W. A. R. Goodwin

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The Reverend Dr. William Archer Rutherfoord Goodwin (June 18, 1869 – September 7, 1939) (or W.A.R. Goodwin as he preferred) was an Episcopal priest, historian and author. As the rector of Bruton Parish Church, Goodwin began the 20th century preservation and restoration effort which resulted in Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. He is thus sometimes called "the Father of Colonial Williamsburg."

Early life[edit]

William Archer Rutherfoord Goodwin was born in Richmond, Virginia only four years after the end of the American Civil War. His father, John Francis Goodwin, was the son of an Episcopal priest and a Confederate captain who returned wounded from the war and became a machinist in Virginia's capitol to raise money to restore the family's devastated farm along the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There in 1868 John Francis married Letitia Rutherfoord, also came from one of the First Families of Virginia. The small family soon returned to Norwood in Nelson County, Virginia, where Goodwin was raised along with his two younger sisters. After attending a private school at a local plantation and then the area's first public school, Goodwin graduated from Roanoke College in 1889 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After some studies at Richmond College in 1890, he graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1893 with a divinity degree.


Ordained a deacon on June 23, 1893, two months before his father's death in Wytheville, Virginia, W.A.R. Goodwin was ordained a priest on July 1, 1894, and served St. John's Church in Petersburg for a decade, during which time the building was rebuilt. Dr. Goodwin also taught at the Bishop Payne Divinity School, preventing its absorption into Howard University in Washington D.C. and securing acceptance of its curriculum within the Episcopal Church (in the 1960s it was relocated to the main Alexandria, Virginia campus).[1]

In 1903, Dr. Goodwin became pastor of historic Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, a small city which had served as Virginia's capitol from 1699 until 1780. In that year, from Petersburg, Dr. Goodwin published A Historical Sketch of Bruton Church, Williamsburg, Virginia.[2] Aside from the College of William and Mary, founded in the 17th century, time had largely left Williamsburg behind after the General Assembly moved Virginia's Capital to Richmond during the American Revolutionary War. Inspired by his historic parish with its many still-standing 18th-century buildings, Dr. Goodwin continued the fund-raising, preservation and restoration of the aged and historic church building which his predecessor had begun. Using information gathered from town and church records, Dr. Goodwin successfully led completion of the church's restoration in 1907, the 300th anniversary of the establishment of the Episcopal Church in America at nearby Jamestown. In that year he also published Bruton Parish Church restored and its historic environment,[3]

In 1909, Dr. Goodwin accepted a position at another historic church, St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Rochester, New York, founded by Rt. Rev. John Henry Hobart,[4] and did not return to Virginia full-time until 1923, when the President of the College of William & Mary, Dr. J.A.C. Chandler recruited the clergyman to head its biblical literature and religious studies department. While in New York, Dr. Goodwin had continued publishing. In 1916, E.P. Dutton published his The Church Enchained[5] and in 1921, Morehouse Publishing published his handbook for clergy and laity concerning Episcopal Church practices, for which Bishop Charles Henry Brent wrote a forward.[6] In 1923 the centennial of Virginia Theological Seminary, Dutton also published the first volume of the two volume history of that seminary, which Goodwin had begun editing in 1914 in connection with an address concerning Virginia's second Bishop, former New Yorker Richard Channing Moore.[7][8]

Upon returning to Williamsburg, Dr. Goodwin also resumed serving as rector of Bruton Parish Church, a position he held until his retirement in 1937.[9] The additional deterioration and loss of other 17th and 18th century structures during the years of his absence in New York, shocked Goodwin and galvanized him into action. In 1924, fearing that the other many historic buildings in the area would be destroyed, Dr. Goodwin began a movement to preserve the district's remaining colonial era buildings.

As his primary source of funding, Dr. Goodwin used his contacts in New York and Philadelphia, and fortunately enlisted John D. Rockefeller Jr. (the wealthy son of the founder of Standard Oil) and his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, stimulating both their interest in the historic town and their generosity which financed its restoration and reuse as a living history museum. Working with a small group of confidants, Dr. Goodwin acted as Rockefeller's straw buyer and acquired dozens of properties located in and near in what would become the restored area. Williamsburg attorney Vernon M. Geddy, Sr., did much of the title research and legal work and later drafted the Virginia corporate papers for the project and filed them with the Virginia State Corporation Commission. Mr. Geddy served briefly as the first President of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.[10]

Together, the local team and the New York-based Rockefellers made Dr. Goodwin's dream of restoring the old colonial capital come true, creating what grew to become Colonial Williamsburg. A public announcement finally revealed the Rockefellers' role at two town meetings in the historic city held in June 1928.

Death and Legacy[edit]

Dr. Goodwin died in Williamsburg in 1939, and was buried in his beloved parish church.[11][12]

Today Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Area occupies 173 acres (700,000 m²) and includes 88 original buildings and more than 50 major reconstructions. It is joined by the Colonial Parkway to the two other sides of the Historic Triangle. At Jamestown, in 1607, England established its first permanent colony in the Americas. At Yorktown in 1781, the Continental Army under George Washington won a decisive victory during the American Revolutionary War to end British rule.

Virginia's Historic Triangle area is a major tourist attractions, with Dr. Goodwin's Bruton Parish Church and Colonial Williamsburg as the centerpiece.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://archive.episcopalchurch.org/109399_12663_ENG_HTM.htm
  2. ^ available at http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001593191
  3. ^ Wm. A. R. Goodwin, Bruton Parish Church restored and its historic environment (Petersburg, Franklin Press, 1907) available at http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009792789
  4. ^ http://stpaulsec.org/about-st-pauls
  5. ^ W.A.R. Goodwin, The Church Enchained (New York: E. P. Dutton Co., 1916) available at http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001413256
  6. ^ The Parish; its life, its organization, its teaching mission, and its divine contacts; a handbook for the clergy and laity (Milwaukee: Morehouse Publishing, 1921), available at http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008417575
  7. ^ W.A.R. Goodwin, The Right Reverend Richard Channing Moore, D. D., second bishop of Virginia, and the beginnings of the Theological Seminary in Virginia; an address delivered at the Alumni meeting of the Virginia Theological Seminary, on June 4th, 1914.(privately published) available at http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/007699160 and at https://archive.org/details/rightreverendric00good
  8. ^ W.A.R. Goodwin, History of the Theological seminary in Virginia and its historical background (New York, E.P. Dutton, 1923-1924) restricted version at http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001400969
  9. ^ History of the Restoration : The Colonial Williamsburg Official History Site
  10. ^ http://www.gfhlawoffice.com/Firm%20Info/Firm%20Profile.aspx Archived January 15, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ "Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, Virginia Rector,70; "Father of the Williamsburg Restoration" Dies. Gained Rockefeller's Support. Widely Praised for Work. Head of Religious Education Department at William and Mary Since 1923". New York Times. Williamsburg, Virginia, September 7, 1939 (Associated Press) The Rev. Dr. William Archer Rutherfoord Goodwin, former rector of Bruton Parish Church and the "father of the Williamsburg restoration," died at his home here tonight. He was 70 years old. 
  12. ^ http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=35710536
  13. ^ http://www.history.org/Foundation/general/introhis.cfm Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Dennis Montgomery (1998-09-22). A Link Among the Days; the Life and Times of the Rev. Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, the Father of Colonial Williamsburg. Dietz Pr. ISBN 978-0-87517-100-5.