William and Mary is the second oldest post-secondary school in the United States and the third oldest in North America. A previous attempt to establish a university in the Virginia Colony, at Henrico, twelve miles down the James River from present day Richmond, Virginia, was aborted due to a Native American uprising in 1622. It is sometimes argued that this antecedent makes the College of William and Mary conceptually older than Harvard, but the dissimilarities between the two schools, and the lapse of 70 years, suggests otherwise.
In 1691 the Virginia Colony's House of Burgesses sent Reverend James Blair to England to secure a charter for a proposed college. Blair was ultimately successful, and the College was founded on February 8, 1693, under royal charter from the English Monarchs, William and Mary. The charter named James Blair as the College's first President.
The three original College buildings (the Wren Building, the President's House, and Bafferton) were built between 1695 and 1699 upon 330 acres, ten miles north of Jamestown, Virginia, in a placed called Middle Plantation (later renamed Williamsburg, Virginia). The Wren Building was named after the prominent English architect Christopher Wren who may have designed it. It is often claimed that the Wren Building is the oldest academic building in continuous use in the United States, however, it has been destroyed by fire and rebuilt three times (in 1705, 1859 and 1862), and classes were suspended at the conclusion of the American Civil War for lack of funds and were not resumed until 1888.
William and Mary is notable for several academic firsts. Under the guidance of Virginia's then Governor Thomas Jefferson, the College adoped the nation's first elective system of study and also introduced a student policed Honor System. In 1779, also at the request of Jefferson, the College made Jefferson's friend and mentor, George Wythe, the first Professor of Law in America.