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 One Telegram That Inspired a Dream

One Telegram That Inspired a Dream

December 6, 2018 

At 10:51 a.m. on December 7, 1926—92 years ago today—an obscurely worded telegram signed by “David’s father” was sent over the lines from New York City to Williamsburg, an event we mark as the beginning of the Restoration of Virginia’s colonial capital.

It read: “Authorize purchase of antique referred to in your long letter of December fourth at eight on basis outlined in shorter letter same date.”

The sender was the industrial magnate John D. Rockefeller Jr., and the recipient was the Rev. Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, the rector of Bruton Parish Church. The "antique" was the Ludwell-Paradise House, an original 18th-century building on Duke of Gloucester Street, which was on the market for $8,000. This historic home was the first structure to be purchased as a part of what would become the Restoration. Goodwin was lobbying for support for his dream of preserving Williamsburg's surviving colonial fragments and rebuilding the lost ones so that the city might stand as a testament to America's founding.

The Rev. Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin and John D. Rockefeller Jr. survey the land behind the George Wythe house in the early days of Williamsburg’s Restoration.

Between the Rev. Dr. Goodwin’s heroic labors and Mr. Rockefeller's exceptional philanthropy, the Restoration was a truly ambitious feat. Almost 100 years later, the dream of inspiring people from all walks of life and from all parts of the world with the story of America’s beginnings is a reality. The Restoration is not merely the bricks and mortar of projects like the reconstruction of the Market House and the renovation of the Palace complex; it’s the ongoing effort to better understand our history—including its imperfections and difficulties.

Today the responsibility for protecting the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Goodwin and Mr. Rockefeller falls to all of us. Join us in our mission to feed the human spirit by sharing America’s enduring story. Philanthropy brought the dream to life, and, with your help, will keep it alive for many generations to come.

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