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William Graves Perry Papers(ca. 1930–1940)

  • MS 1999.15
  • 2 linear feet

Perry was the principal architect in the firm responsible for the early restoration work at Williamsburg beginning in 1927. These materials were received with his library, which was donated to Colonial Williamsburg by his widow.

A series within the 20th Century Collection, the William Graves Perry papers are organized into subseries: Art and architecture, Collections, Colonial Williamsburg, Correspondence, Family, Notes, and Photographs, prints, and other art.

Art and Architecture comprises items related to Perry’s practice, including a certificate to practice in Maryland and an article about Sir Christopher Wren. An avid collector, the Collections series is a sampling of the items Perry acquired through the years. Evidence of Perry’s contribution to the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg is available in the Colonial Williamsburg subseries. A small amount of Correspondence is contained in the subseries of the same name. Items within the Family subseries pertain to his wife, France, and son, William G. Perry, Jr. Notes taken by Perry in a variety of circumstances, including a Spanish language class, are found in the Notes subseries. Photographs is the largest of the subseries, and is a collection in its own right. Ranging from photographs of the American Embassy in London to prints of Benjamin Franklin and Japanese art, these items represent the range of Perry’s interests.

William Graves Perry was born November 8, 1883 in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in Newburyport. He was a descendent of an old Newburyport seafaring family. Perry graduated from Harvard in 1905, received his first degree in architecture from MIT in 1907, and another from Paris’ L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in 1913. He taught architecture at Harvard from 1915–1916. Perry served as a Captain in the Air Force from 1916–1919. In 1922 he founded the firm of Perry, Shaw, and Hepburn. Their firm continues to be known for university and commercial buildings, including several on the Harvard campus and Colonial Williamsburg’s John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library. Perry’s relationship with Williamsburg began informally in 1926 after a chance meeting with Reverend Goodwin, the originator of the plan to restore the capital. In 1927 Perry, Shaw and Hepburn submitted drawings and were officially hired as the project’s architects. The firm retained ties to the project until the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation created its own architecture department in 1953.


Folder Description
Box 1
1 Architectural drawings (2 pp. from Builder’s Compleat Assistant, 1738)
2 Art and Architecture (calendars)
3 Maryland architecture certificate
4 Alonzo Dill, “Philadelphia Influence on Tryon Palace,” 1952
5 Alonzo Dill, “Philadelphia Influence on Tryon Palace,” 1952
6 Alonzo Dill, “Philadelphia Influence on Tryon Palace,” 1952
7 Art and Architecture (materials)
8 Art and Architecture (post cards)
9 Scrapbook (European buildings; exhibition catalogs, etc.)
10 Topographical List of Subjects Illustrated
11 Art and Architecture (Sir Christopher Wren)
12 Collections; Books; Catalogs
13 French songs: Le Chansons de Charles Trenet
14 Notable Law Suit: Capt. Kidd treasure on Deer Island
Box 2
1 Ralph Cross scrap book, 1848; Dana/Brown diary/recipe book; Record book with class notes on physics/optics; “Constitution of the Sabbath School, Bradford”
2 Rules for Navigation (gift to Perry from George B. Pettingell)
3 Newspaper clippings: animals and naturalists
4 Newspaper clippings: art and architecture
5 Newspaper clipping: books
6 Newspaper clippings: Colonial Williamsburg (1938–1940), etc.
7 Newspaper clippings: art, architecture, gardening
8 Newspaper clippings: Harvard University (1913–1929)
9 Newspaper clippings: language
10 Newspaper clippings: history
11 Journal clippings: Life, Marriage of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
12 Newspaper clippings: philately
13 Newspaper clippings: weather
14 Newspaper clippings: miscellany
15 Newspaper clippings: recipes
16 Newspaper clippings/tracts: religion
Box 3
1 General Statement on the Restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, 1946
2 Interview: Charles B. Hosmer, Jr. with W.G. Perry, 1970
3 Williamsburg telephone directory, 1933; Travis House history booklet, 1932
4 Correspondence
5 Correspondence, 1936–1939
6 Correspondence, 1958–1964
7 Guest book, 1899–1904
8 Frances McElfesh Perry’s Connecticut College reunion, 1954
9 Frances Perry’s Continental Literature notes, 1929
10 Mrs. Perry’s 1929 Continental Literature notes (continued)
11 William G. Perry, Jr., Of Study and the Man, 1958
12 Notebook of Contractors, Carpenters and Builders
13 2 notebooks of furniture and auction information
14 Massachusetts income tax records, 1934
15 Frances Perry’s Spanish college notes
16 Photographs: American Embassy, London
Box 4
1 Photographs: New England A & P Markets
2 Photographs: Perry receiving Honorary degree from William & Mary, 1972
3 Photographs: Perry, Kendrew, et al in Williamsburg, 1972
4 Photograph album: Perry family
5 European art post cards and photographs of antique architectural fragments
6 Engravings: Benjamin Franklin
7 Brochures: English map and still-house/Yorkshire garden information
8 Maps: Cambridge, Cape Cod, Andover,and Concord, MA
9 Travel brochures: Concord, Newburyport, MA and New Castle, DE
10 Travel journal: Venice, Alpine lakes, and northern Italy (not Perry)
11 Travel journal: Bermuda, 1936 (includes notes on Williamsburg work)
12 Travel journal: Mexico