Raleigh Tavern Archaeological Report, Block 17 Building 6A Lot 54 Originally entitled: "Raleigh Tavern"

Herbert S. Ragland


Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series - 1347
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library

Williamsburg, Virginia


January 5, 1931 -

TO: Mr. H. R. Shurtleff, Director of Department of Research & Record
From: H. S. Ragland, in charge of Archaeological Excavations
Subject: Foundations between Raleigh Tavern & "Kinnamon" Building on North Side of Duke of Gloucester Street in Block # 17, on sites of the recently removed John Armistead and Lane Stores

Submitted herewith is archaeological drawing showing the several foundations recently uncovered by excavations at the above mentioned sites, all of which, according to deeds recorded in York County Court House, are on Colonial Lot # 53.

The records show that James Carter purchased the lot, June 20, 1763, from Edward and Henrica Booker. In August 1765, James Carter, Surgeon, sold to his brother, John Carter "one full fourth part" of this lot (the eastern fourth, nearest the Raleigh Tavern) beginning "about against the middle brick wall partition of a certain large brick house lately erected and built thereon jointly by the said James and John Carter and is now in their possession and to extend eastwardly along the said Duke of Gloucester or Main Street 20' 7½" which is the exact breadth of the fourth part of the said lot or half acre, thence northwardly by a line parallel to the western line of the said lot to Nicholson Street, thence westwardly 20' 7½" etc. to the point of beginning. And all houses."

On March 12, 1767, Dr. James Carter deeded to his brother John the rear portion of the adjacent quarter of lot # 53, 20' 7½" wide and 149' 8" deep from Nicholson Street. As these half acre lots were sixteen poles or 204 feet deep from Duke of Gloucester to Nicholson Streets, there was left in James Carter's possession the front portion of this quarter of the lot 20' 7½" wide and 114' 4" deep, which, on July 19, 1779 he deeded to his brother, Dr. William Carter, the deed stating that the following was included: "all that moiety of the brick house which belonged to the said James Carter, situate, lying and being -2- on the north side of the Duke of Gloucester Street, as also all that part of ground whereon it stands... being the moiety of the lot and house where the said William Carter know keeps his shop".

Apparently, William Carter sold his part, which included half of the house to John Carter, thereby putting in John's possession the whole of the house and a half of the original lot # 53, for on March 29, 1783, in the Virginia Gazette, John Carter advertised for sale "my brick house adjoining the Raleigh Tavern, with a store and counting room below and four rooms above, kitchen, etc."

The Virginia Gazette also records that on June 30, 1793, the following was "sold at auction, the house and lots of the late John Carter, also tenement adjoining the Raleigh Tavern now occupied by James Davis."

John Carter at the time of his death evidently owned several lots, as the tenement or house occupied by James Davis was particularly mentioned. James Davis evidently bought it (the tenement he had formerly occupied) for in May 1806 he insured a two story brick dwelling house and shop, 40 x 38 feet, with 4 feet (?) of the Raleigh Tavern, having a brick kitchen 24 x 18 feet. (See Mrs. Bullock's report on Block 17 #7-Lot west of the Raleigh Tavern.)

Portions of the foundations of the house remain. The eastern wall has been found (exactly 5'1" west of the Raleigh Tavern) and, as the plan shows, 88' long, which agrees with the depth of the house recorded in the insurance policy. The interior north and south wall, mentioned as the party wall in the deed from James to John Carter had been uncovered, and the center of it is 20' 7½" from the outside of the eastern wall, agreeing with the measurement recorded in the deed. Also, the southwest corner and a part of the west wall have been found, and the frontage of the building -3- is 41'3" agreeing with the width recorded in the deeds, and checking very closely with the insurance policy dimension.

At the time of Just before the Civil War, Vest's Store stood on this site, and from all available information, it was the same building, with additions on the rear, or a remodelled one, on the same foundation walls, and was burned simultaneously with the Raleigh Tavern in 1859.

An old colored woman, the mother of William Baker, the sexton of Bruton Parish Church, who worked for Mr. Vest, said that Vest's Store was very close to the house west of it, the old Lee House --that there was just enough room for a person to walk between the two buildings. Her statement has been verified for the east foundation wall of the Lee House recently uncovered is actually 2'1½" west of the west wall of the Carter (later Vest) building.

Another building, the Lane Sr. store, recently torn down by the "Restoration" was afterwards built on the same site but not on the old walls of the Carter (Vest) building. The west foundation wall of the Lane Sr. store still stands between the east and middle walls of the older foundations. The Lane Sr. east foundation wall was removed to restore the Raleigh Tavern.

