Governor's Palace to close for annual renovations

The Governor’s Palace at Colonial Williamsburg will close for its annual preventative maintenance Sunday and reopen Jan. 27 with a more historically accurate look.

The renovation is the result of research from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s preservation, conservation and curatorial teams, according to the foundation.

When the building reopens in late January, the walls of the Great Hall will be a noticeably lighter color.

The changes are scheduled for two phases: this month's work in the Great Hall and next January in the Stairway Hall and stairway.

Colonial Williamsburg reconstructed the Governor’s Palace in 1934 based on historical records and evidence from 1920s archaeological excavations. The original Governor’s Palace was completed in 1715 and destroyed by fire in 1781.

Erik Goldstein, senior curator of mechanical arts and numismatics, researched documentary sources and visited sites with period arms displays. He found that during the 18th century, walls used by the English to show such displays had lighter colors to present the mounted arms in clear contrast.

Goldstein and Matt Webster, director of the Grainger Department of Architectural Preservation and Research at Colonial Williamsburg, believe the walls of the palace’s great and stairway halls had a similar look during the Revolutionary period, according to a CW news release announcing the renovation.

During the renovation, Colonial Williamsburg plans to cover dark stain with historically accurate paint.

“Change is challenging for historic sites, but we study the past for a reason,” said Webster in the release. “Often our work shows us that we got something wrong, and we correct it.

“Paintings of period English wall-mounted arms displays at the Tower of London and St. James’ Palace show light-colored finishes, as do displays at Hampton Court and Chevening House. We can be confident the Governor’s Palace was appointed similarly, and as always, we welcome guests to see the exciting results of our work.”

“Colonial Williamsburg is committed to its core educational mission of historical preservation and interpretation,” said Ronald L. Hurst, Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator and vice president of collection, conservation and museums, in the release. “Preservation does not, however, mean our work never changes. Instead, it is constantly evolving based on new research to provide an authentic reflection of one of the most critical periods in our shared history.”

LaRoue can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342, by email at or on Twitter @jlaroue.

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