Last week, William & Mary President Taylor Reveley and Provost Michael Halleran moved their offices and staff from the Brafferton to James Blair Hall. That stately brick building may have thought it had seen its last days as presidential office space for the College, but scheduled renovation work at the Brafferton this fall changed all that.
James Blair Hall, which sits on the north-west corner of the Sunken Garden, was constructed between 1934–1935 to house the offices of the president, bursar, business manager, registrar, treasurer and deans of the College. When the building opened in 1935, it was known as Marshall-Wythe Hall; the building was renamed James Blair Hall in honor of the College’s first president in 1968.
John Stewart Bryan, president of William & Mary from 1934–1942, was the first William & Mary president to occupy the space. Three subsequent presidents, John Edwin Pomfret, Alvin Duke Chandler and Davis Young Paschall, had their offices there before the president’s office was moved to Ewell Hall in 1962 and then to the Brafferton in 1985.
For Reveley, who also serves as the John Stewart Bryan Professor of Law, the historical threads haven’t gone unnoticed.
“Leaving the Brafferton, if only for 13 months, was a real wrench, and it entailed a massive movement of papers and other impedimentia,” said Reveley, “but the need to get on with preserving the venerable Brafferton was acute, and it will be fun to spend time in James Blair in the haunts of former William & Mary presidents, John Stewart Bryan in particular.”
While packing for the move was spread out over several weeks, the move itself happened quickly, taking just a day to complete. Not everything made the move, however. Some items, like a 1729 tall case clock, have been sent for repair while others are headed to storage.
In addition to the senior administrative offices, Blair Hall also currently houses the departments of history and philosophy.
For the president, provost and their staffs, the move to James Blair Hall is a temporary one. The renewal and preservation work at the Brafferton, built in 1723, is scheduled to take just a year to complete. The project will address the preservation needs of the Brafferton (the second oldest building on the College’s historic campus), the safety of its occupants and the replacement of building systems that have exceeded their life expectancy.