Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, is the world’s largest living history museum – the restored capital of Britain’s largest, wealthiest outpost in the New World.
“Many of the weather vanes from Colonial America were made of iron, forged either by local smiths or English smiths,” says Kenneth Schwarz, master blacksmith, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
You’ll find reproductions of 18th-century weather vanes on various buildings in the Historic Area – the originals are kept inside for preservation, says Barbara R. Luck, curator of paintings, drawings and sculpture with the foundation. This 301-acre area has hundreds of restored, reconstructed and historically furnished buildings with costumed interpreters.
“Here in Williamsburg, most of the public buildings – such as the college, the Capitol, the Governor’s palace, the courthouse, the hospital, the church – had weathervanes as architectural features distinguishing them from private buildings,” Schwarz says.
There are at least 50 weather vanes and a few wooden whirligigs in The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, which houses an outstanding collection of folk art.
“The vast majority of vanes in our collection date from the late 19th and some from the early 20th centuries. They are full-bodied, mass-produced types created with drop hammers by commercial firms,” Luck says.
Weather vanes are worth preserving because they are part of American cultural history and our design landscape, she says.
“As such, they help us understand the past,” Luck says.
For more information: call (800)-HISTORY or (757) 229-1000 or visit the Colonial Williamsburg website. For instructions on weather vane construction, look under “Teachers/Lesson Plans” on that website.
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