Colonial Williamsburg: Glimpse the 18th century

Bright as the gold that lured the settlers to the New World, a dandelion thrusts its shaggy head from the embrace of the gnarled paper mulberry roots in Colonial Williamsburg.
Just as the dandelion seed took root in this unlikely inhospitable spot, the seed of settlement, planted more than 300 years ago on the edge of the wilderness of Jamestown by courageous Englishmen, flowered into Williamsburg, capital of the colony of Virginia.
Williamsburg was 77 years old when Virginia legislators defied the might of the strongest military power in the world and voted the historic Resolution for American Independence. It is this Williamsburg we see today, restored to its early appearance through the generosity of the late John D. Rockefeller Jr.
Nowhere in the world can you see the 18th century live again so completely as in Colonial Williamsburg.
Drive down the Duke of Gloucester Street in a carriage behind a coachman in a tricorn hat and knee breeches. Listen to a harpsichord by candlelight in the elegant great hall of the Governor’s Palace. Watch a soldier load and fire a Revolutionary Brown Bess musket. See how colonial ladies wearing fashionable wide farthingales go through narrow doorways. Tie a yard square napkin around your neck, and feast on favorite foods of our forefathers at a famous colonial inn.
For 80 years, this was the capital as well as the social and cultural center of Colonial Virginia. Here sat the oldest representative assembly in the New World. On the stage were played many of the great events leading to the Revolution and American independence.
After 1779, when Virginia moved its government to Richmond, Williamsburg slumbered for more than a century and a half as a quiet seat and college town.
The rector of Bruton Parish, the Rev. W.A.R. Goodwin, dreamed of restoring Williamsburg to its former beauty.
His dream fired the imagination of John D. Rockefeller Jr., who saw in it a great educational project with the aim of the future learning from the past.
Since then, many millions of dollars have gone into patient research and restoration. Structures have risen again from their foundations. Others, like the gaol (jail) that once held Blackbeard’s pirate crew, have simply been put back into their original condition.
Each passing year mellows the work, so that it is often hard to tell the original structures from the rebuilt.
Williamsburg was an ideological training ground for the leaders of American Independence. From 1699 to 1780, it was the capital and political center ranking with Boston, Newport, Philadelphia, Charleston, Annapolis and New York. Here George Washington, Patrick Henry, George Wythe, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason and other patriots helped shape the foundations of our government.
Today, the historic area of Colonial Williamsburg embraces 173 acres, the heart of the old city. There are 88 original structures, 50 major reconstructions and 40 exhibition buildings.
Several main buildings and out buildings that did not survive the years have been reconstructed on their original foundations after extensive archaeological investigation and historical research. Ninety acres of colorful gardens and greens have been recreated, using only plants known to the 18th century colonists.
This is a place to be savored, a place to go back to a most exciting time, to take a moment to better understand how we as a nation came to be. Even a short visit will be something to remember, if you take the time to plan and organize your time. The “Visitor’s Companion” (available at hotels in the area) offers a daily calendar and schedule of the operating hours for buildings, restaurants, tours and events.
The escorted half hour introductory tour of Colonial Williamsburg is recommended to give you a taste of what is offered.
Then, with a guide book available at the visitor’s center, you can visit the areas that interest you most. Getting immersed in this area of history is addictive and you will find yourself having a difficult time leaving.
For the comfort of the visitors from all over the nation and the world, Williamsburg and its environs now offer many places to stay. They range from luxury resorts to moderately priced motels. In all of them you find the traditional southern hospitality.
You will never run out of fascinating discoveries in the world of Washington, Jefferson and Patrick Henry.
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation operates a variety of excellent accommodations. You can actually stay in a restored 18th century house. The Williamsburg Inn, one of America’s greatest hotels, has elegant rooms, fine cuisine and views of the green countryside that capture the quiet luxury of a Virginia estate of the 18th century. A touch of the 20th century is evident with two Robert Trent Jones golf courses, eight tennis courts, two swimming pools and a lawn bowling green. Have dinner at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern, a favorite of George Washington and his friends.

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