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Colonial Williamsburg Plans Reconstruction of 18th-century Market House

Colonial Williamsburg trustee and major benefactor Forrest Mars Jr. of Big Horn, Wyo., has made a $1 million commitment for construction of a Market House in the center of the Revolutionary City. It is the third major historic reconstruction funded by Forrest Mars since 2007 with gift funds totaling $11 million.

“Forrest Mars’ most recent gift for the Market House affirms his belief in the importance of the Revolutionary City as a stage for teaching history and engaging guests,” said Colin Campbell, president and CEO of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “We are extremely grateful for his vision and his generosity.”

Early in the 18th century, the colonial legislature set aside an open space midway between the Capitol and the College of William and Mary to be used for markets and fairs. By midcentury, Market Square was an important center of community life with daily markets and auctions.

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Despite its well-known existence, physical evidence of Williamsburg’s 1757 market house is scarce. The building was used through the early 19th century until it was replaced by a new structure in 1835. During the earliest years of the restoration, Dr. W. A. R. Goodwin repeatedly urged reconstruction of the Market House, but the time was never right. Today, reconstruction of the 18th-century market house will restore one of the central features of Market Square, bringing greater vitality and authenticity to Colonial Williamsburg’s interpretation of economic and social life in colonial America.

“I am excited by the prospect of having a new market building as the centerpiece of commerce in today’s Revolutionary City, just as it was in the 18th century,” said foundation trustee Forrest Mars.

Colonial Williamsburg’s reconstructed market house will be a wooden structure on a brick base, measuring approximately 20 feet in width and 40 feet in length with a shingled hip roof. The sides of the building will be entirely or partially open.

Archaeology on the Market Square site will be conducted this summer. A possible timetable may have a reconstructed Market House in use by 2015. When the new market house is complete, it will serve as the location for outdoor sales, adding to the vibrancy of the Revolutionary City experience.

Previous gifts by Forrest Mars include $5 million for reconstruction and endowment of R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse and $5 million for reconstruction and endowment of the James Anderson Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury, including the recently completed Tin Shop, which formally opens this fall.

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