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December 6, 2002

Bassett Hall re-opens following renovation

Bassett Hall, one of the restored historic properties at Colonial Williamsburg and the Williamsburg home of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr., will re-open to the public Dec. 9, 2002. For the past two years, the 18th-century house has undergone a comprehensive renovation that has included:

  • A new exhibition integrating the history of the Rockefellers at Bassett Hall with the early years of the Williamsburg Restoration as well as an updated house tour using live interpreters;
  • Re-opening of the back of the house—kitchen, pantry and caretakers’ quarters—and implementation of a new traffic pattern through the house;
  • Conversion of the original kitchen to an exhibition area;
  • Re-creation of the gardens to their 1940s appearance with the addition of more than 5,000 new trees, shrubs and ground cover; and
  • Extensive maintenance and conservation work.

    “The purpose of the renovation was to ensure that visitors to Colonial Williamsburg have the opportunity to experience this marvelous and historic property the way it was when the Rockefellers lived there,” said Colin G. Campbell, president and chairman of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “Thanks to Abby and George O’Neill, whose generous gift of $2.7 million has made the Bassett Hall renovation a reality, generations of Americans and international guests can know more about the remarkable philanthropy of the Rockefeller family and its efforts to preserve America’s precious historical legacy here in Williamsburg.”

    Visitors to Bassett Hall will be able to tour the mansion and outbuildings, which include a teahouse, smokehouse, kitchen and dairy, in addition to 14 acres of gardens and extensive woodlands. The house is situated on a 585-acre tract of land on the periphery of Colonial Williamsburg’s renowned Historic Area. The colonial city’s pastoral nature is reflected in the nearby meadows, which are inhabited by the foundation’s sturdy American Cream draft horses, sprightly Canadian ponies and rare Leicester Longwool sheep.

    “We are terribly pleased to be able to offer an expanded visitor experience at Bassett Hall,” said Carolyn Weekley, Juli Grainger director of museums. “The refreshed grounds and refurbished house are a wonderful and fitting tribute to the Rockefellers, whose goal always has been to support important and educational historic sites in this country.”

    John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s decision to sponsor the restoration of the city of Williamsburg, the 18th-century capital of Virginia, more than 75 years ago has set a high standard for philanthropy in historic preservation. Research, restoration and refinement of the foundation’s educational programs are an ongoing process, and today, the Historic Area includes more than 301 acres as well as 88 restored original structures and several hundred reconstructions.

    The six children of Abby Aldrich and John D. Rockefeller Jr. have upheld the family stewardship of Colonial Williamsburg. John D. Rockefeller III served as chairman of the board of trustees from 1939 to 1953, and was succeeded by his brother Winthrop from 1953 to 1973. Nelson and Laurance also served as members of the board, as did Nelson’s son, Steven. George D. O’Neill and his wife Abby M. O’Neill, granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Rockefeller, served as foundation trustees for many years. Mrs. O’Neill also served as vice chairman of the board from 1985 to 1994. Sharon Rockefeller, wife of Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (grandson of John D. Rockefeller Jr.), serves on the board of trustees today.

    Media Contact:
    Sophia Hart
    (757) 220-7272

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