Monday, September 7, 2015

35/15 Part 7 - The Raleigh Tavern

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 Raleigh Tavern is one of Williamsburg's more historic locations. It was the city's societal center. Balls were held here, second only to the ones at the Governor's Palace. Phi Beta Kappa fraternity was founded here. When the Governor dissolved the House of Burgesses (twice), the delegates met in the Apollo Room. Unfortunately, the tavern burned down in 1859.

   The Raleigh you see today is a reconstruction, but an important building itself. This was the first exhibition building, open to the public on September 16, 1932. Originally it was going to be an eatery, but not all the supplies came in time. In the meantime, due to guest interest, it opened in preview for people to walk through. It became so popular as an exhibition building, CW abandoned the idea of dining here altogether. Some of the upstairs back rooms were used as lodging rooms for traveling scholars or VIPs. On special occasions, meals have been served here (such as during the Williamsburg Economic Summit of 1983).

   Around 1999 or 2000, the Raleigh ceased to be an exhibition building. It was and continues to be used for special programming for visitors, and a break room and offices for employees. If you want a glimpse today at 18th century tavern life, you can visit Weatherburn's Tavern, an original building across the street and down the block, but it pales in comparison to the history of the Raleigh.

Raleigh Tavern Exterior



Raleigh Tavern, May 22, 2015, 11:43am

   The Tavern exterior has remained almost unchanged since its reconstruction. The main additions are a closed sign on the door, and a second board for broadsides.

   Plants! The plants by the building are now gone. The grass has been bricked over. One tree now towers over the Raleigh from this view.

   In miscellany, a couple of hitching rails remain. A new sign has been added, explaining the importance of the Raleigh. Benches move around, sometimes daily.

   For some reason, I thought I needed to retake this picture. I am including it for it shows some changes that happened in just this summer:

Raleigh Tavern, August 12, 2015, 12:31pm
   Three things. One, a tree branch that reached toward the Raleigh is now gone. Two, the ball on top of the Raleigh Tavern's signpost is missing (The post did not get shorter, I was at the wrong angle). Three, the closed sign is no longer used on the door as often.

Apollo Room



Apollo Room, July 28, 2015

   The Apollo Room is one of the biggest rooms in Williamsburg. It is used for dancing programs, happenings, games, and other special programs. It has become more of a flex space. As such, the chairs change all the time depending on the needs of the program.

  The inscription above the fireplace, "Hilaritas Spientiae et Bonae Vitae Proles," means "Jollity, the offspring of wisdom and good living."

   All the furniture is gone but chairs, which are different. Sconces have been added between the windows. The floor looks like it was treated or polished in 1935. The floor has either been replaced or the treatment removed since then.

Daphne Room



Daphne Room, May 22, 2015

   [The Architectural Record picture used for the 2015 photo is from a slightly different angle (and vertical). The correct picture could not be found on the Omeka site.]

   The Daphne Room is a smaller, private dining room.

   Out of all the rooms in the Raleigh, the Daphne is the best to show off the effect of moving away from the Colonial Revival period. The Colonial Revival period was a 1930's adaptation of the colonial period, romanticizing what life was like. A beautiful style in its own right, but in a living history museum prided on its authenticity, it did not fit in. It would take a few decades, but eventually rooms were simplified and renovated to become more authentic for how 18th century Williamsburg townspeople lived.

   The name of the portrait on the wall in 1935 is unknown, dubbed "Family Group with Two Servants," painted in England in 1790.


Daphne Room Fireplace



Daphne Room Fireplace, May 22, 2015

   Here is the other side of the Daphne Room. Again, all the furniture and decor has been changed out.

   The painting over the fireplace in 1935 is called "Imaginary Landscape," donated by Mrs. Rockefeller.

Public Dining / Billiard  Room Fireplace



Billiard Room, August 7, 2015

   This was the Public Dining Room. In 2015, it is known as the Billiard Room. Up until recently it held a billiard table. The table was removed last winter, so it is now sometimes nicknamed the Billiard-less Room.

   The map over the fireplace in 1935 was carried by Lafayette during his campaign around the colonies.

   The wood paneling in here has gone from unpainted to painted. The bottom cabinet door to the side of the fireplace does not close. The air conditioning vent is hidden inside of it, so the door is now bolted open.

Public Dining / Billiard Room

"Interior View of Dining Room in the Raleigh Tavern"

[I could not find this photograph on the Omeka site or one similar from this angle, so I have photographed it from my book]


Billiard Room, August 7, 2015

   Here is the other side of the Billiard Room. Like the other two rooms, furniture moves around as is convenient for whatever program is inside here. For most of this summer, this room was used for How We Know What We Know, a program bringing one of our scholars/researchers to explain how we know what we know to the masses. It is also used by Escape the King -- an Escape the Room-type evening program.

   Why the double doors in 1935? They led to the kitchen building. When the Raleigh Tavern was reconstructed, it intentionally had its kitchen inauthentically attached to the back of the Tavern, so it would be easier to bring the food in for modern diners. After it was decided the Raleigh was not to be eaten at, the Kitchen was used as a private residence until CW decided to part ways with it.

   The kitchen was bought and moved in 1950 to the corner of Burns Lane and Goodwin Street. It is still there today as a private residence with building additions and a new paint scheme. The detached and correctly placed kitchen now at the Raleigh was built in 1952. 

   The most notable change is the addition of hooks lining the wall on the right, and sconces on the others.

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
"Titanic Truck Tows Tavern Thru Town," CW News, November 1950
Memo from Nancy Milton re: Raleigh Tavern, 2/25/1998, 20th Century Williamsburg Folder, GS&O Department
Interview with Beth Kelly

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 (You are currently viewing this one)
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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