College of William & Mary Walking Tour
Visit some of the notable structures on the campus of the second oldest university in the United States.
Since 1993, this statue of the College of William & Mary’s first president, Rev. James Blair, has stood between Tyler and Blair Halls. Blair held a variety of political, educational, and religious leadership positions in Virginia after immigrating from Scotland in 1685. Blair served as president of the college for its first 50 years while maintaining his political and religious commitments. The statue was sculpted by Professor Lewis Cohen who also teaches the arts and art history on campus.
The Tyler Family Garden serves as a memorial to Virginia Governor John Tyler Sr., US President John Tyler, and William & Mary President Lyon Gardiner Tyler. These figures have been the source of both local and national controversy. L. G. Tyler helped to allow white women into the College of William & Mary but subscribed to racist beliefs and prohibited African Americans from attending or teaching at the college. The garden was paid for by descendants of the family and given to the university as a gift to the history department which is itself named for L. G. Tyler. A bust of each man with a brief summary of their lives are present in the garden which lies outside of the James Blair Building on William & Mary’s campus.
Once known only as "The Library" at the College of William & Mary, Tucker Hall was completed in 1909. Since that time, the building has undergone two additions, several renovations, and three name changes. The library was relocated to the newly built Earl Gregg Swem building in 1966 and the former library building became home to William and Mary's law school. In 1980, the building became home to the English Department and the law school was moved. It was at this time that the hall got its current name in honor of St. George Tucker, who was a poet and essayist in addition to working as a judge in Williamsburg. Tucker Hall remains the home of the English Department.
The oldest building on the campus of the College of William & Mary, the Wren Building dates back to 1695 when construction began. The building is named in honor of English architect Sir Christopher Wren, and despite several fires that required reconstruction of various parts of the building, it remains the oldest academic building in continuous use in the United States. The College of William & Mary is a historic liberal arts university in Williamsburg, Virginia. Originally established as a royal college in 1693 by King William III and Queen Mary II, it is the second-oldest higher education institution in the United States after Harvard University. William & Mary was the first college in the United States to become a university, the first to have a Greek-latter fraternity, the first to establish an honor code, and the first to establish schools of Law, Modern Languages, and Modern History. The school also boasts numerous alumni influential in the early history of the country, including Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler; sixteen members of the Continental Congress and four signatories of the Declaration of Independence; Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall; and Speaker of the House Henry Clay. Several of the original buildings on campus have been restored to their eighteenth century appearances. Today the College of William & Mary is a state-supported public research university with over 8,000 enrolled students.
The President’s House at the College of William & Mary is the oldest residence for a university administrator in the United States. Constructed in 1733, this historic mansion has housed every President of the College of William & Mary except for one (Robert Saunders, who chose to stay in his own home during his tenure from 1846-1848). During the American Revolution, it was occupied by both rebels and Redcoats during the Battle of Yorktown. The house was damaged by fire and renovated several times before being restored to its colonial appearance in 1931. Recent work on the home has blended modern amenities while maintaining the historic appearance of the residence. The house has been visited by multiple U.S. Presidents, members of the British monarchy, and hundreds of leading public intellectuals and scholars. Today the house remains the official residence of the William & Mary president and is also used to receive visitors and hold events for students, faculty, alumni, and prospective donors.
The statue known as the Lord Botetourt Statue was completed in 1773, three years after the death of Virginia’s Royal Governor Norborne Berkeley, the 4th Baron de Botetourt. Berkeley, known as Lord Botetourt, served as the colony’s governor from 1768 until his death in 1770. Lord Botetourt served as the Rector for the College of William & Mary’s Board of Visitors. During his time in Williamsburg, Botetourt began the Botetourt Medal fund to acknowledge two graduating students; the award remains one of the university’s highest honors today. The Lord Botetourt Statue was originally placed outside of the Capitol, but after being partially destroyed by vandals in 1790, was removed. After being restored in 1801, the statue was placed outside of the Wren building where it remained until it was moved to the Botetourt Gallery of the Earl Gregg Swem Library in 1966 to protect it from weather damage and vandalism. A new version of the statue was made in 1993 to the replace the original and is now visible outside of the Wren Building.
The Brafferton is the second oldest building on the College of William & Mary campus. Constructed in 1723, it is one of three surviving colonial buildings, along with the Wren Building and the President’s House, that make up the college’s Historic Campus. While today serving as the offices for the president and provost of William & Mary, the building originally housed the college’s Indian School. Established as part of William & Mary’s charter in 1693, the Indian School was intended to provide some Native Americans with a Western education in the hopes that they would spread European culture to their tribes. In this aspect the Indian School largely was a failure, and closed when funding was halted during the American Revolution.
One of two buildings named for Confederate General William Booth Taliaferro on campus at the College of William & Mary, the Taliaferro Building was once a fixture of the old campus. Built from 1893-94, the building was intended to recognize the work that Taliaferro had done to ensure the survival of the university after the Civil War. Once standing near the current Campus Center across from the Brafferton, the Taliaferro Building was torn down in 1967.
Built to replace the Taliaferro Building after university officials decided to convert that structure into the Fine Arts Building, Taliaferro Hall opened in 1935 as a dormitory for male students at the College of William & Mary with funding from a Public Works Administrative grant. Taliaferro Hall was designed to blend in with existing campus architecture. The building served at the first co-ed housing option in 1978 when the male-female student ratio shifted unexpectedly. Like its predecessor, Taliaferro Hall is named for Confederate General William Booth Taliaferro whose wealth was created both from his law practice and the labor of the people he enslaved. After the Civil War, Taliaferro was instrumental in helping the university recover financially. Taliaferro Hall is still a functioning residence hall at the College of William & Mary and is now co-ed.
Located behind the historic Wren Building on the College of William & Mary’s campus, the Sunken Garden has been a fixture at the university since its construction in 1935. Inspired by Christopher Wren’s original design for the Royal Hospital Chelsea, Sunken Garden’s architect Charles M. Robinson drew up the first plans for the Sunken Garden in the 1920s. Today the garden is a popular site for campus events and students looking to get outdoors.
Earl Gregg Swem Library is the central library for the College of William & Mary, one of the oldest universities in the United States. The university was founded in 1693 and the library was established in 1698. The library is named in honor of a notable historian, bibliographer, and librarian who helped to grow and organize Virginia’s historical archives and preserve the state’s history.
The Muscarelle Museum of Art holds the nearly 6,000-piece art collection at the College of William & Mary. With works from many famous artists like Georgia O’Keefe, Pablo Picasso, and Hans Hofmann, the museum has become a central location for the arts in Williamsburg. The museum has been open since 1983. Plans are currently underway to construct a new arts center to better house the growing collection.