Friday, May 24, 2013

The First Oval Office: Making Washington's Tent, Week I

As readers of this blog know, I'm working at Colonial Williamsburg this summer as a historic trades intern with the "First Oval Office" project, an initiative to recreate George Washington's sleeping marquee. This tent, which still survives in the collection of the Museum of the American Revolutioon (plus a few pieces elsewhere), served as his office and bedchamber from 1778 through the end of the war. Our crew of eight began interpreting the tentmaking shop, in the Secretary's Office near the Capitol, last Saturday. It's been a resounding success so far, and we've talked to a lot of visitors about everything from the flax industry to Flemish bond brickwork (like that of our building) and, of course, mostly about making and using tents during the Revolution.

Aaron Walker and Tyler Putman carrying some of the fabric woven for the First Oval Office project.

This week, we began assembling the "inner chamber" of the marquee, a rectangular canvas room which was suspended over the ridge pole within the larger marquee, partitioning the interior and further insulating Washington's sleeping area from the elements. The original is on display at the Yorktown Victory Center, right down the road. We're working with a herringbone twill linen called "ticking," matched to the original material and woven the weave room at the Taliaferro-Cole Shop here at Williamsburg. The bulk of the work on the inner chamber, for us common seamsters, involves seaming panels and felling the seams to protect their edges. I'll post more about construction details later this summer.

Aaron Walker, Michael Ramsey, and Joseph Privott working in the Secretary's Office.

We're making good progress, and we're all enjoying introducing Williamsburg's visitors to the work of "artificers," artisans who produced goods for military use during the Revolution, and showing off the inside of the Secretary's Office, one of Colonial Williamsburg's original buildings. Come by and visit us, or follow us virtually via our facebook page and live webcam!

Michael Ramsey and Joseph Privott seaming panels of the inner chamber.

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