Bygone days of the president's house
THE president's house at the College of William and Mary holds a million memories. It has survived wars, fires, occupation by foreign soldiers, and even a tornado. Its roster of visitors over the past two centuries includes such dignitaries as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth, the Prince of Wales, and almost every US President of the 20th century.
The house, made from Flemish bond brick with glazed headers, was built in 1732-33 by Henry Cary Jr., a former William and Mary student and one-time vestryman at Bruton Parish Church. It's one of three original 18th-century buildings in Williamsburg still serving the purpose for which they were built.
In 1781, the house was headquarters for Lord Cornwallis, the British general. And later that year, before the decisive Battle of Yorktown, it became a hospital for French officers.
During the Civil War, the house again became military headquarters, this time for federal troops occupying Williamsburg.
Despite its trials, the president's house proved useful not only as a residence but also as a classroom and home to students and faculty. Before, during, and after the Revolutionary War, students lived with the president's family.
In 1817 a wooden kitchen adjoining the president's house was so decayed that it was torn down and a new one erected. Today this structure is used as a guest cottage. In 1868 a wing was added to the house for the accommodation of professors.
Originally restored to its complete Colonial appearance by John D. Rockefeller Jr. more than 50 years ago, the house was renovated again in 1972. For the past eight years, through gifts and bequests, the Committee to Furnish the President's House has sought appropriate period furnishings.