Ornamental Separator

The Powder Magazine Restoration and Military Programming

We continue to do research at Colonial Williamsburg because we continue to learn more about the events that shaped our nation. The previous restoration of the Powder Magazine was completed in 1938. This restoration included plastering over the interior walls, so it has been 80 years since anyone has studied the evidence of the walls and what they looked like.

Today, we possess the advantage of more than 95 years of research conducted since the Foundation’s inception, as well as new technology and analytical opportunities, and many other methods that equip us to better understand and interpret the structures and events that occurred here.

The Foundation will undertake an investigation and restoration of the structure. It is already known that the incorrect type and number of weapons has been on display, the orientation and size of the windows and access to the structure are in question, and the height and defense of the wall are being researched. The Magazine stands as the primary document. Having witnessed history, the structure bears the evidence that will help us better understand what the structure looked like, the events that occurred there, and a path to an accurate restoration and interpretation.

The Magazine at Colonial Williamsburg was constructed in 1715 as a storage facility for arms and ammunition dispatched from London for the defense of the Colony. In 1775, it also was the site of a historically consequential dispute known as the Gunpowder Incident. This confrontation between Virginia’s last Royal Governor, John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, and a militia led by Patrick Henry became a pivotal moment for the American Revolution. Since the Magazine’s restoration in 1938, additional research, new technology and analysis, and additional methods can provide critical details about the building’s design to inform its next restoration. A planned restoration is slated to begin as soon as possible in order to be concluded by the 250th anniversary of the Gunpowder Incident in 2025, a year ahead of the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the Foundation’s centennial in 2026. The project, which aligns closely with our preservation and education goals, also provides an opportunity for archaeological discovery between the Magazine and its perimeter wall, an area that was not examined during the prior renovation.

Colonial Williamsburg’s Magazine was the catalyst for the Gunpowder Incident, a critical event leading up to the American Revolution. When Colonial Virginia Gov. John Murray, the Earl of Dunmore, ordered the removal of gunpowder from the Magazine in 1775, Patrick Henry responded by leading a militia toward Williamsburg. The conflict was resolved when Murray agreed to pay for the gunpowder he had taken, but the Gunpowder Incident left him shaken and his position weakened. He eventually left Virginia for the final time in 1776. Afterward, Patrick Henry became the newly independent colony’s first governor.

Today, we possess the advantage of more than 95 years of research conducted since the Foundation’s inception, as well as new technology and analytical opportunities, and many other methods that equip us to better understand and interpret the structures and events that occurred here.

The Foundation will undertake an investigation and restoration of the structure. It is already known that the incorrect type and number of weapons has been on display, the orientation and size of the windows and access to the structure are in question, and the height and defense of the wall are being researched. The Magazine stands as the primary document. Having witnessed history, the structure bears the evidence that will help us better understand what the structure looked like, the events that occurred there, and a path to an accurate restoration and interpretation.

This project lies at the heart of our preservation and education aspirations. When we re-open the renovated Magazine in 2025, the 250th anniversary of the Gunpowder Incident, our Military Program interpreters will explain the purpose of the Magazine as well as its role in the Gunpowder Incident, an event that helped lead up to the American Revolution. Through this project we also will support Military Program staff, the Musket Range and Fifes and Drums – which all facilitate experiences only Colonial Williamsburg can provide. Your support of this project can help us break through with this valuable historical context, interpretation and preservation.

For more information, contact vpdevelopment@cwf.org.