappeared except for one, while the trees of the Palace Gardens adds a new backdrop for the main house. There are less posts around, it looks like they were used to deter parking on pedestrian paths and grasses.

   There are now walkways to benches by the front wall. For many decades, this was where cannons stood. You can still see the stones where the cannons' wheels and trails rested. 

East Advance Building



   The last time we were in here, we were looking at its paint

   Any tour of the Governor's Palace begins in one of these rooms. Typically, visitors begin in the West Advance building, but pictured here is the East Advance Building. The East Advance is used for escorted groups and special programs.

In the 18th century, these buildings would have been used for extra Palace services, offices, and/or servants' quarters. In 1935, it appears to be the governor's office or meeting room. For its current usage, furnishings now consist of chairs.

   The Portrait you can see in 2015 is of Governor Spotswood, the Governor who was involved prominently in the Palace's construction, the over-budget costs, and its completion.

   One paint change, the fireplace border under the mantle has gone from black to white.

The Hall

   (I'm going to help you out during this section. Since we aren't physically going on a tour of the Palace while reading this (Unless you are, which would be rude to the interpreters working there who know more than I do), I'm throwing in this map guide. It is not to scale, but it'll help you keep your bearings.)

We are starting out in the Hall, the front entryway of the Governor's Palace.



Hall Fireplace, 2015

   The walnut paneling and the marble floor are due to finding evidence of both in the Palace excavation. The original marble floor was believed to be the first in Virgina. Also found in the excavation were pieces of the fireplace marble, which were incorporated into the reconstructed one.

   The most major change are the arms on the wall. This is to symbolize the power of the crown. While there is no record of how many arms were used during Botetourt's time, from 1981-2006 there were "180 muskets, 223 pistols, no broad or small swords and 186 curved-blade sabers," on the walls. There is documentation for how many arms were there after Dunmore left in 1775. Colonists inventoried "230 muskets, 18 incomplete pistols, 158 broadswords and 134 small swords." The arms displays now reflect that number (Governor's Palace 2006 Closing Summary).

   The coat of arms was above the fireplace until 2006. The glass globe was added in 2006. The chair has been changed out. The red and white checked fabric is actually a cover over the actual fabric. These are taken off during the winter time. Please watch this video and go to 2:39 to see how beautiful the chairs in the Palace are.

   Aaaaaaaaaand this is the only interior Palace picture used in the December 1935 Architectural Record. A better representation of the Palace appeared in the November 1936 Architectural Record. Why so few in 1935? Even though the Palace had already opened, the 1935 AR mentioned that the Palace interiors were still incomplete. It is possible they wanted to fill out the rooms a bit more before they did a spread on the inside.

   Guess we'll have to wait for the 36/16 Photo Project. We're all done here!

   I'm totally joking. If we are throwing a finale, we are doing it right. Let's visit some more rooms in the Palace.

 Little Dining Room / Butler's Pantry



Butler's Pantry, 2015

   It was here where the first test to recreate an authentic Palace experience was attempted. It was originally interpreted as the Governor's family dining room, showcasing early 18th century styles. According to Botetourt's inventory (a document 1930's Restoration architects had), it suggests this was more of a butler's pantry. In 1976, curators made the change and premiered it during that year's Antiques Forum. People pretty much had a fit over the changes. "There was so much fuss from friends and supporters, who feared we were about systematically to dismantle a Taj Mahal, that [CW President] Humelsine put the breaks on further Palace changes for the time being," recalled Graham Hood, chief curator during the 1981 Palace refit (Palace Days). After more researching and persuading, the Palace project was approved.

   Most of the decor in here has changed. The fireplace andirons and fireback have remained the same, as has the wall paneling and the rest of the fireplace.

Another view of the Butler's Pantry, 2015



Fireplace in the Butler's Pantry, 2015

   The reinterpretations of the Palace are more on changing furniture and repainting than about changing architectural features.

   Pieces of the marble fireplace are original, fitted together with new pieces.




