Sunday, December 5, 2010


Williamsburg a must for history buffs

I had always wanted to go to Williamsburg, but must tell you from the offset that I was disappointed at the beginning I was going to see. First, I felt the rebuilt community was somewhat artificial, but later saw how much the city fathers had sought to restore the city to what it was originally.

The Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg stretches over 301 acres, and includes 88 original 18th-century structures. Hundreds of houses, shops and public outbuildings are reconstructed on their original foundations. Some buildings are open to the public, while others are private residences and administrative offices. A flag at a building's entrance indicates that the site is open

Mere brick and mortar contained the combustion of ideas that were catalyst to the American Revolution. The opulent Governor's Palace was the embodiment of British order in the colonies. The Capitol was witness to the vote for America's move to independence. We entered into this building and hear a lecture on the times it was active and found he really knew what he was talking about and listened intently to his information.

We went through the homes viewing the furnishings with knowledgeable costumed interpreters making history surround us. We even saw where Virginia's first signer of the Declaration of Independence, George Wythe, slept.

In the 18th century, Williamsburg’s taverns provided comfortable lodgings for travelers but today, Colonial Williamsburg’s historic dining taverns carry on these traditions by providing a relaxed and comfortable setting for diners to experience some of the flavor of the 18th century—through atmosphere, entertainments, and food.

As you walked the same streets as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Patrick Henry— you imaged walking alongside them.

Due to my inability to walk I rented a wheelchair and was wheeled about my Jean Lowe, who with Jim, whom we had traveled with for a long trip to Virginia. As we slowingly spaced our way saw practicing tradesmen make Colonial Williamsburg a living town, ringing with clanging hammers and tinged with the smoke of industry.

Nearly half way through the area we heard a preacher preaching. We stopped and listened for awhile thinking this was part of the tour. Then we saw his shirt and two fellows with him were from a local church. He was calling for a return to the convictions of the early era of the village.

It was very hot so we found a place where we could get out of the sun and eat as well. It was one of the buildings that belonged to the 18th century and the food reflected that period. The servers were also dressed for that period and a man visited each table with some historical information.

Williamsburg was originally known as Middle Plantation, a 1632 fortified settlement located on high ground on the Peninsula between the James and York rivers, it was renamed Williamsburg after the capital of the Virginia Colony was moved there from Jamestown in 1698. The town received a royal charter as a city in 1722, and was the center of political events in Virginia leading to the American Revolution.

Colonial Williamsburg is also know for the College of William & Mary, established in 1693, the second-oldest university in the United States. The Historic Triangle of Virginia, which also includes Jamestown and Yorktown, is among the most popular tourist destinations in the world, with Williamsburg located in the center. The three are linked by the National Park Service's Colonial Parkway, a 23 mile-long National Scenic Byway which is carefully shielded from views of commercial development.

Prior to the arrival of the English colonists at Jamestown in the Colony of Virginia in 1607, the area which became Williamsburg was largely wooded. It was well within the territory of the Native American group known as the Powhatan Confederacy. In the early colonial period, the navigable rivers were the equivalent of modern highways. For ease of travel, and security from conflicts with the Native Americans, early colonial settlements were established close by the rivers.

Jamestown was the original capital of Virginia Colony, but was burned down during the events of Bacon's Rebellion in 1676. As soon as Governor William Berkeley regained control, temporary headquarters for the government to function were established about 12 miles away on the high ground at Middle Plantation, whilst the Statehouse at Jamestown was rebuilt. The members of the House of Burgesses discovered that the 'temporary' location was both safer and more pleasant environmentally than Jamestown, which was humid and plagued with mosquitoes.

At the outset of the American Civil War (1861–1865), enlistments in the Confederate Army depleted the student body of the College of William and Mary and on May 10, 1861 the faculty voted to close the College for the duration of the conflict. The College Building was used as a Confederate barracks and later as a hospital, first by Confederate and later by Union forces.

At the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5, 1862 the defenders succeeded in delaying the Union forces long enough for the retreating Confederates to reach the outer defenses of Richmond.

In the early 20th century, one of the largest historic restorations ever undertaken in the US was championed by the Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin of Williamsburg's Bruton Parish Church. Initially, Dr Goodwin had just aimed to save his historic church building. This he accomplished by 1907, in time for the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Episcopal Church in Virginia. However, upon returning to Williamsburg in 1923 after serving a number of years in upstate New York, he realized that many of the other colonial-era buildings which remained were also in deteriorating condition: their survival was at stake.

Goodwin dreamed of a much larger restoration along the lines of what he had accomplished with his historic church. A cleric of modest means, he sought support and financing from a number of sources before successfully attracting the interest and major financial support of Standard Oil heir and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife Abby Aldrich Rockefeller.

I really enjoyed the old church and visited a number of the graves, mainly because some of those early members were named Tucker which was the name of my grandmother. Interestingly, I had their genealogy on my Tucker database.

Today, Colonial Williamsburg is Virginia's largest tourist attraction a century after Dr. Goodwin's work began, this masterpiece of Virginia and United States history remains a remarkable work-in-progress.

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