December 14, 2012
Carpenters and Joiners will Raise the Walls of Colonial Williamsburg’s Tinsmith Shop Dec. 21
The carpenters and joiners of Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades will raise the walls of the Tinsmith Shop beginning at 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 21. Assembling and raising the timber frame of the new shop is expected to be a daylong affair. The Tinsmith Shop is the latest building of the Revolutionary War-era Public Armoury complex to be reconstructed. Once the framing is complete, Historic Trades carpenters will work through the winter months enclosing the framework and outfitting the shop in anticipation of a completion date in the spring.
When complete, James Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury will reflect the complexity and urgency of mounting a war effort against the world’s most powerful 18th-century nation. Anderson was appointed public armourer in 1776 by the General Assembly of the newly independent Commonwealth of Virginia. In the immediate wake of his appointment, Anderson began to enlarge his small, commercial blacksmithing operation into an extensive and diverse public manufactory. A $5 million gift from Forrest E. Mars Jr. enables the reconstruction and endowment of one of wartime Williamsburg’s most important industrial sites.
The blacksmith shop and armoury complex will mirror the beehive of activity present during the Revolution, with numerous trades working together in support of the American war effort: blacksmiths forging and repairing weapons, tools, and hardware; armourers refurbishing firearms and preparing ammunition, wheelwrights working on military vehicles, and cooks preparing meals for the workmen. Tinsmiths working on the site will manufacture camp kettles, plates, cups, saucers, coffeepots, saucepans, funnels, canisters for shot, and tin tubes for cartridge boxes for use by American soldiers. Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury was a bustling, noisy, fiery hub of activity. At its peak, a diverse group of more than 40 men worked on the site, including local blacksmiths and gunstockers, French gunsmiths, Scottish Highlander prisoners of war, American soldiers, enslaved African Americans and young men serving apprenticeships.
The 21st-century purpose of the Anderson Armoury site is to convey this complex and diverse scene: to engage guests in the hustle and bustle of work; to impress upon them the daunting tasks confronting the fledgling republic as it took on the greatest military power in the world; and to convey some of the economic, political, and social factors that contributed to the eventual success of the war effort and the achievement of independence.
The James Anderson Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury project represents another step depicting Williamsburg’s leading role in the American Revolution — when former royal subjects took on new freedoms and responsibilities as self-governing citizens of an independent republic.
Forrest E. Mars Jr., director emeritus of Mars, Incorporated and former chief executive officer of the company, is a member of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Board of Trustees. The 2009 reconstruction of R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse was made possible through his earlier $5 million gift. Mr. Mars is a Life Member of the Raleigh Tavern Society and listed on the Courtyard of Philanthropy at the Colonial Williamsburg Regional Visitor Center.