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175th Anniversary Celebration: Did you Know?
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Check back here often for fun trivia about Colonial Williamsburg, the site of our 175th Anniversary Celebration in 2016. Did you know...

...that the alumni hotel and location for our business sessions and formal banquet will be the Williamsburg Lodge? Yes, that's the name of the headquarters for Chi Psi's 175th Anniversary Celebration! 

Located just half-a-block from the Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg and across the street from the Spa and the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club, the Lodge will be the focal point for alumni who come to CW for a great vacation week as well as for our social and celebratory events. Chi Psis will be able to use our group rates (which will not be finalized until 2015) during the period from three days prior to our own scheduled events until three days after our banquet on Saturday evening.Originally opened in 1939, the Lodge welcomed guests who were coming to see the ongoing restoration and reconstruction of the 18th century buildings in the adjacent Historic Area which had begun less than 15 years earlier. In 2006, the Lodge was completely renovated as well as expanded in size. Yet, the work carefully saved and incorporated original features such as the cypress paneling, the original fireplace and bar, breezy porches with trademark rocking chairs and blue stone floors which had given it a unique "feel” for more than 60 years – and now continue to do so.The Lodge’s two-floor architecture and multiple guest room buildings give a deceptively "small” appearance from the street. Yet, it provides 323 guest rooms, a restaurant, a lounge, multiple lobby seating areas and a gift shop. Of equal interest for our 175th is that the 2006 renovation also expanded the Conference Center and made it a premier and technologically updated space for meetings and banquet events. During our 175th week, it will be difficult to look anywhere in the Conference Center and not see signs for Chi Psi events and lots of purple and gold.Please watch this "Did you know . . .” link in the future for many more facts and bits of information about the 175th and CW, including more interesting history that provides a link between Chi Psi and the Lodge in more than its name.

...that the first Greek letter secret society on a college campus was founded in Williamsburg? It was Phi Beta Kappa, which began as a secret society and became the academic honors society many decades later. On a December evening in 1776, five College of William and Mary students, led by 15-year old John Heath who became their first president, walked almost a mile to the Raleigh Tavern on Duke of Gloucester Street and met in the Apollo Room to found their new society.

Until this night, campus societies often had Latin names – if their names were publicly known at all. But it is often noted that John Heath was possibly the best Greek scholar in the college, which may explain the shift which has dominated such fraternities since that evening. It is not difficult to trace Chi Psi’s lineage to those young men who both had the initiative to form a new secret society and turned to Greek as well. During our 175th Anniversary Celebration, everyone will have an opportunity to see the Apollo Room in the rebuilt Raleigh Tavern – a site which was home to many important events in American history during the 1770s, including this one which is certainly of interest to Chi Psi. 

...that the flag shown in the 175th Anniversary Celebration logo was the first true American flag?


Called the Grand Union Flag, the flag was used to show the 13 colonies via the 13 stripes while also incorporating the link to Britain with the British flag in the canton on the upper left. Records indicate that it was first flown in December 1775 when it was hoisted above the USS Alfred in Philadelphia harbor by then-Lieutenant John Paul Jones. The flag is also thought to have been raised on New Year’s Day 1776 near George Washington’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Grand Union flag continued as the unofficial flag after the Declaration of Independence until the Flag Act of 1777, enacted on June 14 of that year (which remains Flag Day in the US), made the stars-and-stripes the official flag, beginning with the circle of 13 stars in the blue field of the canton. Note that the British flag in the canton of the Grand Union Flag is not today’s familiar Union Jack since the Irish cross had not yet been added to it.


The Grand Union Flag alternates with the British flag over the Capitol Building in CW, depending on what year is the feature of activities in the Historic Area that week. But we chose the Grand Union Flag for the logo because, after all, this is America now – not a set of British colonies!



. . . that only 88 of the 460 or so buildings in the Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg are original or rehabilitated structures that were still standing when the restoration began in the 1920s? This is an impressive number for 145+ years after the capital of Virginia was moved to Richmond in 1780. But the original 88 still account for only 19% of what you can now see and, in many cases, enter in the Historic Area. The two most recognizable buildings – the Capitol and the Governor’s Palace – were long gone by the 1920s. In fact, a school had been constructed on the Palace site. Gone, too, was the Raleigh Tavern where so many historic events occurred in the 1770s, including the founding of Phi Beta Kappa in December 1776.

How was it possible to confirm that the other buildings existed, to find their exact locations and to reconstruct them with a high degree of confidence in the accuracy of the work? What we see in each historic building in CW is the result of diligent and painstaking work over weeks, months and years. Surviving deeds and insurance policies provided general locations and descriptions. An 18th century engraved copper plate discovered in 1929 at Oxford University (top right) provided helpful architectural details for the Wren Building and two other buildings (the Brafferton and the President’s House) at the College of William & Mary just west of CW’s Historic Area (top row), the Capitol Building (middle row left and center) and the Governor’s Palace and two advance buildings middle row right.) For more information about the “Bodleian Plate” click here.

