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Public Magazine

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1715, Alexander Spotswood. 1755, wall added. 1890, renovation. 1934–1935, restoration. Market Sq.
  • (Photograph by Mark Mones)
  • Public Magazine (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
  • (Photograph by Mark Mones)

Sir William Keith wrote in his History of the British Plantations in America (1738) that Alexander Spotswood's skill as a mathematician was expressed in his design of the octagonal magazine built to house arms shipped by the crown to Virginia in 1715. Spotswood showed more interest in ornamenting the public square than in securing the arms. While magazines are often low, all-masonry buildings, this one has three floors, two of wood and one in the generous attic covered by a steeply pitched roof crowned by the remnants of an iron weather vane. This powder keg has stood in the middle of Market Square's southern half, untouched by lightning strikes, for nearly three centuries. Its most famous moment came in April 1775, when Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor, had gunpowder removed to a British naval vessel, precipitating a nearly flammable confrontation with Virginia separatists. The building was saved from dereliction by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities in 1890 and restored by Colonial Williamsburg in 1934–1935.

Writing Credits

Richard Guy Wilson et al.


What's Nearby


Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Public Magazine", [Williamsburg, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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