Photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Archive Center.
The restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, capital of colonial Virginia, began in 1926 as the collaborative effort of the Rev. William A.R. Goodwin, rector of Bruton Parish Church, and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. It opened to the public in 1935. As it evolved into the large-scale historic and educational park it remains to this day, it was almost exclusively a Rockefeller-supported endeavor well into the 1970s. By the end of the 1960s, Rockefeller support to Colonial Williamsburg totaled more than $79 million. Two founding RBF trustees, JDR 3rd and Winthrop, chaired the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (CWF) board, and many other family members, including Abby O’Neill, Laurance and Nelson Rockefeller, have served as CWF trustees. The RBF made gifts for general support beginning in 1962, and in 1969 it contributed to the restoration of Carter’s Grove plantation (purchased by Winthrop Rockefeller and the Sealantic Fund). By the 1970s, RBF contributions to Williamsburg were approaching $5 million, and the Fund made an additional $5 million grant to help stabilize the organization’s equilibrium in challenging times, urging strategies such as streamlining staff, clustering exhibit areas, and adding revenue-producing programs and merchandising.