Built in 1695, the Nelson-Galt House is the oldest residence in Colonial Williamsburg and was home to one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Go Inside Colonial Williamsburg’s Newly Restored Nelson-Galt House

Designer-in-residence Heather Chadduck Hillegas brings new life to the 300-year-old property.

May 16, 2023

When Heather Chadduck Hillegas was invited to take part in Colonial Williamsburg’s “Designer in Residence” program—an initiative created several years ago wherein a house in the centuries-old town is re-envisioned by a top interior decorator—she jumped at the opportunity: Hillegas not only grew visiting the living history museum, but credits it as one of her greatest sources of inspiration. “It was a once-in-a-career homecoming,” she says.

Her assignment? Reviving the Nelson-Galt House. Built in 1695, the historic gem was once home to a signer of the Declaration of Independence and governor of Virginia and is believed to be the oldest residential dwelling in Colonial Williamsburg. Hillegas set to work imagining and planning her vision for the home, working with partners like Benjamin Moore and Schumacher (both of which have their own Colonial Williamsburg collections) and Paul Montgomery, who specializes in hand-painted mural wallcoverings.

The wallcovering in the living room was designed by Paul Montgomery to match the existing trim color and was inspired by a print in the museum archives. The roll-arm chair is upholstered in Dandridge Damask with a pillow covered in Blair Silk Épinglé—both from the Williamsburg Collection for Schumacher.

While the Hillegas says there was “no need to reinvent the wheel” because of the classic color schemes and notable architectural details, the rules she was required to follow during the project were daunting, involving countless hours of research. The finished result, though, gave the Nelson-Galt House a new lease on life, with interiors that are tailored, clean, and livable while still maintaining an air of historical appropriateness. “It truly feels like my home,” Hillegas adds.