Palace Parlor, 2015

   This has always been the Parlor! What a relief. Its furnishings have all been changed out.

   In 2015, it looks like the Governor was writing correspondences. A slightly messy look gives the effect that the house is lived-in. If the 1935 chess scene was recreated today, no doubt the pieces would be moved around to make it look like two people were in the middle of a match and had just stepped away.



Palace Parlor Fireplace, 2015

   This was reconstructed, based on fragments found and a similar mantle located at Eltham Hall near London, England.

Palace Staircase



Palace Staircase, 2015

   The elaborate stairs of the Palace. Don't you wish you had these in your house? I do.

   New handrails have been added for visitors, with hidden lights on the bottom to better illuminate the staircase. Most people don't realize how dark houses can get using only window light.

Muskets, Buckets, and Posts at the Stairs, 2015

    More muskets are featured throughout the staircase and halls. The shelf the guns were resting upon is gone. Now a row of chairs are there. Also added is another glass globe and buckets.

Southeast Bedchamber



Palace Bedchamber, 2015

   Pre-1981, the second floor of the Palace was interpreted as Governor Botetourt had it, so the Botetourt party up here went for 72 years. Since he was a bachelor, and his bedchamber was the southwest room, this was most likely a guest room. Since Dunmore moved in the Palace, it has been... a guest room.

   The Bed has changed out, the new bed's back facing the south wall instead of the east. No more elaborate curtains and window treatments, no side table, no armchair. A smaller carpet rest beside the bed. (The room isn't entirely empty, there are more items in the corner of the room you cannot see. For example, I was carefully playing Twister with a wash basin to get this perspective. We succeeded in not touching).



Southeast Bedchamber Fireplace Detail, 2015

 Upper Middle Room



Upper Middle Room, 2015

   This is the Upper Middle Room. This was Lord Botetourt's audience room, where he would meet with people to discuss matters. In Lord Dunmore's household, Lady Dunmore has laid claim to this room. This is her dressing/sitting room.

   The walls in 1935 were covered in actual 18th century gilted leather wallpaper. It was put here because of a 1710 proposal "That the great Room in the second story be furnished with gilt Leather hangings. 16 chairs of the same" (Dec 1935 AR). It lasted through each refit, finally retiring in 2011 due to deterioration. The walls were adorned with red damask fabric with gold borders in 2013.

   The floor is less shiny, as has been par for the course here. The furnishings and chandelier have changed here. Carpet is placed here seasonally, though not in the summer months, to protect it from being walked on during hot and humid times.

Southwest Bedroom



   There is no other F.S. Lincoln picture on the Rockefeller Library Omeka of this room. Judging by Lincoln's other fireplace photos, he always took shots of the whole room as well. I wouldn't be surprised if there was one, just lost for the time being. It's a fairly important room. This was Botetourt's bedchamber, and now Lord and Lady Dunmore's. 

  I like how it looks like the same fire tool is resting against the tile work here. The Dutch tile work is based of some that were found during the excavation.




The Study, 2015

   Here is Botetourt's study/library. In his inventory, no bookshelf is listed in his furnishings, yet all of his books were here. Nothing was put here in 1934. In 1981, they constructed a built-in bookshelf, which wouldn't have been counted as furniture because it was part of the wall and unmovable. Now, this room is Lord Dunmore's Office.

    The floor is now carpeted, and the furnishings are all different.The Chinese wallpaper was removed in 1981. Botetourt's inventory listed twenty prints hanging in the Study, which would have covered up such fanciful wallpaper. So would the new bookcase. With no actual evidence supporting it being there, it was decided the space did not have this kind of wallpaper.

Ball Room



Palace Ballroom, 2015

   It's time to dance! Here we are in the Palace Ballroom, the biggest room in all of 18th century Williamsburg. Since it was built at a later time than the rest of the house, the Ballroom and Supper Room are both based on later architectural periods and styles.

   It is a lot busier in here. Shiny floors gave way in 1981 to the geometric (almost trippy) carpet. The Portraits of Queen Charlotte and King George III grace this doorway leading to the Supper Room.

