Included in the rare breeds are Cleveland Bays, endangered horses whose numbers today include only about 500 purebred worldwide and just over 220 in the United States. The program, which began in 1986 to preserve breeds that could have been present in Williamsburg in the 18th century, provides access to these animals that offer perspectives and sensory experiences that the spoken word cannot.
Many guests who visit the Historic Area can point to specific experiences that became formative moments in their lives. Animals in our pastures and streets transport guests to another time, playing a major role in the interpretation of life in the 18th century.
Among them are a growing population of Cleveland Bays, which we began breeding in 2017. These magnificent creatures pulled plows and carriages in 18th century Williamsburg and today they still perform these daily tasks that colonial life depended on. Our guests learn so much from our Cleveland Bays and all the animals in our Rare Breeds program, including Leicester Longwool sheep, Oxen, American Milking Devon cattle and Dominque chickens.
Gifts toward the restoration of the Randolph Stable will allow us to examine what we believe to be the site of the stable on North England Street according the Frenchman’s Map. Drawing on archaeological research that already has begun, we plan to recreate the stables and secure support for staff who care for animals in the Rare Breeds program while interpreting the site for our guests.
Investments will allow us to develop the stables, hire additional staffing and secure resources for the care and feeding of the animals. Resources also will allow us to more fully integrate animals into Historic Area programming. For example, by giving interpreters a horse, a cow or a sheep, we will help them tell their stories.
Time is of the essence, as we aim to complete this project by 2025, ahead of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s centennial and the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 2026.
The Randolph Stable and the site as a whole represent a broad cross section of life in 18th century Williamsburg, not just the animals, but the people — enslaved and free — who lived at and operated the property. Restoring the stables will give us an enormous opportunity to engage guests with many different perspectives and forge unforgettable experiences only possible at Colonial Williamsburg.
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