It is also recorded in two separate deeds that Dr. James Carter sold on August 30, 1765, and June 24, 1766, the western portions of lot # 53 to James Craig, a jeweller. The first of these sales was for the extreme western portion of the lot "bounded on the west by the lot of Dr. George Gilmer, deceased, on the South by a line from the Corner of the said Gilmer's lot down the said street (Duke of Gloucester) so as to include 15 feet of the house where the said Craig keeps him shop, thence north through the said house including the said shop a straight course to the northern bounds of the said lot, together with the privilege of a passage 6 feet wide on the backside and on the east end of the said house so as to have a way around the said house to the Main street. -4 The second sale to Craig records that the additional piece was bounded "on the west by the ground lately purchased by the said James Craig of the said James Carter, on the said Duke of Gloucester Street, 21'9" eastwardly to the said James Carter's brick house or shop and along and adjoining the wall of the said house or shop a straight course to Nicholson Street and along the said street westwardly 21¾ feet to the ground of the said James Craig."

From these two deeds it is clear that there was an alley way between the Carter House and the Craig building, and that the distance from the Carter House across the alley to the west wall of Craig's building was 36'9". A number of walls have been found at the Craig site, of which the western one is 36'9" west of the Carter foundation, agreeing with the deeds, and another wall (4'3" west of the eastern one) is 6'4½" west of the Carter foundation, leaving the alley way, mentioned in the deed, between the two buildings.

At the time of the Civil War and until its removal in 1907, the building on this site was known as the Lee House. Mr. Edward Lee, who works in the Williamsburg Post Office, told me that he pulled the building down in 1907, and that his grandfather had lived in the house. Mr. Lee identified the west wall already proved herein to be the west wall of Craig's shop, as the west foundation wall of the Lee House; and the old colored woman (previously mentioned) who was Vest's servant, stated that the Lee House was very close to Vest's store, there being merely space enough for one person in the alley way.

This was true of Craig's building too, for an alley way and between [illegible] and Careter's is mentioned. The easternmost wall found at the site, therefore, is the east wall of the Lee House, for it is 2'1½" west of the west wall of the Carter (Vest Store) foundation. In Craig's time there were two shops there. Mr. Lee said there were two doors, opening on Duke of Gloucester Street, and that the house was very old, the timbers being mortised and tenoned, and put together with wooden pine. Therefore is seems almost conclusive that the Craig house lengthened 4'3" on the eastern end, (for a hall) was, also, the Lee house. -5 Both Mr. Lee and Miss Kitty Morecock told me, that the Lee House was a story and a half building, with gable roof end dormer windows front and back, two rooms on the first floor on the street side, and one or two behind, a half at the eastern end of the house, running straight through the building with doors to the hall from the front and back. Miss Morecock said that one front room was entered from the hall and the other from the street as well as from the other room. Mr. Lee said that he pulled the chimney down and that it was a double one, with a fireplace in each front room. The house had a half basement under the two front rooms and hall, the first floor probably being about three feet above the ground. From Miss Morecock's description and the excavations there was no basement under the rear rooms, which was probably an addition with a sloping roof, continuing the slope of the main roof.

The old colored woman, who was Vest's servant, stated that the Lee House was a one story building, with three dormer windows in front and two in the back, with shed roof behind and cellar.

Miss Kitty Morecock had a photograph of the old Lee House, which I hope she will permit us to rephotograph, from which and the above description the elevation and plan of the house shown on our drawing was made. Photographs of the foundations have been made by our photographers.

After the removal of the Lee House, the John Armistead store was built on the same site, but the old foundations were only partially reused. A part of the later building was supported on new walls and pillars which for the most part were removed when the building was pulled down.

Remains of foundations of outbuildings are also shown on the drawing.

The boxes of objects, glass, china, iron etc. found in the excavations I have turned over to Mr. Rutherfoord Goodwin.

Herbert S. Ragland

Supplementary Report - Old Foundations between Raleigh Tavern & Kinnamon's.

There were three houses in Williamsburg, known as Lee Houses. One of those is still standing, the old house occupied by Mr. Edward Lee, on the North side of Duke of Gloucester Street near the eastern end of the street. Two are gone. One formerly stood between the present Lee and Vaden houses. It was a story and a half house, 20 feet long x 16 feet wide with 8 windows, 1 door and 3 dormer windows on the front.

