Our recent trip included a visit to Colonial Williamsburg on our way South, a living-history museum in the city of Williamsburg, Virginia. The area is an interesting blend of American history and popular tourist attraction. The colonial town is the anchor of a historic triangle in Tidewater Virginia that includes a restoration of the Jamestown colony (the first successful English settlement in North America) and the Yorktown Battlefield National Park and Museum celebrating the end of the Revolutionary War.
While our visit was over a couple of rainy days the town itself is fascinating. Within moments of a walk through town you get a sense that you have been transported back in time some 300 years. If there weren’t groups of tourists that at times that disturb the illusion, the feeling would be overwhelming.
The historic town of Williamsburg is a 300 acre area that encompasses several hundred restored or re-created buildings from the 18th century, when it was the capital of Colonial Virginia. A living interpretation of a colonial period American city, the historic district includes three primary streets and their connecting side streets that represent the character of 18th-century America. While it is faithful to the period as it has costumed employees work and dress as people did back at that time it is also is a current residential neighborhood mixed with private residences.
Conceived in the 1920s, the restoration and re-creation of colonial Williamsburg was championed as a way to celebrate our countries revolutionary patriots and the history of the early United States. The project got its start with seed money in a grant from John D. Rockefeller Jr., and his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller.
Major buildings include Raleigh Tavern, the Capitol building, the Governor’s Palace (all reconstructed), as well as the Courthouse, the George Wythe House, the Peyton Randolph House, the Magazine, and the functioning Bruton Parish Church (all originals). Four taverns have also been reconstructed for use as restaurants. There are historically accurate craftsmen’s workshops for trades, that include a printing shop, a shoemaker, blacksmith, a cooperage, a cabinetmaker, a gunsmith, a wigmaker, and a silversmith.
Colonial Williamsburg is also intertwined with America’s second oldest college, William & Mary which has its campus attached to the west side of the historic district. A newer commercial area that includes a number of upscale shops and a campus book store and coffee shop connects the two properties.
Note: Currently because of the pandemic many of the interior tours are not available and some of the inns are closed as well.