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A College to Save Virginians' Souls


"Virginians have souls to be saved as well as Englishmen," argued the Rev. James Blair at the Court of King William and Queen Mary in 1602. One of only twelve clergymen among 15,000 Virginians, he was fighting for a badly-needed divinity school for the South.

"Dimo their souls, Let them make tobacco," his plan was curdy snubbed in London.

Back in Virginia the iron-handed governor, Sir William, Berhely, had gone on record with "I thank God that there are no free schools nor printing, and I hope we shall not have them these hundred years." Later, he contributed personally to the divinity school that is now the College of William and Mary at Williamsburg.

"Lamentable indifference", if not stubborn resistance, was met on every hand. But black as the prospects for a college seemed in 1692, an amazing reversal was just around the corner.

IN 1693 William and Mary chartered the institution, granting a fabulous cash endowment of well over $100,000, 20,000 acres of land, and an annual income that shot up like a pre-depression graph. This was garnered from an export duty of two cents on every pound of tobacco, another on all skins and pelts, an import tax on all liquors, and one-sixth of the fees of all public surveyors. Around 1750 this amounted to $15,000 annually, arousing the admiration and envy of William and Mary's poor, struggling contemporaries in the other colonies.

The College of William and Mary was Episcopalian. Her Chancellor was the Bishop of London or his Deputy (until the Revolution!). Theology, with its attendant Oriental languages, was stressed less than at Harvard.

The incipient Southern Gentleman soon had to be curbed by rules scarcely necessary in the North-against keeping or betting on race horses and game-cocks, and against billiards, cards, and dice. Once a Professor of Moral Philosophy was forced to resign-he had led the collegians in a riot against some Williamsburg town rowdies!

Even the architecture was tinged with Anglicism-Sir Christopher Wren's name is traditionally linked with the first college hall, built in 1697. Whether or not the designer of London's St. Paul's did send over a drawing, this hall went up in flames in 1705. Most likely the new building to replace it was "contrived by the ingenious direction of Governor Spotswood," as reported. And in another devastating fire during the Civil War, only its walls were left standing.

WHOEVER designed William and Mary's earliest buildings, they are certainly more suave, and graceful than Harvard's. Few would agree with Thomas Jefferson's prejudiced epithets: "misshapen piles, which, but that they have roofs would be taken for brick kilns." Box-like they are, but the curve and the arch are introduced for relief. The proportions are ampler, less stilted, than those in the other colonies.

"Red" brick covers a multitude of shades, and the red of Virginia is softer and warmer than that of Massachusetts. The alternating long-and-short pattern of the bricks ("Flemish bond") is accentuated by the deeper-burned color of those laid head outward (the "headers"). In short, without "applying" sculptural ornament of any kind, a less Puritan, more decorative effect has been achieved.

This is the second in this exclusive series of articles on "American College Architecture."-Editor.

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