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Monday, December 29, 2008

Colonial Williamsburg's Merchants Square Map and Signs, Williamsburg, Virginia

Merchants Square, first conceived in 1927, is one of the earliest if not the first planned shopping district in the U.S. When the Colonial Williamsburg restoration was being envisioned, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Reverend W.A.R. Goodwin realized businesses in Williamsburg would need to be given their own dedicated space. Thus this new dedicated shopping space was created, to harmonize in with the character of the restoration. Buildings were set back from the street to allow easy pedestrian access. Power and telephone lines were buried underground. And modern elements like air conditioning ducts and garage equipment were placed behind plantings and shrubs. Today more than forty unique shops and restaurants are located in Merchants Square.

The district boasts of a logo of an architectural quatrefoil combined with a square. The Colonial Williamsburg graphic identity is used and "Merchants Square" is given strong emphasis in the logo. A website for Merchants Square was created by G3 Creative based in Richmond, Virginia. The firm described the site as such: "We created a website with lots of local color and architecture, using photos of the specialty shops in the Square."

Merchants Square has a gift card program with denominations from $20 to $250. Shop hours are fixed from 10am-6pm Monday-Saturday and noon-5pm on Sunday. Restaurants are open until 9pm or later. Williamsburg WiFi is installed throughout the district, providing yet another visitor amenity.

There are way-finding signs to direct visitors to businesses in Merchants Square. The sign is reproduced on a district map and available here. Businesses are broken out into the following categories: Gifts and Accessories, Specialty Shops, Dining, Specialty Foods, Bookstores, Apparel, and Services.

Way-finding sign in the Merchants Square district.

Detail of hand-drawn map.

Detail of key from map and sign.

Detail of directory showing shops and businesses, December 2008.

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