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A Tour With Flohr

April 2023
1min read

Georg Flohr’s diary is remarkable not only for its private’s-eye text but for the diarist’s thirty minutely observed watercolor views of American and Caribbean towns that form an invaluable historical record. This is nowhere more apparent than in the scene of Williamsburg, Virginia, at right. When officials in charge of the Tercentenary celebrations at the College of William & Mary learned of the picture, they decided to feature it in a poster series marking the February 1993 event. “A close look at the drawing,” says Ray Betzner, head of the Office of University Relations, “showed our Martha Hamilton-Philips how accurate it was in every detail, except for Flohr’s decision to portray all the houses facing forward. In reality the large building at the bottom, the Sir Christopher Wren Building, would offer its back to a viewer standing where the artist stood. And the two buildings in the row above it would be facing each other. At the left is the President’s House, built in 1732 and burned down soon after Flohr drew it, making this the last known view of the building. It was a hospital during the Yorktown Battle for wounded French troops. Its companion to the right, called the Brafferton, was used to educate Indian children, since that was William & Mary’s founding mission.” Farther up the street and just to the left the spired Bruton Parish Church comes into view. On the next street is the Governor’s Palace. “The low arched building one block up from the Palace and to the right is probably the market hall,” says Betzner. “People at Colonial Williamsburg have spent a lot of time searching for the site of this market. From Flohr’s evidence, it seems they’ve been looking in the wrong place.” Looming at the top is the colonial capitol, which stands rebuilt today. “If you gave this drawing to a present-day tourist,” our source at William & Mary claims, “he could make his way around town with very little trouble.”

—Carla Davidson

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