“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Williamsburg, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

The Christopher Wren Building


The Christopher Wren Building Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, July 20, 2013
1. The Christopher Wren Building Marker
Inscription. Their Majesties King William & Queen Mary on February the eight, sixteen hundred and ninety-three, granted a charter establishing the College of William and Mary in Virginia “to the end that Church of Virginia may be furnished with a seminary of ministers of the gospel, and that the youth may be piously educated in good letters and manners, and that the Christian faith may be propagated amongst the western Indians, to the glory of almighty God.”

The Lord Bishop of London was the first Chancellor of the College, and the Reverend Doctor James Blair, Commissary of the Bishop of London was first President, serving in this office until his death in 1743.

“This building, beautiful and commodious, being first modeled by Sir Christopher Wren” the Surveyor General to Their Majesties and “adapted to the nature of the country by the gentlemen there,” was erected in 1695. After the removal of the seat of government from Jamestown to Williamsburg in 1699, the General Assembly met in the great hall until the completion of the Capitol in 1704, and again its sessions were there held from 1747 to 1752, after the burning of the Capitol in 1747. In the great hall the convocations of the clergy were also convened.

Burned in 1705, it was, before 1716, partially redesigned, “rebuilt
Wren Building west entrance image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher
2. Wren Building west entrance
and nicely contrived and adorned by the ingenious direction of Governor Alexander Spotswood” the original walls being preserved. The chapel wing was added in 1732. There lie interred the remains of Lord Botetourt, Sir John Randolph, his sons Peyton Randolph and John Randolph, Bishop James Madison, and of other honored dead.

Here George Washington, subsequently Chancellor of the College, received his Surveyor’s Commission in 1749; Benjamin Franklin the honorary degree of Master of Arts in 1756; and Chevalier de Chatellux and Thomas Jefferson in 1782 the degree of Doctor of Civil Law.

During the Yorktown Campaign this building was used as a hospital for the sick and wounded of the French and American armies. In the War of 1812 it served as barracks for the Militia. Burned again in 1859, it was rebuilt on the old walls and used until May 1861. In the War between the States it was occupied by the Confederate and later by the Federal Army. In 1862, for the third time, it became prey to devastating flames. With revenues exhausted by the ravages of war, the College was not able to complete its rebuilding until 1868. From 1880 to 1888 the College Bell, rung by Colonel Benjamin S. Ewell, then President, echoed through the silent halls, deserted save for several students whose solicited attendance kept alive the Royal Charter.

The ancient walls, scarred
Wren Building image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher
3. Wren Building
by fire, weakened by time and hallowed by noble tradition, made potent appeal for a restoration of the building that would recall the vanished symmetry and beauty of its former architectural design. To this appeal John D. Rockefeller, Jr., made response and graciously included in the plan for the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, which was the fulfillment of the cherished dream of the Reverend Doctor William A.R. Goodwin, Rector of Bruton Parish Church, the restoration of this building to the known 1732 form and design.

This tablet erected to bear witness to the continuity of this building through centuries of service and to record the grateful appreciation of the Board of Visitors and of Doctor J.A.C. Chandler, President of the College, for the assurance which the restoration gives that this shrine of learning and inspiration, associated with the memory of scholars, patriots and statesmen, will now endure.

“A link among the days to knit the generations each with each.”
Erected 1931.
Location. 37° 16.246′ N, 76° 42.54′ W. Marker is in Williamsburg, Virginia. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Jamestown Road (Virginia Route 5) and Richmond Road. Click for map. Located on the west wall of the Wren Building on the campus of the College of William & Mary. Marker is in this post office area: Williamsburg VA 23185, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Priorities of the College of William and Mary (here, next to this marker); In Gallia Nati Mortui in Virginia (here, next to this marker); Alumni of the College of William and Mary (a few steps from this marker); Sir Christopher Wren Building (within shouting distance of this marker); Norborne Berkeley, Baron de Botetourt (within shouting distance of this marker); Indian School at the College of William & Mary (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); College Camp (about 300 feet away); The College of William and Mary in Virginia (about 400 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Williamsburg.
Categories. Notable Buildings
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 317 times since then and 58 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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