Architectural Record

As a specialized or trade magazine, Architectural Record reached an audience which was essentially expert on the material at hand. Therefore, as pointed out in John Drewry's review of American magazines, in a trade journal, "any inaccuracy of statement or error of judgement will not only be noticed but remembered, thereby lowering the prestige of the publication" (#24, 116). Thus, this magazine should be considered high in integrity and under scrutiny to report accurately. Most importantly, in addition to a professional readership, Architectural Record was "read by more than any other publication about Williamsburg produced during the pre war period" (#28, 286). Taylor sights the December 1935 issue as a "pivotal point in the dissemination of information to the public" (#28, 279). In this issue, which approached 100 pages on Colonial Williamsburg, and other ones in 1931 and '37, Architectural Record created an image of the restoration in a number of ways.


Historical authenticity was of course an important emphasis. The 1931 article states that the restoration is "based on exhaustive research in to documentary evidence both in this country and abroad and on extensive excavation and archaeological study of the site itself." The article gives descriptions of removing plaster from the walls and "minute examination of the existing walls and foundations," even in "instances where only foundations remain, lying sometimes as deep as six feet below the modern grade." The result of these efforts distinguished up to four different periods of building inside the same edifice (#2, 16). The 1935 article described Colonial Williamsburg's archeologists as "'detectives'" who "sifted each spadeful" examining the intricacies of "brick sizes and bonds," while implementing "methods of field work tested and proven in Egypt" (#3, 372). Numerous times, the article attests to the restorations accuracy, saying, for example that the "Colonial appearance, with lamp-posts, fences, brick walks, street surfaces, plantings and the like derived from authentic records" (#3, 262). The report shows the depth of restoration research by including specific mortar recipes, door sill and panel moulding drawings, house layouts, and the process by which the bricks were produced exactly as they were in Colonial times (33, 373-75). By exposing the vast depths of historical accuracy, an elevated level of legitimacy was reached and Colonial Williamsburg achieved a sense of authenticity. This authenticity established the authority of history as the reliable truth. Authenticity was crucial to the success of Colonial Williamsburg. Rockefeller and Goodwin knew this and carried out the restoration accordingly. Architectural Record knew this as well and therefore reported on the efforts of authenticity as a means of enticing the reader.


Architectural Record wanted their readers to know that despite the accuracy of 18th century recreations, no expense was spared on 20th century accommodations. The 1937 article "Williamsburg Restoration Builds an Inn" examines just that. Readers are assured that the "problem of tourist accommodation was studied and restudied, " resulting in a dignified and handsomely designed building (#1, 67). The rooms are reported to be many in number and reasonable in rate, complete with air conditioning and a swimming pool (#1, 70,72). By including everything but the nightly rates, the magazine provides a comprehensive account of the entire area of Colonial Williamsburg. This thoroughness may answer the questions and assuage the traveling fears of potential tourists.


Through dozens of excellent pictures and influential text, the writers sell Colonial Williamsburg on its beauty. The picture is painted of "avenues, fine ones, the buildings are spacious and large in scale, they are placed upon important axes and there is an orderliness that one associates with monumentality" (#3, 363).

Historical Imagination

Finally, the writers attempt to pull readers into Colonial Williamsburg through sparking a historical imagination. Three pages were devoted to the historical background of the Colonial city from the issue of its charter to the move of the capital to Richmond. Dates of original construction were included to lend perspective to the new buildings as the were being restored. Likewise, important events, occupations by troops, and burnings of these buildings make for a better understanding of their role in history. The writers described public activities of the time including "fairs, horse races, cock fights, slave auctions, lotteries, theatrical performances, gaming, balls, fireworks, and other diversions" (#3, 261). Providing specific imagery educates the reader historically and enables them to engage in a greater appreciation of Colonial Williamsburg because of its reemphasized historical significance. The text asks readers to "visualize the palisaded Middle Plantation with its 17th Century buildings in the time of the ascendancy of Jamestown; the growing extension of the settled river sides with the gradual release of architectural style from early to late Renaissance and one must feel as well as understand the architectural and cultural influences which came to bear upon the creation of the new capital" (#3, 368). By activating a sense of 'pretend-you-were-there-imagery,' readers are invited to become a part of history. They are offered the opportunity to participate in the sacrament of celebrating history by imagining what it would be like to have lived in the past. The incredible accuracy of the restoration and presence of colonial dressed employees at Colonial Williamsburg make this process easy by setting the stage for a world of historical make believe where the tourist can step into the past and walk among the contemporaries of our forefathers.

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