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Bassett Hall

Bassett Hall

A simple two-story 18th-century white frame farmhouse nestled on 585 acres of lawn, garden, and woodlands, Bassett Hall once was the Williamsburg home of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his wife Abby Aldrich Rockefeller.

  • Built between 1753 and 1766 by Philip Johnson
  • Purchased by Burwell Bassett around 1800
  • Union cavalryman George Armstrong Custer guest in home during the Civil War
  • Property acquired for Colonial Williamsburg in 1927
  • Became Rockefeller home in 1936
  • Opened to the public in 1980
  • Two-year restoration began in 2000
  • Reopened to public in December 2002

House built by member of Virginia House of Burgesses

Philip Johnson, a member of the House of Burgesses from King and Queen County, Virginia, is believed to have built the 18th-century frame house sometime between 1753 and 1766. Martha Washington's nephew Burwell Bassett purchased the home in 1800. Basset was a Virginia legislator and congressman.

Union officer guest in Confederate home

In an ironic twist, Union cavalryman George Armstrong Custer spent 10 days following the Civil War Battle of Williamsburg as a guest in the Rebel household. Custer was on leave to attend the wedding of his West Point classmate John W. Lea. A Carolina Confederate, Lea was wounded during the battle. During his recuperation at Bassett Hall, Lea became engaged to one of the daughters in the family.

Home's History impressed Rockefeller

In 1926, the Rev. Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin of Bruton Parish Church showed Bassett Hall to visiting philanthropist and Standard Oil heir John D. Rockefeller Jr. Goodwin wanted to convince Rockefeller of the value of restoring Colonial Williamsburg. Of particular interest to Rockefeller was the Great Oak, a huge old tree that was already in its eighth decade when the Stamp Act Crisis rocked the colonies. Rockefeller said, "It is a place to sit in silence and let the past speak to us."

Bassett Hall

Bassett Hall becomes Rockefeller home

Goodwin encouraged Rockefeller to buy the house, and it became the Rockefellers' residence during their twice-annual trips to the city. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller decorated the home with folk art.

A Rockefeller biographer wrote, "Perhaps his favorite residence – the one that most attracted him in his later years – was the small white house known as Bassett Hall in Williamsburg, Virginia. Here, surrounded by the details of a vast project, he found the satisfaction of creation, of being a part of one of his own great dreams."

Completed two-year renovation in 2002

Bassett Hall remained in the Rockefeller family until 1979, when it was bequeathed to Colonial Williamsburg. An extensive two-year renovation of the property was completed in December 2002, and the home reopened to the public. Unlike the rest of the Historic Area, where guests travel back to the 18th century, Bassett Hall appears as it did in the 1930s and 1940s, in the early days of the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, when the Rockefellers made it their home.


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