On Thursday morning, a small crowd on West Francis Street stared up at the sky. It wasn’t a bird or plane that drew their eyes, but a construction crane that was placing a cupola on the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg’s new entrance.
“This is kind of the first step to the pavilion being finished off,” said Matt Webster, director of architectural preservation and research.
The new entrance is part of the $42 million expansion at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Richard Hadley, director of museum design and operation, said the entrance is the last major structure to be built as part of the project.
“It’s a big step, everything is just coming along,” Hadley said. “Changes every day with the interior work and this exterior work.”
He said they wanted to make an obvious, official entrance to the Art Museums, because now guests must go through Colonial Williamsburg’s Public Hospital and then travel underground through a tunnel to reach the museums.
“(The new entrance is) going to create a really nice formal entrance people are going to be able to find, to a large, new gallery space and a completely new visitor experience,” Webster said.
While the entrance is more modern in design, Webster said it also incorporates older architectural cues from around the area.
“This cupola takes a lot of details that you see up in Merchants Square, as well as classical detailing,” Webster said. “It’s still a modern feature, but based off a classical design.”
While the expansion will not be finished until 2020, Hadley said the new entrance would be ready later this year.
“This part of the project is to get the new entrance built and operational so we can continue the museum renovation project, which is the other galleries, so we can close (the old) entrance, use this entrance, and continue the work,” Hadley said. “I want to emphasize this is not the grand opening or even a soft opening, it’s just a new pathway for our guests to enter from the street level and enter our museum.”
Want to learn more?
You can watch the expansion’s construction in real-time via webcam at history.org/history/museums/expansion.cfm.
Amelia Heymann, email@example.com, 757-298-5828, @HeymannAmelia.