Architecture Around the World

Wren Building, College of William and Mary
Williamsburg, Va.

Style: Colonial (Georgian)
Begun 1695 / Restored in 1930s to 1732 appearance

Interior Photos

TEXT Beneath Illustrations

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Interior Photos

The College of William and Mary's Wren Building is the oldest academic structure still in use in America. Begun August 8, 1695, two years after the school was chartered, it is the signature building of the second oldest college in the nation (next to Harvard).

Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, John Tyler, and John Marshall studied in its rooms. George Washington was once chancellor of the college, which is now a distinguished university.

Three times destroyed by fire, the appearance of the brick-walled Wren Building has often changed, but it stands today much as it appeared by 1732. It was the first major building restored by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., after he began Williamsburg's restoration in the late 1920s.

Properly called the College Building, the first version of the Wren Building was built by English "undertaker" (contractor) Thomas Hadley. It rose on a parcel of the 330 acres the college's trustees had purchased at Middle Plantation from Thomas Ballard. In 1699 Middle Plantation became the city of Williamsburg. Over the years, 300 of William and Mary's original acres slipped into other hands as Virginia's new capital grew.

- Text source: Colonial Williamsburg: Wren Building

Photos and their arrangement © 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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