Courthouse undergoes construction

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March 11, 2013

10:47 PM

Colonial Williamsburg construction workers completed their work on the Courthouse over spring break. The construction left the building fenced-off and covered in scaffolding for two months and resulted in a new roof and flashing, which helps to seal the seams of the roof to the rest of the building. The Courthouse is open to visitors and holds an interactive show, “Order in the Court,” several times a day.

In 1928, Colonial Williamsburg secured rights to the building, which the government continued to use until 1932. The building then closed for a year for restoration, and the existing roof was installed. After many years of wear, the building began to suffer leaks due to heavy rain and wind, and plans to replace the roof were made. Although the roof appears to be made of wooden shingles, the shingles are actually comprised of a concrete composite – a more cost-effective and durable repair option.

“We do that so we can get a look that mimics wooden shingles after they age, and they last for 80 years,” Matthew Webster, director of Historic Architectural Resources for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, said. “We have around 618 structures in the historic area, and trying to put wooden shingles on all of them isn’t feasible from a financial standpoint, and it’s also not the best protection for the buildings either.”

In addition to opting for more durable materials, other buildings in the historical area have been modified for the purpose of preservation. Many of the roofs had reinforced roofing support installed to support the heavier, concrete shingles. Efforts are also being made to restore the buildings to their original external appearances as accurately as possible.

“The steps, for example, have been changed several times,” senior architectural historian Carl Lounsbury said. “The steps installed in the ’30s were made of a blue stone. Due to the depression they couldn’t find any red sandstone, what was originally used. In ’91 we were able to acquire stone from the original quarry where the old stone came from. The quarry had been open for more than 200 years and still cut the stone by hand, like they did in the colonial period.”

Construction crews have restored several other buildings in the historic area, including the Capitol building and the Bruton Parish Church. The construction is not part of an initiative, but rather an ongoing effort to maintain Colonial Williamsburg’s buildings. The maintenance division of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation attempts to service 38 structures a year. Work done can range from painting to carpentry repair.

“It was unfortunate the building was closed for two months, but I think guests understand that it’s an old building and roofs need to be replaced,” Beau Andrews, an actor-interpreter, said. “It also encourages them to ask about the restoration and learn about the building, which is a plus.”

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About Author

Zach Hardy
  • Zach Hardy

Zach Hardy '15 is an English major from Richmond, Va. He was previously Chief Staff Writer, Online Editor and Associate Online Editor.

(3) Readers Comments

  1. MCASRoofing
    March 24, 2013 at 10:30 PM

    Nice to see them keeping the historical look of the building. In such a historic town, it is very important to stick with the original look. Many old buildings we work on have those old slate roofs that are just beautiful. You don't see them as much anymore and it really takes a professional roofer to work on them. We just did a courthouse in Mt Kisco NY which is in Westchester County. It was built in the early 1900s and throughout the whole renovation their goal was to update, but maintain that historical look. It was a great job!

    • Zach Hardy
      March 28, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      The people I spoke to at Colonial Williamsburg for the story seemed incredibly knowledgable, top notch scholars for sure.

      • MCASRoofing
        April 21, 2013 at 10:44 AM

        That's good, so important to keep these historical looks when replacing a roof. A roof can change the whole look of a building, I hope to see final pictures I'm sure it turned out great.

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