The outer "Lee" House pulled down in 1907 by Mr. Edward Lee stood on the lot adjacent to and East of "Kinnamon's" and between it and the Raleigh Tavern. A sketch of this house made by Barrows from a picture owned by Miss Kitty Morecock, is shown in inset, on the drawing of the old foundations at this site.

H. S. Ragland

September 8, 1930.
Raleigh Tavern Outbuildings
Perry, Shaw & Hepburn
Attention: Mr. Duell-


I submit herewith archaeological plot plan showing foundations of the outbuildings of the Raleigh Tavern, uncovered by excavation during August, 1930. The separate foundations are lettered on the plan a, b, c, d, etc. The information ascertained about these buildings is as follows:


A building was removed from this foundation by the "Restoration". Foundation is built of old bricks with oyster shell mortar. Bricks vary in size and color. Some are buff but more are red, and some are glazed. Typical size is 8½" x 4" x 2½". Some few are 8" x 4" x 2¾". Mortar has very small quantity of shell particles in it.


A building was removed from this foundation, and a shed from the portion over the posts, by the "Restoration". Foundation 8" wide is built of modern red bricks (8" x 4" x 2½"), superimposed on one footing course of old bricks, with the exception of S. E. corner pier, which is built of old bricks entirely. No oyster shell mortar identified here.


A building was removed from this foundation by the "Restoration". Foundation piers 8" wide built of modern red bricks 8" x 4" x 2½" rest upon piers 13" wide built of older bricks 9¼" x 4½" x 2 3/8", which is the size of the Palace bricks. The mortar is oyster shell but quantity of shell particles is small.


This foundation is old. Col. Lane, who formerly owned the lot has no knowledge of any building standing on this site. Foundation walls, 8½" wide; are built of old bricks, average size 8½" x 4" x 2 5/8" and oyster shell mortar. Some old bricks found in this foundation were probably previously used in an arched opening, being wider at one end than at the other.



This is a foundation with walls 8" to 8½" wide, built of bricks, average size 8" x 4" x 2 3/8". No building stood on this site recently, to our knowledge, but red color and size of bricks and absence of indications of oyster shell mortar does not suggest colonial building. In the west wall, eight stumps of posts, about 4" or 5" in diameter were found. These posts are in line with fence posts still standing outside of this foundation. Work is still progressing here.

Very truly yours,

Herbert S. Ragland

Prentice Duell

Copies to: Perry, Shaw & Hepburn, Boston
Williamsburg Holding Corporation
Colonel Woods
Mr. Arthur Shurcliff
Mr. H.R. shurtleff
Dr. Goodwin

September 8, 1930.
Raleigh Tavern
Mr. Andrew H. Hepburn
Perry, Shaw & Hepburn
141 Milk Street
Boston, Mass.

Dear Mr. Hepburn:

Enclosed herewith is a report to date on the excavations for the Out-Buildings at Raleigh Tavern, authorized in your letter of July 15. A sketch plan is also enclosed which shows the extent of the excavations and the foundation walls of the several buildings that have been found to date.

You will note that the whole area of the Raleigh Tavern is being excavated in an exhaustive manner and that the work is still in progress. The final report and plan will be distributed in the near future.

Very truly yours,

Prentice Duell

Copies to:
Perry, Shaw & Hepburn, Boston
Colonel Woods
Williamsburg Holding Corporation
Mr. Arthur Shurcliff
Mr. H. R. Shurtleff
Dr. Goodwin

To: Mr. H. R. Shurtleff- Department of Research & Record
From: H. S. Ragland
Report # 2- Summary of work done excavating for the outbuildings of the Raleigh Tavern for period Sept. - Oct. 1930.
(Report # 1 covers August, 1930.)

The whole of the present Raleigh Tavern lot has been explored, and in addition to the foundations reported uncovered in previous report, foundations of Vest's old store, fronting on Duke of Gloucester Street near and west of the Raleigh Tavern, have been uncovered and basement excavated. Part of a foundation of building west of Vests Store has also been uncovered. This work, including backfilling of trenches, where no remains of foundations were found is practically completed. A plan has already been submitted showing all the foundations uncovered there, except Vest's store foundations which have not yet been completely measured. The foundation west of Vest's store cannot be completely uncovered until excavations are begun on lot west of the Raleigh Tavern lot. Apparently, a part of the foundation of Vest's store is a wall of a much older building, perhaps a Colonial house that, prior to the store, stood on the site.

H. S. Ragland

November 7, 1930.