Colonial Williamsburg


As a blog wrap-up of the just-concluded symposium … a few photos of various interiors over the weekend.

First, since the wheelwrights were mixing paint during our “museum” time on Saturday afternoon, a few still-life images from inside their shop, all related to the paint project:

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Next, the parlor of Colonial Williamsburg’s newly reconstructed Charlton’s Coffee House. This lovely building is near the entrance to the Capitol, and many of Williamsburg’s leaders and politicians gathered here to drink coffee or chocolate, to play cards or dice, and to discuss politics, news, and the hated Stamp Act. I was the only one on my “tour” of the building on snowy Saturday afternoon, and my tour guide asked if I wanted the “decorative arts tour” or the “whole nine yards.” In retrospect, I suppose I should’ve asked what the whole nine yards entailed … but it was fun, although completely unexpected. We started in the parlor with a first-person history lesson, went through a back hallway, and ended up in the coffee-house portion of the building. I was offered a seat at one of the tables and a taste of either coffee or drinking chocolate (I chose the chocolate, of course, which was delicious). Also at my table were two very chatty eighteenth-century characters … one a politician and the other full of questions and funny stories. I highly recommend this interactive (and educational) building tour.

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And, finally, a few views of the trade fair at the symposium. If you weren’t able to join us this year, here’s a tiny bit of what you missed:

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one of the several trade-fair booths offering antiques, books, and beautiful old prints

one-of-a-kind handmade hats

for those who didn’t want to venture out into Saturday afternoon’s snowstorm, Beth Schaffer offered an impromptu talk on wickerwork

Yesterday was our final day of this second CAA/CWF International Carriage Symposium. There were three fascinating lectures in the morning, and then a free afternoon before the evening’s banquet.

One of the lectures dealt with freight and stage wagons in southern California. The photos were amazing, and the descriptions of the ventures, including one hair-raising account of a galloping, sliding run up one side of a mountain pass and down the other, left everyone in awe. I was particularly intrigued, as my great-grandfather moved to the same area under discussion sometime around 1900 and some of my relatives may have seen the actual images pictured in these photos.

In the afternoon, I ventured out into the snowstorm and witnessed more people (mostly William & Mary students, I think) out walking in the village. I was surprised there wasn’t more snowball-throwing and snowman-building, but perhaps that will take place today, now that the snow has stopped falling and the wind died down. As I write this, the sun is coming up on Sunday morning, the snow is glistening just a bit, and it promises to be a beautiful day.

Some photos from Saturday …

the wheelwright’s apprentice mixing paint: equal parts pigment, chalk, and linseed oil

the journeyman wheelwright (Paul, on the left) and the shop’s apprentice (Andy, on the right) working in the shop on a snowy day; Paul is finishing the wheel that received its tire on Wednesday, and Andy continues to mix paint

a Williamsburg doorway with snow piled up on the front steps

a snowy tree over the sidewalk on Duke of Gloucester street

the Capitol in the snow

Be sure to read the full report on the symposium in the March issue of The Carriage Journal, and to join us here in 2012.

We have snow! It looks like there’s barely an inch right now (breakfast time), but it is still snowing.

Yesterday’s talks took us from the U.S. (“Abbot-Downing and the Concord Coach”) to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Japan (“Coaching Down Under: Freeman Cobb and His Legacy”) and back to Europe (“French Elegance Along the Baltic” and “The Princes of Thurn and Taxis”). The final talk focused on “Outward Show: The Turnout as a Means of Communication.”

Because of the then-impending storm, the stables opened up for symposium attendees yesterday afternoon (in addition to the scheduled time this afternoon). A few photos of our visit:

the back of one of Williamsburg’s traveling chariots, in the aisleway of the stables

three carriages (two “normal” sized and one very small) in the storage end of the stables

another one of Williamsburg’s coaches

new wheels

buckles on one of Williamsburg’s newer coaches; if I recall correctly, these were made here in the Historic Area at the Geddy Foundry

One quick announcement: the third CAA/CWF International Carriage Symposium will be held January 11 to 15, 2012. Mark your calendars!

