Tin Shop Construction Draws to a Close.


Plan for the Reconstructed Armoury (Tin Shop shown farthest right).

Plan for the Reconstructed Armoury (Tin Shop shown farthest right).

Three-and-a-half short months ago our Historic Trades team raised the frame for the new Tin Shop.  Some of you may  have braved the cold and the pre-holiday rush to be present for that event.  It may seem hard to believe, but in the coming week construction on the Tin Shop draws to a close.  Once sealed with a coat of tar paint, the Tin Shop will join the Blacksmith Shop, the Kitchen, and the North Storage Building as part of the rapidly growing Armoury complex. 

This week’s gallery offers a look at recent activity on the site.  As you will see, the action is shared among the carpenters, joiners, and brick masons who have so ably reconstructed 4 Armoury buildings to date (3 remain!), the researchers who help to inform that work, and the many trades- and interpretive staff whose extraordinary skills and knowledge bring the Armoury to life.   This is truly a team effort!


  1. Peg Frankfurt says

    I’m not sure if I’m seeing correctly, but from the webcam of 7:23 pm your time, it looks like there might be some water issues around the newly constructed tin-shop. I was just wondering if this was correct. I believe there is some “digging” going on in the area, will that be a problem, too?

  2. Christine Hansley says

    Hi Meredith,
    First and foremost thank you for all the info you pass along to all of us.
    What does tar paint consist of? What color will the building be? The Kitchen is that reddish brown and the Armoury is white. Were most buildings these two colors in the 18th century? I was surprised when I came to Williamsburg years ago and the Randolph house had gone from white with black shutters to all reddish brown. Including the shutters. I was disappointed. But I understand the need for accuracy when it is known.
    With the roving cam looking at the Tin Shop, we have not been able to see the progress you and the dig crew members have made. I know you will wrap-up soon for a short time. Can you give us an update as to what if anything has been found in the early season dig.
    Also, when will you be back at the dig-site.
    Hoping for a dry Spring,

    • CWResearch says

      You read my mind. I am putting the finishing touches (wrestling with formatting, actually) on an archaeological update. It will be posted within the next hour. We are briefly absent from the Armoury site, but will be back at work after May 15th.

      As for the Tin Shop, it will (once the skies clear) be given a coat of tar paint, which means that it will look like the kitchen. The mixture that we use consists of three parts pine tar, two parts linseed oil, and one part iron oxide pigment. It has to be heated to about 190 degrees before it can be applied, so the process is a bit more involved than your typical paint application. Tar paint was commonly used during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and resulted in a durable protective coat. One of our objectives in choosing this finish for both the kitchen and the Tin Shop is to indicate that these were pre-existing (and lower status) buildings that were commandeered, and incorporated into the Armoury complex. The Tin Shop likely started its life in the 1760s as a tenement. The kitchen (roughly the same date) served a tavern that preceeded the Armoury on this site. The Armoury building (or blacksmith shop) was State funded construction, and sports a coat of paint that contains the more costly white lead.

  3. Meredith Poole says

    We had hoped to paint the Tin Shop this week, but the weather is giving us a run for our money. To adhere properly, tar paint requires the wood siding to be quite dry. Over the last few weeks, consecutive dry days have been in short supply. Unfortunately, next week does not look promising either. We are trying to take the long view, recognizing that getting it right the first time will give us a more durable result.

    Timing construction activities is tricky business. Not only is there weather to contend with, but in the case of the Armoury, there are many departments contributing to the reconstruction, and all need to work in concert. To minimize pressure this can create, we have decided to forgo frame-raising events for the duration of the project, and to save our celebration for the November “grand opening.”

  4. Diane Phillips says

    Thank you so much for all the updates. The photographs truly let those of us too far away to visit, to visit in our hearts. Williamsburg will always be a part of my life and I thank you for sharing your time and wisdom here in this forum.

  5. Rick Brouse says

    Well…..this post is not about the Armoury Project, but a comment about the untimely passing of a good friend and long-time “fixture” at C.W. Mr. Greg James. A.K.A. “Wil” (1 “W”, 1 “I”, 1 “L”) The man was an inspiration to my reenacting and first person persona interpretation / presentations. He met 10’s of 1,000’s of people, yet remembered me when we met during my once a year visits. A true gentleman. A true Christian man. He will be UNBELIEVABLY missed. ;o(

    • Kenneth Schwarz says

      Rick- We are all saddened by the loss of Greg James. He has long been a fixture of Colonial Williamsburg, and has enhanced the experience of many of our guests. Greg liked to portray a humble character sharing meaningful bits of wisdom- Tom Hanks won an oscar for his portrayal of a similar character, Forrest Gump. He also enlivened the Historic Area with his singing voice, and his daily greeting to us- HEY BLACKSMITHS!

      Most days when I arrived at work early I would find Greg sitting on the back porch of the Anderson House, and I would sit and talk with him for a bit before work. I will remember those mornings fondly. As a longtime colleague of Greg, I can say that your assessment of him is accurate- Gentleman, Family man, Christian man, and Friend. He will be missed by all of us.

