Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Historic Williamsburg, Virginia

Did you know that Williamsburg was the capitol of our great nation for a short while in the early 1700’s.  We were not planning on going to this little town but a gentleman from OH, that we met shortly in a museum in DC, said we just ‘had to’ go there because it was so fantastic and we would really enjoy it.  So, after seeing everything we could see in DC and without much hesitation we headed Kemosabe down the road to VA, about an hour and half south of DC to park at a campground there for five days.

Upon arriving at Historic Williamsburg -  www.colonialwilliamsburg.com
we paid our admission and hopped on the shuttle bus not knowing exactly what we were going to see. 
We were very pleasantly surprised to see a town that has been recreated to look like it was in the 1760’s.  Now I know what you are thinking…yeah, yeah, lots of places are little towns made to look like old towns.  This one they did up right and what impressed us the most was that it didn’t have the ‘touristy, commercial’ feel that we so often see.

The original houses, churches, courthouse, palace, taverns, storefronts in about a six block radius had gone through many years of ownership, disrepair, destruction and misuse.  In the 1920’s the people in the surrounding areas decided they needed to preserve this special town and started buying up the property and houses and restoring them.  If a building was torn down, then they rebuilt one on the original foundation from blueprints or pictures that they found in the archives.  Not all the buildings on the street are open to the public; they were never restored on the inside, just the outside.

Reconstructed from original blueprints the old courthouse
All the people who ran the shops, did work in the livery stable, shoe shop, blacksmith shop, garden store, millinery shop, general store, courthouse, restaurants, etc, were all dressed in period costumes.  One of the fun things you can do there is rent a period costume for the day (which a lot of the children did). 


They also have carriage rides, forming of the militia guard (including musket firing and cannon shooting), and my favorite…a speech by Thomas Jefferson himself. 

 At 4 o’clock we sat at a public outside meeting place to hear him talk about the revolution and the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  He talked as if he was talking to us in 1776 (he was a professional actor with great oratory skills). 
Old Tom was very believable and he talked for over half an hour nonstop.  He opened the talk at the end with questions from the audience.  It was interesting because the issue of him owning slaves and writing the “all men are free” declaration came up and he answered it very eloquently and in true 1776 style. 

Two fun things we did was go to the tavern for a demonstration by actors (in costume) on how plays in the late 1700 were banned by many of the original states and what that meant to the citizens living in Williamsburg and how the actors continued with their acting careers and plays.  At one point the acting company had to move to Jamaica for six years to remain in business.  The reason plays were banned was because money was very tight because of the economy, with the war with England, which was going to cost a lot of money and they didn’t want the good citizens to spend their money ‘foolishly’.

Next, it was off to a county courtroom where they asked for any volunteers to act and read from scripts of actual accounts of citizen that came to court in the 1700’s.  George and I volunteered to be fellow judges (you didn’t have to know law in those days to be a judge, just prestige and money…has that changed any in over 300 yrs?).  We heard each citizen place his claim and then we four judges had to agree or disagree to the head judge’s judgment on the case.  It was very fun to experience firsthand the ‘reenactments’ and how it would have been back in the 1770’s.  One interesting fact:  a criminal, no matter what his crime, was only sentenced to a maximum of one year in jail, and then he was let out.  If he did it again…same sentence…no long term prison sentence back then.
King George signing those rascals to the jail.
Our last thing we did was go to their museum and spent our last hour there.  We went through it pretty fast because I can tell you I’m about ‘museumed out' after spending 11 days in DC.  Only item I bought at Williamsburg was a hand fan…boy, could have used it in DC!  Visit their website:  www.history.org

All-in-all I’m glad we stopped off at Williamsburg, it gave me a different perspective on how living was like in VA in the 1770’s.  And the BEST of Williamsburg was no ‘gaudy’ tourist trinkets.  They had shops that sold things, but they were shops like the general store that only sold things that you could buy in that era.  


 Do you like our new look?

The millinery shop had hats that were made on site, shoe shop had shoes made on site, children’s toys were only those toys found in use in that era, the garden area only sold seed and plants grown in their garden, general store only sold root beer and ginger beer that was bottled in original 1700’s looking bottles and candy of that era.  So, yes, I thought they did a great job of keeping the town authentic and I would recommend this place to anyone visiting DC or the surrounding area.

Silversmith shop

We went one day into Norfolk, VA to see the biggest Naval Facility in the US and take the tour.  They never let us off the bus, so just pictures from the bus. Then we stopped into the Douglas McArthur (WWII famous General) Museum and I was in and out in about 15 minutes…just can’t do it anymore folks!

Then it was off to Virginia Beach and had a great seafood lunch and then walked on the beach for about an hour.  The beach front area is very touristy and lots of gaudy tourist shops, bars, clubs, high rise hotels. I enjoyed visiting the ocean again…I missed the ocean.  We haven’t been on a beach to put our little feet into the warm salty water since we were in MA, above Boston.

I am so glad that I sat next to the nice gentleman in DC because if I didn't hear about Historic Williamsburg I would have missed out on a gem that both George and I thoroughly enjoyed.  The saying 'go for it' could definitely apply to this adventure.

Happy Travels,                                                                                                                         
 Peggy (George & Coco too)

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