History Hits the Shelves at CW Bookstore

Colonial Williamsburg Bookstore. Photo By Leona Baker

Colonial Williamsburg’s recently opened dedicated bookstore features titles from its collection and publishing partners in a cozy colonial atmosphere 

By Ava Baker

Publishing titles since 1935, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has amassed a sizeable collection of books and other writings ranging from apple pie recipes to apparition sightings. And, while select titles are available at other retail spaces within Colonial Williamsburg, the opening of the official Colonial Williamsburg Bookstore on Sept. 1, 2023 means that, at long last, they have a space to call their own. 

Tucked on the second floor of the building that houses J. McLaughlin at 440 West Duke of Gloucester Street in Merchants Square, the store boasts more than 50 Colonial Williamsburg Publication titles available for purchase. Also stocking the shelves are a variety of works authored by contributors to Colonial Williamsburg’s quarterly magazine Trend and Tradition, fellow museums such as Mount Vernon, and publishing partners such as University of Virginia Press. 

Colonial Williamsburg Bookstore exterior

The idea for the bookstore arose from donors and the foundation, which recognized the impact that a centrally located space dedicated to the study and enjoyment of literature could have on Colonial Williamsburg’s vast living history environment. Many of their titles, including Restoring Williamsburg, the bestselling illustrated account of the historic site’s challenging journey to restoration, function as both an effective primer and a reflection on the guest experience in America’s 18th century capital. 

Other popular titles such as Early Seating Upholstery: Reading the Evidence, Art and Soul of African American Interpretation, Four Centuries of Quilts: The Colonial Williamsburg Collection, Ghosts Amongst Us, The Williamsburg Art of Cookery and more can be found on shelves organized by subject matter or author. 

The bookstore’s fine-tuned catalog, some of which has been used as study material by professors and students at William & Mary, is a milestone in the foundation’s educational mission to keep history relevant to modern readers. 

Located in a former art gallery, the space features stylish lighting, cozy Colonial furnishings and rugs set against powdery blue-gray walls lined with period maps, graphics and newspapers from the archives of the John D. Rockefeller Jr. library. 

The idea for the space, created with the help of Colonial Williamsburg’s interior designers, was to curate an intimate book lovers’ atmosphere, explains Catherine Whittenburg, vice president of communications and corporate affairs. 

Colonial Williamsburg Bookstore interior

“We are very happy to have people linger, pursue, learn and enjoy,” Whittenburg  says. 

As charming as the current location is, it’s technically a temporary stop for these books. While the decision was made to get the bookstore going as soon as possible in an available space, efforts to secure a long-term location that is more physically accessibility for all guests continue. In the meantime, there’s a button at the base of the stairs that, when pressed, will notify staff who are prepared to help with limited mobility navigate their book-browsing needs. 

Looking to the future and coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Colonial Williamsburg’s founding in 2026—and America’s 250th as well—Whittenburg notes that new, comprehensive titles are currently in production. Once published, they will have a spot on the shelves, waiting to be picked up by Colonial Williamsburg guests and history buffs from all over the world.

Learn more at colonialwilliamsburg.org.

Photos by Leona Baker

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Ava Baker
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