June 11, 2008
New Bassett Hall program examines one of CW's original Founding Fathers
A new program at Bassett Hall offers insight into one of Colonial Williamsburg’s original Founding Fathers – Dr. William Archer Rutherfoord Goodwin. “So the Future May Learn from the Past” examines the life and accomplishments of Goodwin from 10 a.m.-noon Tuesdays and Thursdays through Aug. 28.
Museum interpreter Ed Way portrays the man who gave so much to the Williamsburg community. The program begins with a tour of Basset Hall and includes an encounter with Dr. Goodwin at the tea house on the Bassett Hall grounds. In a custom-tailored blue-and-white seersucker suit, Way portrays Goodwin in 1937. In the later years of his life, Goodwin is semi-retired and reminiscing about his role in the Restoration.
Way had a wealth of information to draw from when creating his character. He read biographies on the Rockefeller family that mentioned Goodwin, Goodwin’s biography, “A Link Among the Days” by Colonial Williamsburg’s Dennis Montgomery and the video, “A Link Among the Days,” that allowed Way to master Goodwin’s accent.
The new program provides guests with a link between 18th-century and 20th-century Williamsburg. “Guests say they have a new perspective when they go back into the Historic Area,” said interpreter Cathy Edmonds.
In 1903 Goodwin became rector of Bruton Parish Church. It was during his service here that Goodwin had the vision of restoring Williamsburg to its 18th-century glory. Goodwin left Williamsburg to serve as pastor of St. Paul’s Church in Rochester, N.Y., in 1909. In 1923, Goodwin returned to direct the endowment campaign at the College of William and Mary. In this position he met John D. Rockefeller Jr. and invited Rockefeller to tour the town.
“The character of Dr. Goodwin seems like a natural for Bassett Hall,” said supervisor Cynthya Nothstine. In 1926, under the Great Oak at Bassett Hall, Goodwin shared his dream of preserving the town's historic buildings with philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr., and the restoration began.
Goodwin feared that scores of structures that had figured in the life of the colony and the founding of the nation would soon disappear forever. Rockefeller and Goodwin began a modest project to preserve a few of the more important buildings. Eventually, the work progressed and expanded to include a major portion of the colonial town, encompassing approximately 85 percent of the 18th-century capital's original area.
Rockefeller gave the project his personal leadership until his death in 1960, and it was his quiet generosity of spirit and uncompromising ethic of excellence that guided and still dominates its development. He funded the preservation of more than 80 of the original structures, the reconstruction of many buildings, and also the construction of extensive facilities to accommodate the visiting public.
In the preservation of the setting of Virginia’s 18th-century capital, Rockefeller and Goodwin saw an opportunity to ensure that the courageous ideals of the patriots who helped create the American democratic system live on for future generations.
For more information on Colonial Williamsburg’s Restoration, visit http://www.history.org/Foundation/cwhistory.cfm
Bassett Hall was the Williamsburg home of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Jr. They acquired the property in the late 1920s, but did not move in until 1936. Bassett Hall is decorated in the understated style fashionable before World War II and features an eclectic mix of inherited possessions and Asian, English and American antiques, as well as modern easy chairs and beds. The home also reflects Abby Aldrich Rockefeller's interest in folk art, a medium that she was among the first to collect and which is the core of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.
A Colonial Williamsburg ticket provides access to enjoy this new program.
Bassett Hall is located at 522 E. Francis St. and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except on Wednesdays.
Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. “Revolutionary City®,” a dramatic live street theater presentation, is a 2008 Rand McNally Best-of-the-Road™ Editor’s Pick. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at www.history.org.