      • Christine Hansley says

        Dear Ken,
        The words you have written about Greg James are well put. Our condolences to Greg’s family and to the CW family. He will be greatly missed. As a long time CW visitor I remember when Greg first started. He really didn’t change much during the almost 25 years that we have seen him on DoG Street. He was always ready to help people find their way around CW. His singing will be missed the most. Back during our 2009 Christmas week visit, he was out back of the Raleigh Tavern as the last person to see on the program (I believe was portraying a surveyor that day. His knowledge of surveying was right on). He said what he had to say and started singing Amazing Grace. I started crying (uncontrollably, no sobs, just a flood of tears) and he continued singing, but came over to me and put his arm around me. Yes in doing that he broke with 18th century customs. That never would have happened. He felt so bad for me, he felt he had to do something. When he finished, and the people left, I told him that in three weeks to the day it was going to be the 27th anniversary of my Mother’s passing and that Amazing Grace was her favorite hymn. He looked into my blue eyes and gave me a hug and said he would remember to say prayer that day. I truly believe he did. He was like that. He saw me on DoG Street the next day and in keeping with 18th century protocol approached me very respectfully and asked if I was “in a better way, than the day before.” Like John Lowe, aka Mr. Shields, and Jim Gay who I believe are still watching over the Tavern and the Kitchens, Greg/Wil’s presence will still be creating mischief on the streets of CW. All three of these fine gentlemen are irreplaceable. May this wonderful man Rest In Peace.
        Chris – from Tinley Park, IL

  6. Christine Hansley says

    Hi Ken and Garland,

    Thanks for the update. I’ll keep watching. I saw the quick view when the web-cam was in the Tin Shop. Looks good. Keep on plugging along. It will at some point all come together.

    Have a good week,

  7. Garland Wood says

    The Webcam was up inside the Tin Shop for a little while today, and Colonial Williamsburg also shot video for a future vodcast, so keep posted.

  8. Norm Rose says

    For those of us who cannot be there today, is there any possibility that the webcam might be moved on the inside for a few days for us to see what’s happening there?

    Cannot wait to return to Williamsburg …

    • Kenneth Schwarz says

      Norm and Christine- We dedicated the building on Friday (for our Board of Trustees) and Saturday (for the general public), I have not yet completed interviews and hiring to staff the shop. The blacksmiths will continue to manufacture tooling to furnish the tin shop, but I won’t have an operational program until mid to late summer. Once staffing is hired for the shop, we will have a period for content training, costuming, and shop set-up. In the mean time, we still need to paint the exterior, and complete furnishings. Once we have an operating program, I have no doubt that we will place our roving camera in the shop to give everyone a live view of work activity.

  9. Christine Hansley says

    Hi Garland,
    Thanks for the update.
    What work or use will be taking place at the Armoury workshop?

    What time on Saturday and will the roving camera be set up? We can’t be there or hear, but we can watch. Also will there be a video to watch at some point in the near future?

    Have a great opening,

  10. Christine Hansley says

    Hi Armoury/Tin Shop Crew,
    Everything looks like the project is coming together.

    When will the interior be finished? Any chance of seeing an artists rendering of what the interior will look like?

    When will the “soft” opening be? I know the Grand Opening is set for sometime in November.

    When will building start of the remianing buildings start? How long will each take?

    How is the Capitol roof project coming? That project really needed its own blog.

    Thanks for all you folks do to bring history to life.

    Have a great Spring,

    • Garland Wood says

      Hi Christine – the interior of the tin shop is complete. The three benches are finished and the walls and ceiling have been whitewashed. The public opening of the new shop will be this Saturday the 20th of April. We are already making materials for the next building, the Armoury workshop, and that should be completed by the end of the summer. A small storage building and a tiny privy going up this fall will complete the collection of new buildings, with the Grand Opening scheduled for the middle of November.

  11. Christine Hansley says

    Hi Armoury and Dig Crews,
    Thanks for the great update and photos.

    I guess the 90 degree day last week, was a “little” above normal even for the Tidewater area? You folks usually get our temps (Chicago area) a day or two after us, depending on which way the wind blows.

    Have a great Spring,

  12. rmcnabb says

    Would like to know more about those massive double-tenon A-frame (sort of) legs next to Mr. Boscana’s temporary bench…those babies are massive. They look overbuilt for light work in a tin shop – what’re they destined to become?

    • Garland Wood says

      The Tin Shop has three benches : two mounted to the front wall directly under the windows, and a massive free standing bench in the middle of the room. That massive bench is largely based on an original tinman’s bench in the tin shop at Eastfield Village in New York state. Double tenons seemed like the best solution to attaching the massive legs to the stretchers, with the bench top bolted to the leg assembly. The bench is massive so the various stakes used by the tinmen can be set directly into the workbench top.

    • Meredith Poole says

      Hi Chuck~
      Thanks for the support! Archaeology at the sawpit (now perhaps 2 sawpits!) finished up on Friday (April 19th). We anticipate a new excavation at the Armoury beginning on May 6 and lasting through early August. Then, if the stars align as we hope they will, we will move to the Public Records Office, between the Capitol and the Coffeehouse for a few months. Nothing set in stone at this point, but I think you’ll agree that it’s a full year of digging!

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