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Completed in 1930, this Georgian Revival building is one of three schools successively named after Matthew Whaley (1696-1705), the only son of York County sheriff James Whaley and his wife Mary Page. The school sits near the rebuilt Governor's Palace. It is part of a long legacy of public education in the Williamsburg community, and exemplifies the history of the partnership between the College of William and Mary and the city of Williamsburg. Upon its opening, the school reflected new and progressive ideas in Virginia's philosophy of public education. The architectural integrity of the school has remained intact through modernization and renovations for accessibility.


  • Matthew Whaley School by SKM2000 on Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

This school replaced the 1870 Matthew Whaley School and 1922 Williamsburg High School, teaching kindergarten through twelfth grade and serving as a training school for the College of William and Mary. In 1929, the College of William and Mary sold land east of the school property to the Williamsburg Holding Corporation and Colonial Williamsburg, Incorporated, using the proceeds to build the Whaley School.

The architect for the project was Charles M. Robinson (1867-1932) of Richmond, who favored the Georgian Revival style and designed the school in a restrained expression of that style. Robinson also designed the master plan for the College of William and Mary, and collaborated Williamsburg Restoration architects Perry, Shaw, & Hepburn; the College of William and Mary Department of Education; and the Williamsburg School Board for the design of the Whaley School. The interior of the building exhibits the Colonial Revival style. Nuckols Construction Company were the builders. Williamsburg Restoration landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff was involved in the landscaping of the site, planting English ivy around the building as well as trees on the campus.

The exterior of the building is Flemish bond brickwork, with a slate roof. The building is a U shape, with a gymnasium and auditorium in the courtyard. Originally, the floor plan for the school also included 19 classrooms, a library, a science classroom and laboratory, an art room, two activities rooms, an industrial arts area, cafeteria, physical education office, a first aid room, a book room, eight conference rooms, three offices, a teachers' room, restrooms and showers, a furnace room and a storage room. Subsequently some classrooms were partitioned and other rooms were converted to classrooms to create more teaching and learning space.

In 1955, the James Blair High School opened and the Whaley School became an elementary school. Though the building has been modernized to be handicapped-accessible, with a significant renovation in 1997, very little of the building has otherwise changed from its original construction.

Scripps, Beth. Matthew Whaley School, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form. March 29th 2004. Accessed May 17th 2020. https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/VLR_to_transfer/PDFNoms/137-0302_Whaley,Matthew,School_2004_Final_Nomination.pdf.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Whaley_School#/media/File:Matthew_Whaley_School,_Williamsburg.JPG