By Áine Cain
In the 1750s, a 26-year-old, up-and-coming tailor and merchant named Robert Nicolson built the Robert Nicolson House, a gambrel-roofed structure. He wasted no time settling down in Williamsburg. Nicolson set up a shop on Duke of Gloucester Street and married Mary Waters, and eventually the couple had seven children. The Nicolson brood included a future surgeon, mayor of Richmond, and a newspaper publisher.
Robert’s son William took on the tailoring trade. Together they supplied the often-ragtag Continental Army with proper uniforms during the American Revolution. Nicolson became a prosperous and influential Williamsburg resident, serving on a public committee with other local notables such as George Wythe and Peyton Randolph.
During the American Civil War, a lack of records indicates that house was likely abandoned during the Union Army’s occupation of Williamsburg. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation purchased the house in 1965.
This house is significant, not just for its residents, but for its pristine condition. The structure remains largely unaltered from its original 18th-century design. It emerged from Williamsburg’s early excavation phase untapped and unscathed, making it a valuable archeological asset.
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Áine Cain is a sophomore at the College of William and Mary and an intern with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
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