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The Sunken Garden is located to the rear of the Wren Building, running southwest, on the campus of William & Mary.

Black and white photo of the Sunken Garden with white picket fence in front and Blair Hall in the distance
Sunken Garden
Constructed: 1935-36

Chronology of Establishment

1919-23--designed by College Architect Charles M. Robinson, working closely with President Julian A.C. Chandler. Design reportedly based on Wren works seen in England, especially Chelsea Hospital (Buildings and Grounds--Sunken Gardens folder, University Archives Subject File Collection)

1923--first mentioned in correspondence between (Julian A.C. Chandler and Charles F. Gillette, October 1923 (1982.45 under Budget-Employment Landscape Architect Charles Gillette)

• "Mr. Gillette, a landscape architect, is working on a plan which will cost $1000...I am afraid, however, that his landscape plan will call for an expenditure of $25,000 or $30,000, which, of course we will not have for a long time" (Board of Visitors, June 1923, p. 62.)

• Charles M. Robinson to draw plans for buildings.

1924--first mentioned in Board minutes, Feb 12, 1924, p. 68, to be omitted from building plans drawn by landscape architect Charles F. Gillette due to excessive cost.

1933--Dr. Chandler reported that a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp had been assigned to the College for the purpose of beautifying and improving the grounds. He recommended that the Board again consider the idea of a Sunken Garden. This recommendation was adopted and the President was authorized to employ Mr. Charles F. Gillette to supervise the landscape work (Board of Visitors, Oct. 4, 1933, p. 447)

• Upon motion duly made and seconded, the bill of Mr. Charles F. Gillette for $1400.00 for services rendered as architect for the Sunken Garden was approved and ordered to be paid (Board of Visitors, Oct. 4, 1933, p. 456)

1935-1936--constructed by A.L. Phillips Sons

1935--Virtually completed (The Flat Hat, 9/21/1935, 1) boxwood planted, shrubbery completed (The Flat Hat, 12/3/1935, 1; The Flat Hat, 2/23/1979, 2)

Material in the Special Collections Research Center


  • The Flat Hat
  • Board of Visitors Records, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary.
  • Buildings and Grounds--Sunken Gardens folder, University Archives Subject File Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary.


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A note about the contents of this site

This website contains the best available information from known sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information in this website is not complete, and it changes as we continue to research and uncover new sources.