The picture above is a view looking west on Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, Virginia, likely taken from the balcony or cupola of the Capitol, shortly before reconstruction of the street and removal of center island, January 15, 1934. The Armistead House is on the right, and the Palmer House is on the left.

A National Historic Landmark

The house was constructed in 1890 by Cary Peyton Armistead, a lawyer and head of the local Democratic Party, for his family, including his wife, Eudora, and their family of five children. His father, Robert Henry Armistead, was a landholder who owned much of the area surrounding the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg. By 1889, Cary Peyton Armistead had purchased what was known at the time as the Morrison House, formerly the colonial era Richard Charlton’s Coffeehouse. Armistead removed the eighteenth century building, incorporating parts of it into the construction of his new home, including a significant amount of the original foundation, timber, and bricks. The newly constructed house served Cary Peyton Armistead as his primary residence and law office until his death in 1901. The southwest parlor, with a separate entrance, and now the lobby of the Armistead House, was his office space.

Cary Peyton Armistead’s two daughters, Dora and Cara, never married and were the last survivors of Cary and Eudora Armistead’s five children (three boys and two girls). Dora and Cara lived in the house well into the third quarter of the twentieth century. Cara died before Dora and the house became known as the “Dora Armistead House,” presumably to distinguish it from the Greek Revival Bowden-Armistead House, also located on Duke of Gloucester Street.

With the onset of the restoration of Williamsburg to the colonial period, Rockefeller, through his local agent, W.A.R. Goodwin, set about to purchase all the property within the Colonial capital. This effort involved the demolition of all buildings built after the Colonial period and the subsequent reconstruction of former colonial period buildings. Prominently located on Duke of Gloucester Street and almost immediately adjacent to the original Colonial Capitol building, the Armistead parcel was highly sought after for purchase. Refusing to sell, the Armistead’s home became one of the very few post-Colonial structures in a recreated 18th century landscape and, reportedly, a cause of disagreement between Armistead heirs and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for decades. From the 1940s through the late 1970s, the Armisteads rented rooms in the house to tourists, thus capitalizing on their prime location in the historic area.

Eventually, control of the land was transferred to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation with the understanding that the building could not be demolished. In 1995, the Armistead House was moved to its current location, well sited on a lot with other dwellings of the same period.

Julie and Clyde Nordstrom, long time residents of Williamsburg and graduates of The College of William and Mary, acquired Armistead House in its unrestored state from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation following the relocation of the house to its current location, and began to preserve, renovate and restore the house.  The recent restoration effort, led by their son, Dennis Nordstrom (William & Mary class of 1983), picked up pace in early 2019 and Armistead House was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 10, 2020.  The restoration was completed, and Armistead House was acquired by its current owner for operation as a historic inn, in early 2022.

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