   The paint in here has always been blue. In the 1930's, it was painted on the plaster walls, so it was not as vibrant. Starting 1981, the walls were papered, which helped make that blue pop. Gold borders were added around the room in 2006.

Palace Ballroom Chandeliers, 2015

   The Chandeliers have been changed out. The 1935 chandeliers were still hanging here in 2001 when they were all cleaned, and then were removed in 2006. 

   The harpsichord has also been changed out. The 1935 one is still in the Museum's collection (most likely at the Art Museums). The one currently in the Ballroom looks to be this one.



Ballroom Pediment, 2015

   This is the doorway leading back to the main part of the house. The "GR" stands for Georgius Rex, King George II, the ruler when this part of the Palace was built.

 Supper Room



Supper Room, 2015

   This is looking towards the southwest. The doors pictured go through to the Ballroom. Here, they were showing off the Chinese influence on the English world. The ornamentation in here is a mix of Neo-classical and Chinese styles. The late David Brinkley, a well-known TV news anchor and CW Board of Trustee, called this room "the most beautiful room in America" (Palace Days).

   The iconic wallpaper was taken down in 1981. I will talk more about the wallpaper here. In 1981, the room was interpreted as a room undergoing repairs, as it was in 1770. Little to nothing was in here. Its carpet was not present, listed in Botetourt's inventory as rolled up on the third floor. The walls were whitewashed. With Dunmore's arrival, the walls were re-papered and painted green with added gold borders. The carpet was "brought downstairs" to cover the floor.

   Chinese influence still remains. The flourishes in the moulding and door pediments remain. The chandelier looks to be the same, just without the hurricane glass or added jewels.

   Pictured is one of the warming stoves used to heat the Supper Room and Ballroom. They were installed in 1981. Fun Fact #1: The modern pipe doesn't go entirely through the wall. The Supper Room exhaust pipe goes through the plaster but stops before the brick. The illusion that it does go through is carried out through an exterior exhaust pipe attached to the side of the building. Same with the Ballroom. Fun Fact #2: Both warming stoves used to face sideways. In 2006, they were both rotated to their present orientation based on instructions in Botetourt's inventory as to how to install these stoves. Facing the stoves this way also makes it easier to fill it with coal.



Supper Room Door Pediment, 2015

   Both pediments are the same in this room, so I do not know which door was photographed. The doors photographed in 2015 are the ones heading into the Ballroom.



Supper Room Window Detail, 2015

   Again, with every window having this detail, I am not sure which window was used in 1935. I chose the one that was lit the best.

Bonus: 3rd Floor Window



Palace Green, July 10, 2015, 11:56am

   Here's a view of the Palace Green from the center third floor window. In 1935, you could see a bit farther. Now the view ends with trees. Look at those baby Catalpas! In the courtyard below, it seems like there are some bushes that are no longer present in the current garden design.

   That 1935 Carriage? I brought these pictures to the stable/carriage house. No one recognized it. I was able to learn that it is a late 19th-early 20th century style coach, being either a Coupe or a Brougham. I am assuming once Williamsburg got their hands on some 18th century carriages, they retired this one.

   As you exit the Palace, our last stop, you exhale. Out of relief? Exhaustion? From the adrenaline due to history running through your veins? What a walk we've had through time, the 18th, 20th, and 21st centuries all at once.
   Everything will be wrapped up in the Conclusion.

A big thank you goes out to the Palace staff. Thank you so much for all the help. I could not have done this without your cooperation and help. A great big thank you goes to Colleen Prosser for allowing me permission to photograph quickly between tours.  

Sources Used:
"The Restoration of Colonial Williamsburg" Architectural Record, December 1935
"Williamsburg Before and After" Book by George Humphrey Yetter, 1988
Interview with Emily Doherty
Interview with Dan Hard
Fact corrections by Colleen Prosser

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
Part 13 - Garden Edition
Part 14 - The Governor's Palace Gardens
Part 15 - Inside the Governor's Palace (You are currently viewing this one)

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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