The restoration of Bruton Parish Church, on the corner of Duke of Gloucester Street and the Palace Green in Williamsburg, Virginia, coincided in the 1930s with the larger restoration of Colonial Williamsburg itself, a project conceived by the parish rector, the Reverend William Archer Rutherfoord Goodwin. Gaining the financial support of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., for the overall project, Goodwin devoted a good portion of his own restoration efforts to the church, so much a part of the colonial history of Williamsburg itself, and to its surrounding environment as well, beginning with the eighteenth-century churchyard walls and ancient tombstones.
With these major efforts envisioned or already underway, Mary Boyd Ryland, corresponding secretary of the Williamsburg Garden Club, approached Mrs. Katherine Boggs of the Restoration Committee of The Garden Club of Virginia in December 1936 to seek support for restoration of the churchyard itself. Mrs. Ryland noted that "age and the recent severe storms have played havoc with many of the old trees and shrubs and their replacement is of vital importance in bringing back the charm and beauty of the old churchyard." Initially, The Garden Club agreed to replace ten trees and to the planting of several shrubs, including Rose of Sharon, along with a fair amount of English Ivy.
Subsequently, efforts at the church became part of the larger Williamsburg Restoration, and staff of Colonial Williamsburg, Inc., took roles in the planning and implementation of the work. Arthur Shurcliff was commissioned in 1939 to create a landscape plan at the expense of the restoration project, which required the approval of The Garden Club and the vestry of Bruton Parish before the actual work would be undertaken by Colonial Williamsburg. New walkways were established and existing flagstone walks were replaced by brick. Additional trees and shrubs, including American Holly, Virginia Red Cedar, Crape-Myrtle, and English Yew, were planted, along with a ground cover of periwinkle.
Given the long period over which this churchyard restoration was accomplished, and the many hands involved in it, Shurcliff compiled a record plan in March 1942 (reproduced in Williams, Historic Virginia Gardens, pp. 64–65) that included directions for maintenance of the plantings by the church. Later maintenance also included additional restoration work undertaken jointly by the church and Colonial Williamsburg (see report of Alden Hopkins to Mrs. A. E. Kendrew, November 18, 1955, below).
Note: The images presented here record various stages of the property's landscape restoration. Since additional work has been supported by The Garden Club of Virginia at many properties, these images do not necessarily represent the current-day experience. Also, accession numbers reflect the year in which an image was received by the Virginia Historical Society, not the year in which it was taken.
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Bruton Parish Church and churchyard from the north.