Colonial Williamsburg: From Concept to Construct


While the WPA Guide provides detailed coverage of the historic buildings, it fails to cover the origins of Virginia's Colonial Williamsburg, its function as a secular shrine, and its existence within the contemporary Williamsburg of the 1930's. The idea of restoring Williamsburg to its former glory came from a variety of ideological concepts. Reverend W.A.R. Goodwin and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. injected the idea of Colonial Williamsburg with a specific goals of authenticity and an Anglo-Saxon heritage. In an attempt to revitalize the American ideals of democracy and patriotism, Goodwin and Rockefeller created CW as a shrine of civil religion. In essence, the restored/recreated historic area existed as sacred ground upon which Americans could trod and consume these ideals. In an attempt to attract visitors to CW, magazine articles served as the primary avenue of advertising, creating a legitimate and authentic rapport--reliant upon the reputation and standing of these periodicals to inform specific audiences of the attractions of the authentically restored city. However, the Restored Area, as it came to be called, existed within an inhabited city. The residents reacted to the Restoration of their city in a myriad of ways--sensing both the displacement and the benefits which would result from the new capitalist enterprise.

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