Williamsburg Coffee House

Laser Scanning Historic Site for Renovation and Preservation

Projects - Williamsburg Coffee House

In the summer of 2008, Direct Dimensions visited Williamsburg, Virginia to document the condition of the existing remains of an original ‘coffee house’ that George Washington was known to frequent. This particular coffee house, owned by Richard Charlton during the 1760's, was one of several that had flourished in the area due to their popularity in London and abroad. Coffee houses of that time were known for more than their coffee, tea, and chocolate served to the colonials - they also hosted informal and spirited intellectual conversation. This activity made Charlton's coffee house one of Williamsburg's political and business ‘hotspots’ of the time. In addition to Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Francis Fauquier were often in attendance.

DDI worked with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to laser capture what remains of the coffee house’s stone foundation. Of the original structure, only part of the brick foundation and some wooden fragments are still intact. We scanned the exposed foundation and the earthen floor with our Surphaser HSX spherical scanner. This unique scanner captures extremely accurate and high resolution data over a medium-range (2-10 meters). The Surphaser is a non-contact laser scanner so none of the delicate centuries-old foundation was harmed during the data capture process.

The raw 3D ‘point cloud’ data gathered in Williamsburg was then digitally modeled back at the Direct Dimensions facility in Baltimore, Maryland. The final surface mesh model can be used to analyze the archaeological features found at the site. The data will also be used to help plan the reconstruction of the Charlton coffee house, which is to be rebuilt and furnished in the style of an accurate 18th century structure. Once completed, the coffee house will host educational programming and will have the distinction of being the only establishment of its kind in the country.