The Capitol at Colonial Williamsburg

Blowing in the Wind — Historic Weathervanes

Oftentimes the little details of a building make all the difference — turning a non-nondescript barn into a memorable place. Did you see that barn with the flying pig on top of it? Did you see that house with the fish weathervane?

When wandering around the Freedom Trail in Boston you better keep your eye out for weather vanes. What animal sits atop Faneuil Hall? If you don’t know it you may be accused of being a British Spy as they did in revolutionary times.

Grasshopper Weathervane
Grasshopper Weathervane

Still don’t know what it was? It was a 4 foot gilded grasshopper, but don’t let anyone know I told you.

Grasshopper on top Faneuil Hall in Boston
Grasshopper on top of Faneuil Hall in Boston

In addition to telling you the direction of the wind, and giving artists a chance to show off, the weathervane can also tell us other things about the building it is perched on top of.  They often differentiated public from private buildings, may hint at the status of the owners, what business may go on in the building etc.

The Capitol
The Capitol

Beyond the traditional banner or arrow weathervane, the array of sizes and styles was only limited by the imagination of the craftsmen creating them.

Variety of Weathervanes
Variety of Weathervanes

In recent years these iconic pieces of our architectural landscape have been recognized as true works of folk art garnering displays at museums like the MFA in Boston, Colonial Williamsburg and the like.

Animal Weathervanes
Animal Weathervanes

But don’t let all the new found attention from the museum set fool you into believing they have a lock on the market — there are still people making their own weathervanes and exploring new possibilities.  So the next time you take a walk around the block or visit a historic area keep an eye out for interesting weathervanes. If you drive up towards Freeport Maine you’ll even see several businesses that specialize in making novel new models. In your travels if you find any that are particularly notable, drop me a line via email or leave me a note on the blog.

Until then, I’ll let the wind point you in the right direction.

Dove Weathervane at Mount Vernon
Dove Weathervane at Mount Vernon

In the slideshow below you can see several of the interesting weathervanes on display in Colonial Williamsburg’s historic area and a few from the MFA’s collection in Boston MA.

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