William & Mary broke ground Wednesday in the Sunken Garden to make way for roughly 1,693 new parking spaces in the center of campus.
As it turns out, the Sunken Garden was never intended to be one, despite previous assertions that it was reminiscent of Royal Hospital Chelsea. Instead, while renovating Swem Library's media lab, crews found old college plans stashed in the walls that showed the Sunken Garden was originally supposed to be a parking deck.
"The truth is that as early as the 1920s, William & Mary had already run out of parking," said archivist intern Colin L. Revival '16.
The original plans called for a 25-level parking deck in the middle of campus. But when the Civilian Conservation Corps began excavating the site for the underground portion in 1933, students and others in town protested.
Ultimately, construction stopped with a large, muddy hole in the ground. A front-page Williamsburg Gazette article crowed "Parking deck's name is mud," though a more measured op-ed in the following edition accused protestors of "making a mountain out of a mud hole."
The hole was subsequently reseeded and shaped into the Sunken Garden.
Paving the space will provide new parking for a full seven buildings on campus: the Wren Building plus James Blair, Tyler, Tucker, Ewell, Washington and McGlothlin-Street halls, with access from James Blair Drive.
The ground-breaking came along with the announcement that the Bike Initiative will suspend operations effective immediately, April Fool's Day.
"Honestly, now that there's parking, we'll probably just drive," said Bike Initiative president Nora Tupac '18.