The Wren Building, Williamsburn, VA.
by Caroline Williams
Approx. Size: 7.5″ x 10″
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The Wren Building is the signature building of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Along with the Brafferton and President’s House, these buildings form the College’s Historic Campus.
Construction of the first building on this site began August 8, 1695 and was completed by 1700. After several fires and rebuildings, the Wren Building was the first major building restored or reconstructed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., after he and the Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin began Colonial Williamsburg’s restoration in the late 1920s. Although the building’s current state dates to the 20th century restoration by Boston architects Perry Shaw & Hepburn, the College named the building in honor of the English architect Sir Christopher Wren, after the Reverend Hugh Jones, a William and Mary mathematics professor, wrote in 1724 that the College Building was “modeled by Sir Christopher Wren”. Perry Shaw and Hepburn’s restoration reflects the building’s historic appearance from its reconstruction in 1716 after a 1705 fire to 1859, when it burned again.
The building is constructed out of red brick in the style of Flemish Bond, as was typical for official buildings in 17th and 18th century Williamsburg, including several walls remaining from previous structures, and it contains classrooms, offices, a refectory (known as the Great Hall), kitchen, and a chapel (added as a south wing in 1732). On the top of the building is a weather vane with the number 1693, the year the College was founded. In the early 1770s, plans were drawn up to complete the building as a quadrangle. Alumnus Thomas Jefferson (class of 1762) drew up a floorplan submitted to Governor Dunmore and foundations were laid in 1774. The looming War of Independence halted further construction, however, and the fourth wing was never completed. The foundations, however, still exist.