Historical Influences and the Williamsburg Bird Baths

The distinctive style of American gardens and outdoor décor in the 18th century celebrated form over ornamentation. The result is an aesthetic that feels decidedly contemporary; even though it’s roots lie deep in our own history. This is the second article in our series on The Williamsburg Collection, created by Campania International. Today we’re going to dive into the historical influences of the Williamsburg Bird Baths: The Tea Table and Candlestand Bird Baths.

The 18th-century capital city of Williamsburg, Virginia was the capital of Britain’s largest and wealthiest colony in the New World. The history of the United States in the years before and during the American Revolution is visible everywhere in Williamsburg. In looking at these two birdbaths we glimpse subtle differences in the way people lived. Both birdbaths are based upon a common item in most households: a simple tea table.

The finished pieces, however, feature much different styling. This is quite simply – a tale of two bird baths.

Urban vs. Rural

Tea Table

This original Round Tea Table, made in Norfolk, Virginia between 1750-70 is the inspiration for the Tea Table Bird Bath. It’s similar to multi-purpose British tea tables, common at the time. They were large enough to write or work upon, and then their tabletops would swivel up on hinges. This makes them easy to put away when not in use, because it flattens their width. Their design also reflects the creative engineering to meet the needs of those in more cramped city homes.

The Candlestand Bird Bath is based upon this Candlestand made in rural 1830, Southampton County, Virginia. Candlestands are structurally and stylistically akin to tea tables, but differ in their smaller size. As the name suggests, their purpose is to bring light closer to a desired area. They were not meant for writing or other uses, as the tabletop was too small. A candlestand table reflects that a home may be more spread out, with less formal seating arrangements. Lightweight and portable, candlestands were ideal to move light where needed in the home, without the constraints of limited space.

Williamsburg Bird Bath
Original Tea Table and Bird Bath

Structural Style and Influences

The Round Tea Table has an elegant fluted urn shape at the base of the column. British tea tables, globe stands and bedposts also commonly have this same feature. Similar pillars also appeared in American cabinet-makers in both the north and south. The complexity of the turning between the fluted urn and column, as well as the delicate moldings at its base, show a refined style.

Conversely, the Candlestand table when appraised has a different heritage. The original piece was made of black walnut, a more common wood in a rural setting. The appraisers also noted a “conscious avoidance of urban design principles”. Most notable, is its lovely baluster curve shape, similar to traditional curved baluster staircase columns. Lastly artisans note the unusually deep cove molding at the bottom of the baluster column. These details set it apart and display a distinctly early-American, classically simple styling.

Williamsburg Bird Bath
Original Candlestand and Bird Bath

The Finished Bird Baths

Both of these items are customer favorites at Garden-Fountains.com. Both the Williamsburg Tea Table Bird Bath and the Williamsburg Candlestand Bird Bath epitomize the simple, unadorned forms beloved in colonial America.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, is a not-for-profit organization which maintains the historic city of Williamsburg, Virginia, today.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this installment on the Williamsburg Collection by Campania International. We’ve explained some of the details of historical items and how they specifically influence the creation of new outdoor décor. Next time, see how artisans make a historically inspired creation We’ll take you behind the scenes!

Posted by Jean Widner of the Garden-Fountains.com team.