After a full day of lectures, the heads of everyone here at the symposium should be filling with all sorts of interesing information.

On Thursday, we had lectures on post-chaises and the reenactment of the Trafalgar Dispatch; the White House stables and presidential horses and carriages; the New York Coaching Club; Swiss traveling carriages; and the professional restoration/conservation of carriages and coaches.

One of the speakers had the most amazing images to go along with his talk. Andres Furger of Switzerland started out his academic and professional life as an archaeologist, with a specialty in the Iron Age. He shared photos of the reproduction of a Celtic chariot that he built years ago. He regaled us with the story (and photos) of how he and his friend (now a top-level FEI driver) tried it out with Furger’s pair of horses. The friend drove (sitting on the floor of the chariot, in the ancient Celtic style), while Furger acted as the spear man. He said that he wanted to try the technique (described by Roman historians) of leaping from the chariot onto the pole (as the horses are galloping into battle) to throw the spear. He said that his horses tolerated the exercise at a halt, but when he tried it a slightly faster pace, the leap onto the pole catapaulted him completely off. A good attempt at any rate, and very amusing in the re-telling.

One of his images of traveling vehicles in Switzerland inlcuded a frozen Alpine path, on the side of an ice-covered mountain, barely wide enough for a single horse and a small sleigh. This, of course, was filled with a line of such turnouts, nose to tail, delivering mail and passengers (wearing dark hoods, apparently, to avoid having to see the danger they were in) to far-flung villages. Fascinating stuff.

Everyone’s starting to gather now for breakfast, and then we’ll have another five lectures today.

An addendum to yesterday’s post and photos …

As an indication of our modern technology-driven lives: we, of course, are an association of people interested in horse-drawn vehicles and transportation; the wheelwrights here at Col. Williamsburg practice 18th-century wheel- and wagon-making techniques. Both of us, not surprisingly, are trying to get the word out about what we do by way of modern Internet-based technology. So if you haven’t already, visit us on Facebook!

If you have a FB account, you can follow the link on this blog to our FB page. While you’re there, search for “The Deane Shop” to find the wheelwrights’ page and become a fan of them as well. I’ve uploaded to their fan-photos page the photos you saw here yesterday, plus a few others. They tell me that they’ll be grinding paint tomorrow afternoon, so I’ll be there to get photos of that as well.

Everyone is gathering for several days of lectures on this year’s topic: “Highways and Horses: Travel & Transport by Horse-drawn Vehicles.”I tried to get this update posted on Wednesday evening, but the Internet connection kept kicking me off. So here I am, on Thursday morning, doing a quick post while everyone enjoys a continental breakfast in the break/trade fair room. Looking around, we have a nice variety of vendors this year: hats, antiques, harness, books and prints, wicker, antique toys, coaching vacations, and more hats.

Williamsburg welcomed everyone yesterday with a beautiful sunny day.

the governor’s palace at Colonial Williamsburg

Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Page riding down Williamsburg’s main street, Duke of Gloucester

The wheelwrights moved last summer into their new facility … Elkanah Deane’s shop. While I was there, the wheelwrights were installing an iron tire on a newly built wheel for a shop-built wheelbarrow. One of them explained to visitors that the shop builds wagons, wheels and, at this time of year especially, wheelbarrows (one reason being that they’re smaller and can be painted indoors).

the newly finished wheel, in the shop, awaiting its iron tire

a small fire was started (which felt nice in the chilly weather!), the iron tire placed on top, and then more wood on top of that, so that the tire could expand slightly while buried inside a nice hot fire for about 10 minutes

when it was hot, the iron tire was placed on the wheel and pounded into place …

… while water was poured on it to cool it down and shrink it into place on the wheel

vehicles and firewood at the back of the wheelwrights’ shop

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