When, in the late 1920s, Rockefeller and Goodwin set out to "buy the town," Williamsburgers greeted them with enthusiasm. Their enthusiasm was not only for the view of history held by the restorers, for the vision of a national shine of civil religion, but also for the economic possibilities with which they were presented. They had bought in-lock, stock, and barrel-to the positive image of the capitalist structure which was dominant the time. They loved and trusted Rockefeller, the son of big business who had made philanthropy his life's work.
Then the stock market crashed and with it came tumbling down the remainder of the nation's economy. Big business no longer seemed so grand and benevolent, by most accounts. And yet in Williamsburg, we do not find the sort of populist politics or labor movements with which Americans in other cities and towns responded to the Depression. Because in Williamsburg, there was work. In some ways, the job market had actually improved as the Restoration, capitalizing on cheap labor and materials, began in earnest.
And with the help of magazines, The Guide to the Old Dominion, and other publications aimed at a restless population, the tourists started pouring in to the formerly sleepy town. The landscape and identity of the town had been dramatically altered, and not without protest. But that which was lost seemed to have been paid for by the financial gains which allowed Williamsburg to capitalize even on the Depression.
The restored Wren Building.