2022 US Trip – Day 8 (Alexander Craig House at Williamsburg)

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There are literally hundreds of buildings in Colonial Williamsburg and the element that I liked is that just about all of them have a little plaque on them explaining the history of the structure and also whether it’s original or reconstructed. This is Alexander Craig House and he was a saddler who purchased this house in 1755. Until his death in 1776, he lived in the section to the left and ran his business from the section on the right.

This is also one of the original buildings, known about from as early as 1712 although would have been constructed earlier than this, first owned by Susanna Allen and then transferred to a glazier J White (not Julian, it was John, but I liked the link) in 1734 and then were a series of owners from thereon in. In 1752, the barber and wigmaker William Peake purchased the building and it was him who sold it to Alexander Craig. One thing that is remarkable about the town is the survival of documents (not least down to the building that they constructed for that purpose) and not only have leases of sale survived, but they even have inventories of what was in each property.

I can’t list everything that Susanna Allen, as an example, owned, but the level of detail is exceptional. Below is just one part of the inventory of her property in 1720:

1 Long Oval Table £ 1.1.5.0
1 large looking Glass 2.10.0
1 Small Do 0. 6.0
1 pr window Curtains 0. 2.0
1 pr Small Iron doggs 0. 4.0
1 pr Small money Scales 0. 4.0
7 leather Chairs high backs 2. 5.0
8 old Chairs 1. 5.0
1 pr large doggs 1. 0.0
1 pott Rack 0. 1.0
3 brass pails 2. 5.0
2 Tables 1 Chest & Lumber 0.12.6
5 old Chairs 0.15.0
[torn] Curtains 0.55.0
[torn] Do 1.0.0
[torn] 0.10.0
[torn] jugs & 1 old Counterpin 2.5.0
7 beds & 1 old quilt 16.5.0
1 torn] Table & press bedsteads 10.0.0
6 old Chairs 1.5.0
2 old Chests 0.8.0
1 bedstead & hyde 0.10.0
1 Tea Kettle 0.10.0
2 Sifters 0.1.10
1 pr money Scales 0. 7.6
130 lb old pewter @ 9d 4.17.6
5 Tankards & 1-qt pott 0.10.0
11 old Spoons 0.1.3
1 looking Glass 0.2.6
11 knives 0.5.6
1 doz. Napkins 2 Table Cloths 0.19.0
6 Course Towels 2 pillow Cases 0. 9.6
14 pr Sheets 7. 5.0
2 old Table Cloths 2 pillow Cases 0. 5.0
1 press of Books 0.10.0

Holmes, Clyde, “Alexander Craig House,” John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, accessed October 7, 2022, https://rocklib.omeka.net/items/show/1751.

And here’s what the property looked like (it’s the one on the right) in the early 1930s, before it was restored as part of the Colonial Williamsburg project. Going back to an earlier point that I made about not visiting Jamestown, this was the sort of story that I was engaged with, how the very early colonists lived their lives whilst still sort of under British rule. Alexander Craig was apparently one of the most successful early saddlers in the colonies and he went there in around 1748, moving him and his wife from Glasgow to seek new opportunities, as well as having six children in Virginia.

I know this sort of text must sound very dry and perhaps lacking in much interest to most people, but this whole town is so packed with social history from the seventeenth century, not just relating to the colonies themselves, but also the areas from which they came.