The oldest surviving commercial
structure in Williamsburg, VA
, having been completed in 1740
. During colonial
times, the space was occupied by Prentis and Company, a mercantile
firm that never received a 1774 shipment of tea
because patriots had dumped it
into the York River at Yorktown, VA
Like most commercial buildings of that period, the building is long and narrow, with its gable end facing the street. Windows were included only in the counting room at the back of the store, leaving more room to display merchandise in the main section.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the building was in use as a service station for automobiles. When it came time in 1928 for it to be renovated as part of the Williamsburg Restoration Project, the outer appearance barely changed - windows were left in place along the side of the building, and the first floor was kept at ground level. William Pain's architectural handbooks, written in the eighteenth century, provided the example of paneled windows facing the street. By 1972, however, futher documentation and photographic evidence had turned up the actual design of the store. The first floor was raised above strete level, and a porch was added with a side staircase. The bulkhead was rebuild to accommodate construction of a recently-rediscovered cellar entrance.
Today the Prentis Store is open to tourists, who are encouraged to purchase souvenirs from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
Source: Williamsburg Before and After: The Rebirth of Virginia's Colonial Capital, by George Humphrey Yetter (1988).