I've just returned from my trip to Williamsburg. A dear friend of mine has been wanting to go to Virginia and see the 'Historic Triangle' for quite some time and when her sister bowed out, I said I would go with her.
We arrived on Wednesday at Norfolk International Airport and got our rental car. We made our way though the 5pm commuter traffic and drove 40 minutes west to Williamsburg. We crossed the Hampton Bridge-Tunnel on the way and every single time I see the ocean it just fills me up. I just love the smells, sounds and views of the ocean!
Next morning we started our adventure by going through the Visitor's Center and riding the bus into Williamsburg Historical area. At the first stop we went to the Capitol Building, which is rebuilt over the original foundations. This building was initially built in the late 17th century, but was burned during the revolutionary war. It was rebuilt and modeled after its original, and does have a couple of original pieces of furniture in it. To think that Patrick Henry did most of his law career right here, and that the gentlemen we hold as the founders of our country used to congregate in this place is quite humbling!
Julie is on the left. I'm on the right.
The tour-guide was very interesting and described how our forefathers weren't of the mind to immediately demand their independence from England. They considered themselves English; they loved their country. But the laws governing the colonies and the taxes were so oppressive and every entreaty they made to the King was either ignored or shunted to the side. As the colony grew the colonists knew they had to demand their rights as human beings, and fighting for independence was their last resort.
After the capitol building we went looking at other buildings, and the 17th-century craftsmen. The crafts that are done in Williamsburg are done in the same method as the way they were done in the 17th century, (with some 21st-century limitations, of course.)
This is me in the Williamsburg Gunsmith Shop. I was permitted to hold one of the guns they made in the store. The gentleman in the other room even demonstrated how to load and fire it. I was most impressed! He said they still made guns to order for collectors and re-enactors, and I asked how much such a gun cost. He explained that a gun to order with a specialty stock would cost around $15,000 today. Imagine that! A little out of my price range, of course - so I had to give it back.
This is the Magazine, where the Military practiced and marched, and kept supplies.
This is the Courthouse Building, where most civil cases were heard by someone selected by the Governor. The Building itself is mostly original, from the 1700's. The inside main room looks like this:
There is a gentleman there to answer questions and explain the kind of actions that were presided there. Some interesting information: See that 'fence' behind him? That was called the BAR. You could only go behind this if you had passed the requirements to become a lawyer. Hence, you passed the BAR.
Seen here is the Governor's Palace. The Governor was appointed by the King. He pretty much ruled the place, and if he didn't like the elected body (at the Capitol building) he could toss them out and require new elections, and the elections only ran when he said they could. No wonder our forefathers got a bit aggravated at how they were being governed!
There are 170+ buildings at Williamsburg, though visitors aren't allowed in all of them. Several are historic trades, such as basketmaking, weaving, the wigmaker, the carpenter, shops and taverns. But several buildings do not have access, because employees of Williamsburg are allowed to rent homes in the historic district. They have to follow certain rules, of course - shutters must remain closed during the day, no outside 21st-century decorations, things like that. But imagine working only a few blocks from where you live. That would cut down on your commuter cost!
Along the side of the palace green was some of the family homes of the more influential citizens of Williamsburg. On the left was the home of the Wythe family. Julie and I took a tour of it, and it was quite large for families at that time, two stories and lots of rooms. This is an upstairs bedroom, quite fashionable:
The floors and mouldings were said to be mostly original, as was the outside brick of the home. The furnishings, wallpaper, decorations were said to be "what the family of their status might have had". Notice the next pic:
No falling onto the floor in the middle of the night for this family! This is considered a well-to-do potty!
Another upstairs bedroom, probably for the children, looked like this:
Notice how every bed had a chest at its foot.
Williamsburg also has several reenactments that they do every week. If you visit, make sure to catch some of these. Julie and I were getting a drink when we heard the Governor was making an appearance at the Capitol Building, trying to obtain information on the 'rabble-rousers' of the revolution:
Lovely carriage, but watch out for the exhaust.
At one of the Capitol entrances, several men were discussing the probability of revolution if the Governor and the King didn't address the most critical of issues for the colonists:
The gentleman in costume in the center(with cane and glasses) is Patrick Henry. I'm not sure of the others, except that the gentleman at the gate was the 'speaker of the house', as he was addressed.
The next reenactment was down in front of Raleigh Tavern, where it was heard a loyalist was going on and on about how some Virginians were traitors in talking about revolution. One of the Virginian Military arrested him, and the townspeople had determined he would be tarred and feathered, except at the last moment he recanted!
Then we followed the Fife and Drum Corps to the Capitol Building, where an announcement was to be made. All the visitors to Williamsburg are invited to march along!
Back at the Capitol Building, Patrick Henry on the right, an announcement was made that representatives had passed resolutions for independence. They lifted a flag over the Capitol Building of the British Flag in the upper left corner, with thirteen stripes.
Patrick Henry called for Cheers for the resolutions, and for the Declaration of Rights. Then the cannon was fired, three times, to celebrate.
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Williamsburg! It was wonderful to see history like this. We also went on the Tavern Ghost Walk and listened to Ghost Stories, and even heard a few of the interesting legends from Williamsburg on another evening program. I recommend you check out Williamsburg!