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Preserving Colonial Williamsburg:
Benjamin Powell House to Get a New Roof

November 27, 2018

Those who are local to Williamsburg may have already noticed the scaffold on the Benjamin Powell House at the corner of Waller and Lafayette Streets. We are starting the third and final major roof replacement for 2018.

Benjamin Powell House, Nov. 19, 2018

Benjamin Powell House is one of the eighty-eight original eighteenth century buildings in the Historic Area. The house is named after its owner, Benjamin Powell, who purchased the property from Benjamin Waller in 1763. Powell was an important carpenter, builder, and wheelwright. Among other projects, he constructed the steeple at Bruton Parish Church. He probably constructed the frame portion of this house. Benjamin Powell, Annabella Powell, and their two daughters lived in the house for nineteen years. Powell sold it in 1782 to Zachariah Rowland of Henrico County.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation acquired the house in 1956. The property was evaluated and repairs were made to safeguard original fabric. As part of these repairs, a new concrete composite roof was put on in 1956.

This year the 1956 roof will be removed, and we will replace it with concrete shingles. You may be wondering why we choose to use concrete. The primary reason is durability. We are responsible for hundreds of roofs, and the longevity of concrete allows us to space out roof maintenance projects. Since our earliest preservation efforts, Colonial Williamsburg has worked to develop concrete composite shingles that more closely resemble wood. In the eighteenth century, the predominant roofing material was wood, such as cypress shingles. These would have been hand-made, in a manner that we demonstrate at the Carpentry Yard in the Historic Area. We use these whenever possible in the Historic Area.

Matt Sanbury working at the bench in the Carpenters Yard (2018)

Over the next two weeks, the old roof will be removed and a new synthetic underlayment will be applied to dry in the roof. Once this process is complete, you will see our contractor installing the new concrete shingles. You will also see some masonry work on the chimneys. We are repointing, or applying new mortar, in areas where the mortar has worn away.

We hope that you will stop by the Powell House to see our progress!