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The Baltimore Sun

Architecture popular then and now

The architecture of Williamsburg has long been recognizedfor profoundly influencing American taste.

In 1965, the Publick Observer looked at local architecture for a story in September.The Observer was the predecessor to Williamsburg Magazine, which this year is celebrating its 40th anniversary.The article on architecture explored simplicity, symmetry and scale as key elements of Williamsburg style.Many of the Historic Area's buildings and gardens were examined for their architectural and geometric characteristics. The articlewas accompanied by several photographs of major structures.In keeping with the architectural theme, an accompanying article heralded the discoveries of "curiosities" during the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg's Benjamin Waller House.That structure, built by Benjamin Waller in the 1700s, is located on Francis Street. Waller was a lawyer, county clerk, judge and vestryman at Bruton Parish Church. He and his wife, Martha Hall, had 12children.

The article reported that during the home's restoration in the 1950s, some interesting finds were made.When stripping the home, architects found a brickwork tunnel located under the dwelling. The tunnel was described as large enough for a man to crawl through.

Speculation abounded as to the why the tunnel was there.Theories about its use ran the gamut, from vegetable storage area or cellar drain to escape route if enemies surrounded the house.Waller went to his grave with the secret.Two slabs of hard stone were also found in the house.Experts thought the stones were from a French quarry, brought over as ballast on an English ship. The stones may have been brought over to serve as grave markers here.

The Waller House was restored in 1951-1952. In 1965, it was the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Kerns.Readers were also enlightened to the history ofRobertson's Windmill. The historic windmill, located near the Governor's Palace and behind the Peyton Randolph House, was built about 1720.The article looked at the use of the windmill for grinding corn into meal. Almost 40 years later, the windmill remains one of the most picturesque sites in the Historic Area and is very popular withvisitors.

A look back at old magazines shows that shoppers in the 1960s had a plethora of choices in Merchants Square.The shops in the square included Binns (it's still there), Casey's (now the Barnes & Noble Bookstore), Powder Puff Beauty Salon, The Pastry Shop, College Pharmacy and A&N.The Virginia Gazette, parent publication of Williamsburg Magazine, also was located in Merchants Square, on Duke of Gloucester Street.For a distinctive shopping experience, customers were invited to shop at the House of Eight Winds, also in Merchants Square. The store offered authentic American Indian gifts. Patrons could choose from silver and turquoise jewelry, Lloyd Kiva sports shirts and blouses, original paintings, authentic Navajo rugs, beads and leatherwork.The local theatrical scene was hopping. "The Fourposter" and "Picnic" were on stage at the Wedgewood Dinner Theatre in Toano. That dinner theatre produced dozens of plays during its heyday.The Peninsula Playhouse of Williamsburg was producing "The Public Eye" and "The Private Ear."TV star Imogene Coca and her husband, King Donovan, were appearing at the playhouse in "Never Too Late" -- quite a treat for localaudiences.

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