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One of two buildings named for Confederate General William Booth Taliaferro on campus at the College of William & Mary, the Taliaferro Building was once a fixture of the old campus. Built from 1893-94, the building was intended to recognize the work that Taliaferro had done to ensure the survival of the university after the Civil War. Once standing near the current Campus Center across from the Brafferton, the Taliaferro Building was torn down in 1967.
Backstory and Context
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Though no longer standing, the Taliaferro Building was once a tribute to Confederate General William Booth Taliaferro. The building opened in 1894 and served first as a dining and banquet hall, hosting an alumni dinner to celebrate its opening. After the dining hall was relocated in 1904, the building served a variety of purposes before undergoing renovations to add running water in 1914. Once these changes were completed, the Taliaferro Building was operated as a dormitory. Another set of renovations saw the building transformed to house the Music Department in 1932 and later became the Fine Arts Building after extensive renovations in 1937. During this time, the building saw the addition of a two-story fountain, designed by Professor Theodore Rust. The fountain was circled by a staircase, enclosed in glass, and featured a fishpond on the first floor. This was the final set of renovations before the building was torn down in 1967.
The Taliaferro Building’s namesake Confederate General William Booth Taliaferro studied at the College of William & Mary from 1839-1841, earning his A.B. degree before attending law school at Harvard. Before the Civil War began, Taliaferro and his family spent time in the Richmond area running a law practice and farmland operated by enslaved persons. After the John Brown’s raid of Harper’s Ferry in 1859, Taliaferro took a more active role in preparing the local militia for potential war and would go on to serve in the Confederate Army.
After the war ended in 1865, Taliaferro began to take a more active role in the proceedings of the College of William & Mary. Each of Taliaferro’s sons went to the college and Taliaferro was elected to the Board of Visitors in 1870. During his time on the Board of Visitors, Taliaferro helped the university to recover financially from the war. William & Mary had been closed from 1861 to 1865 due to the war and many buildings had been damaged and looted in the 1862 Battle of Williamsburg. The Board of Visitors and Taliaferro worked to raise money to repair damages and replace lost resources. The construction of the Taliaferro Building in 1894 was one sign that Taliaferro’s work to assist the university had been successful.
Sibley, Martha Arle. William Booth Taliaferro: A Biography.1973. https://scholarworks.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4435&context=etd.
Taliaferro Building, Special Collections Research Center Wiki. September 9th 2019. Accessed May 17th 2020. https://scdbwiki.swem.wm.edu/wiki/index.php/Taliaferro_Building.
William Booth Taliaferro (1822-1898), Special Collections Research Center Wiki. January 28th 2019. Accessed May 17th 2020. https://scdbwiki.swem.wm.edu/wiki/index.php/William_Booth_Taliaferro_(1822-1898).