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Colonial Williamsburg, Bruton Heights School Education Center

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1939–1940, Division of School Buildings, Virginia Department of Education. 1995–1996, remodeling and additions, Perry Dean Rogers; Juster, Pope, Frazier; and Department of Architecture, Colonial Williamsburg. 301, 309, and 313 First St.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, contributed to a public school, north of the restored area, for black children. African American parents as well as Williamsburg's national visibility prodded the school board to build a red brick, colonial-style school of unusual quality for a southern black community.

The school was abandoned in 1989 and was redeveloped by Colonial Williamsburg in 1995–1996 as a research center. The new campus is an eccentric mixture of styles. Colonial Williamsburg Foundation architects restored and extended the school in a monumental mode with oversized arcades mirroring the original auditorium windows. Juster, Pope, Frazier, from Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, designed the modernist DeWitt Wallace Collections Building with deep embrasures and long weatherings that give a defensive quality to this container for Williamsburg's rare furnishings and their curators. Perry, Dean and Rogers' postmodern Rockefeller Library is a more playful presence, its collections sheltered by an airplane-hangar roof and fronted by a concave facade behind a paved piazza. Just inside this rather wacky shell is the best late twentieth-century public space in Williamsburg, a two-story hall with long and tight proportions reminiscent of Italian streets and courtyards.

John Page was among the landowners who held parts of the area known as Middle Plantation before Williamsburg's founding. Remains of his 1662 house were found at Bruton Heights in 1995, and its cross-shaped footprint can be seen just southeast of the school building.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Richard Guy Wilson et al.

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