History of the Cedars

The Cedars of Williamsburg

The Cedars of Williamsburg has been a Williamsburg lodging landmark since 1932. Originally built by Dr. Henderson for his seven children in 1933, he later sold the Cedars to two sisters in 1938 who converted it to a bed and breakfast.Dr. Henderson observed the demolition of a 100 year old building on the William & Mary College campus.  He hired the school children to collect up the bricks at $.02 a piece. He built both the main house and cottage out of their collection.

coffee cups sre hung over a coffee station in the breakfast room

The Beginning | 1933 – 1940

The Cedars Bed & Breakfast history begins in 1933 at the height of the Depression. This might seem like an unusual time to begin to build a stately, elegant house in the small town of Williamsburg, but for T. Brantley Henderson, M.D., it was the perfect time. Dr. Henderson’s career had been impeccable. Marrying in 1904 and graduating from the Medical College of Virginia in 1906, he attended Johns Hopkins University to specialize in eye, ear, nose and throat medicine. These credentials led him into World War I as a Captain in the Medical Corps.

After the war, Dr. Henderson set up his practice in Goldsboro, North Carolina. In 1931, he decided to move his family to the small Virginia town of Williamsburg so that his youngest children could attend The College of William & Mary. During this time, Mr. John D. Rockefeller was investing in the restoration of Williamsburg as the Colonial Capital it had been in the 1700’s.

Dr. Henderson began construction on his “dream home” on Jamestown Road in Williamsburg in 1933. His children Ruth, Mildred, T. Brantley, Jr., Rosalind, Horace, Charlotte, and Hope watched as their new home “materialized.” And what a grand home it would be! Mr. George Anner, an architect with Williamsburg Restoration, Inc., designed the home to reflect the 18th Century Georgian style of the reemerging colonial town a half mile down the road. The size, however, was definitely 20th Century – with eight bedrooms, five bathrooms, a game room in the basement (one of the first of its kind in the country), a three car garage with a servant’s apartment over it, and a stable in the ravine for two horses. Nothing but the best went into the construction – slate roof, copper gutters, and brick over terra cotta tile walls. Mr. Anner, as part of the Colonial Williamsburg restoration team, was able to acquire the 100-year-old bricks from the Wren Building at the College of William & Mary which had to be partially demolished to restore its 18th Century facade.

Dr. Henderson paid children two cents per brick to knock the old mortar off so the bricks could be reused. Under the direction of Mr. Painter, a local contractor, master bricklayer Jake Shinholzer, of Toano, created the masterpiece – The Cedars. Construction workers who were happy to make ten cents an hour finished Dr. Henderson’s home quickly and the family moved in.

As the children grew up and moved out to begin their life adventures, the Hendersons decided to sell the large house. The Cedars was sold to the Marsh sisters in the 1938. Dr. Henderson moved his dwindling brood down Jamestown Road to a house at 520. The Marsh sisters saw their new home as an income opportunity. The restoration of the 18th Century capital of Virginia was gaining attention as a tourist site. The 20th Century town of Williamsburg was not prepared to cater to this “invasion” as it was called, so city officials asked local residents to open their homes to the eager visitors.

The Cedars became a guest house in 1938 and has remained in the hospitality business ever since. The Henderson family stayed active in the Williamsburg community. Horace Henderson, known as “Hunky” to all, organized the Williamsburg Jaycees in 1947 to promote community cooperation and participation in helping residents become more comfortable with the new fame of their tiny town. Soon after, Hunky Henderson organized the first world famous Williamsburg Christmas Celebration. Its success has been repeated each year in the form of Colonial Williamsburg’s Grand Illumination.

1940 – Present

Williamsburg was growing, visitors were coming and business was booming. The Marsh sisters sold The Cedars to the Harris family in the 1950’s. The Harris family continued to operate the guest house until 1985 when it was sold to a local businessman. Carol, Jim & Brona Malecha bought the bed & breakfast in 1993. It was operated by Bob & Grace Tubbs originally from Rochester, New York from 2002 – 2016 and is now owned by Alex & Laura Vlk who hail from the Chicago suburbs but now proudly call Williamsburg home.

They and their staff are dedicated to making your stay in Williamsburg an exceptional visit.

The Cedars and its past residents have played a part in the development of Williamsburg as it is today. We hope you enjoy your stay and leave feeling that you too are a part of this legacy.

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