To our readers: James Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury opened on November 16th, 2013, bringing the reconstruction project to a close. While we will all enjoy the completed Armoury for decades to come, this blog, dedicated to the reconstruction effort, will soon be winding down. Before we go, it seems appropriate to take a parting glance at the progress we have made. Over the next 6 weeks, we will focus individually on the Armoury’s component buildings, from their archaeological discovery to the final coat of paint. For those who arrived late to the Armoury Blog, this is an opportunity to read an encapsulated history of the project. This week’s post takes a look back at the reconstruction of the Shop, or the Armoury’s main building.
With the kitchen complete, we turned our attention to the Blacksmith/Armoury building.
The first reconstructed Anderson Shop (see image 1, below) was designed and built at a time when we assumed that James Anderson funded the construction out of pocket, in an economy where men and materials had been diverted to the war effort. The first building incorporated architectural details that reflected common construction in a modest middling-sort domestic situation. It contained many of the same details incorporated into the Kitchen and Tin Shop.
Our more current documentary research demonstrated that the Armoury blacksmith shop was built with funds provided by the Commonwealth of Virginia at a time when enormous sums of money were spent to develop the industrial infrastructure to arm and maintain soldiers in the field. Money and materials flowed freely between 1775 and 1780 as the state built small arms factories in Fredericksburg, cannon foundries in Richmond, shipyards, ropewalks, and powder mills across the state. Williamsburg was to have the primary repair Armoury for the Commonwealth.
Additional construction projects in Williamsburg included barracks for soldiers, stables for cavalry, and hospitals for the sick and wounded. These projects employed the chief builders of the city, and often used design plans drawn up by professionally trained military engineers. It was clear from the people involved in building the Armoury, and the materials being purchased for the Armoury, that this was a well-built structure.
These images show our effort to rebuild the Armoury blacksmith shop as we think it probably looked in 1780. Enjoy!*
* As some of you may have noticed, we have had some difficulty in the delivery of this blog post. The captions have been reset so that they are already open as you view the images.