One particularly interesting and useful item is what is now called the “Frenchman’s Map” which is in the library collection of the College of William & Mary. The map generally is believed to have been drawn by a French Army officer when the American and French Armies under Generals Washington and Rochambeau were preparing to besiege Lord Cornwallis and the British Army just down the road in Yorktown. While an amazing “find” at the College in the early 1900s, it is clear that the map is not a complete presentation of every building. Perhaps it was primarily used to find housing for the troops, which might explain why various “out buildings” like kitchens and smoke houses were not included? 

You can read more about the speculation on the origin and the purpose of the Frenchman’s Map and about its usefulness in the reconstruction of buildings – particularly in considering where to look for foundations of structures that were gone or built over – in this article.

But written records and images such as the Bodleian Plate and the Frenchman’s Map are only a portion of what has been needed to locate and reconstruct with accuracy the 80% or so of CW’s buildings which were no longer standing when the restoration began in the late 1920s. For a look at more of the process required to locate the sites of those buildings, watch for the next “Did you know . . .” article on this 175th page.




 . . . that the “easy” part of reconstructing Colonial Williamsburg’s appearance as the 18th century capital city of Virginia was using the written records and well-known images such as the Bodleian Plate and the Frenchman’s Map which were noted in the previous article? Yes, the difficult part of the many decades of work to date always has been and remains today the process of determining exactly where a building stood and how it was built. In the 21st century, that still requires what archaeologists have been doing for nearly 90 years at CW – digging. 

The largest project in recent years continues on the site of the James Anderson Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury. As a result of more research and then extensive digging, the Tin Shop, the Main Armoury Building and the Kitchen have been reconstructed during the last few years where the once stood. Additional structures, also on their original foundations, include two storage buildings, a workshop and a privy.

During 2013, CW’s professionals began looking on Market Square at the center of the Historic Area for evidence of a Market House which is seen on the Frenchman’s Map. Find the octagonal Powder Magazine in the center of the Map and look just to the right. There are three buildings shown near the Magazine, but only one of them has been reconstructed – the Guardhouse directly to the right. Evidence of the Market House (presumed to be the largest of the three and the one which is not filled in with reddish ink) was thought to have been substantially obliterated by construction of a Greek-revival style church on the site in 1856, with any remaining evidence destroyed when the church was torn down after CW’s restoration began. Two prior efforts in 1948 and 1989 to find traces of the Market House’s foundations were unsuccessful, although an earlier excavation in 1934 did turn up traces of a brick foundation.

In the photos at right, you will see evidence of the diagonal trenches which were dug in 1948 in the first unsuccessful search for signs of the foundation. Note also the remains of the sewer pipes which served a 1920 addition to the church. The trenching technique was used widely in the early decades of CW’s restoration. It can be an effective way to find foundations, cellar walls and similar underground structures in undisturbed soil. But trenching is destructive to other evidence important to archaeologists. The dirt from the trenches generally was dumped back in, but the process disturbed the location of artifacts which were not recorded during the trenching process. 

As you can see to the right, today’s technique is to open defined areas for careful excavation rather than to dig long trenches. For the Market House project, the center of the photo shows a 2-meter-square unit that had just been started, compared to the much deeper squares which had already been dug. After marking the units, CW’s pros carefully remove the grass and topsoil. Artifacts in these first several inches are noted, but these only rarely are 18th century items and probably were disturbed from lower layers by the church’s construction or destruction or maybe by the trenching. The work continues by scraping away an inch or so of soil at a time with small masonry trowels as they carefully record each layer, or “chapter” in the site’s history, gradually working their way down to the 18th century. 

On this project, in places where the 19th century church had not destroyed it, archaeologists generally found the top of the 18th century layer about one foot below the surface. Locations of the trenches are easily identified because the trenches were filled in with excavated dirt that appears mottled compared to the densely-packed undisturbed Virginia clay through which the trenches were dug.

When the digging season ended in December 2013, no intact foundations had been found. But excavation did reveal two parallel ditches, dug to fortify the Powder Magazine in 1775. The placement of these ditches has helped to define the area where the Market House stood. The Market House itself, a 20’ by 40’ open-sided structure (see the sketch to the right), is now being reconstructed. During the warm months of 2015, you can monitor work on the site with one of the CW webcams. Once completed, the Market House will be used to offer outdoor sales to guests and further enhance the 18th century appearance of Market Square as a whole.

In the summer of 2014, the Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades bricklayers began making the bricks which are becoming the pavers of the open structure. Those bricks were “fired” in the fall of 2014 and have now been laid for reconstruction of a brick area to the north of the Market House to link it to the street. Evidence of the latter (probably to keep both customers and sellers out of the mud) was found just as work was ending in 2013. 

There are a number of such projects on the “to do” list for CW’s professional archaeologists. It is very likely that we will be able to watch them working on another site during our 175th Anniversary Celebration week in 2016.

Look at the Frenchman’s Map again for an item of interest for our 175th Anniversary Celebration. The Williamsburg Lodge and Conference Center complex is built on the Nicholas-Tyler land which you can see outlined on that Map. Look below the octagonal Powder Magazine and to the left. The large house was not reconstructed, but the two out-buildings above it – the Laundry on the left (see the bottom photo on the right) and the Office on the right – were reconstructed. Each is now among the 26 Colonial Houses & Taverns which provide modern hotel rooms/suites decorated with period reproductions. Both the Laundry and the Office are set aside for us in 2016.





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