From the Dust Bin of History: Colonial Williamsburg, VA

Now here is a place to love, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, a place that was dragged out of the dust bin of history for our enjoyment decades later! I will say, first and foremost, that we easily could spend two days here, for this is a huge living history museum on over 300 acres. The Historic Area consists of a collection of restored and recreated buildings that depict a city from the colonial era, and it comes complete with interpreters who dress and act the part, place, and time. This area is restricted to foot traffic and horse drawn carriage. You can’t get a more incredible history lesson on American colonialism anywhere else! 

You may or may not know, depending upon your level of American historical expertise (of which admittedly I have none, having been raised in Canada), that Williamsburg served for 81 years in the 18th century as the center of governance in the Colony of Virginia. This was the hub of the new land. The likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison made this their stomping grounds. Governor Jefferson eventually moved the capital from Williamsburg to Richmond in a bid to decrease vulnerability to attack from the Bristish, after which Williamsburg declined steadily into near ruin. In the meantime it maintained much of its colonial style, because there was little investment and hence no modernization. 

That’s what brings us to the current state of this unique place! In the early 1900’s Reverend Goodwin of the local parish, along with other like-minded historical preservationists, sought to revitalize Williamsburg to its old glory. And that’s where the Rockefellers come in. Mind you, my late father-in-law had me convinced that the Rockefellers lived only to take over the world in a most sinister manner, but I have now developed a deep appreciation of this iconic American family. 

John D. Rockefeller and his wife Abby committed substantial sums of money and time in the 1930s and 1940s into rebuilding, restoring and recreating this amazing historic city. Like, we are talking millions….. like $70 million bucks! Without their commitment this place would be in the dust bin of history. 

I have to say that at first I am a bit confused about how Colonial Williamsburg is set up. We arrive at the Visitor Center where we purchase our tickets. I’m not gonna lie. The tickets are expensive, but well worth it, in my opinion! From there we walk towards the museum. I guess there’s a shuttle, too. 

We start the day at the Governor’s Palace. This was the official residence of the Royal Governor’s in the Colony of Virginia. 

There’s a huge cellar under the mansion. Don’t ask me what was stored down there. 

There was a baby or two in this mansion. When my older kids were babies I would have wanted a crib like this for them. Now I can only imagine all the dust that inevitably would collect on top. 

I love the detailed wood work. I guess not. If it were in my house I would have to clean it. 

I notice the interesting colors in this building. Very lively! 

We take a moment to enjoy the gardens. 

The interpreter in the Governor’s Mansion is really into his job. I am not sure where you find these kinds of clothes from. You know, they say that fashions come back in due time, but I really have to wonder if these types of clothes could ever make a comeback. 

So this is when it gets confusing. We ask a worker if there’s a coffee shop here, and they tell us to exit Colonial Williamsburg and walk into the nearby shopping center. That’s when we discover that anyone can come into this Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area even if they don’t have tickets. We simply walk a bit down Prince George Street and soon are at a coffee shop. 

So, a word to the wise, if you aren’t sure you want to spend the money on tickets for Colonial Williamsburg, you can still walk freely around the Historic Area while enjoying the beautiful architecture and the ambience of this colonial town. You won’t be able to go inside the buildings, as someone is checking for tickets whenever you enter a venue, but the town is awesome to see, in and of itself. If I was coming just to walk through the historic area I would probably park in the adjacent town and not at the visitor center. 

Also be advised that not every building in Colonial Williamsburg is open each day for tourists. The buildings that are open alternate in some kind of pattern. They place a special flag for the day in front of the buildings that are open to make them easier to locate as you walk through town. There is no way you can get through all of Colonial Williamsburg in one day. That’s why I wish we would have had two days here at least, even though we are pretty fast tourists. Well, I guess not today. My husband loves history and he goes slower than usual today to absorb everything. 

I like the drainage system at the base of the this old church building. 

The Capitol building is awesome. This of course is a replica. Can you imagine the costs associated with rebuilding this? Thank you, John D Rockefeller for making it possible for us to enjoy this place so many years later! 

This interpreter was pretty hilarious. He made a very boring subject very interesting. 

I find it interesting that they have huge portraits of British royalty in many of these colonial buildings. 

There’s lots of walking to be done in this historic area! 

The apothecary shop has many interesting remedies. 

We visit a wig shop and watch the wigmaker ply his trade. I can’t imagine how it became so fashionable to wear wigs. These things are hilarious. I wonder if they will ever come back in style!

The wigs were made of human, goat, horse, yak and monkey hair. Just kidding. Not monkey hair. I wonder about the human hair thing….. did they forcibly take human hair? 

I think the wig maker might have a hard time making a wig for me. First of all what they did was shave you bald. Well, guess what? My head is shaped so weird the wig maker would have a heck of a time getting it right and tight on my noggin! I’m such a numbskull that I wouldn’t even know where to begin.  

Seriously? It was a status symbol to wear one of these. I think I would rather take Rogaine! One time I was at Costco and I saw a very bald man pushing a ginormous cart full of Rogaine! I was sooooo tempted to go up to him and ask him how it’s working  out for him. I could just have referred  him to this amazing wig maker here at Colonial Williamsburg. 

This young lady actually spins yarn by hand from wool. I have never seen this done before. 

I love this beautiful fabric on the loom, which is made from the wool spun right here on site. 

Amazing!! A shoemaker shows us how to make shoes! 

There’s a little place here called R Charlton’s Coffeehouse. I guess they can only show this place to 15 people at a time, so we take a seat to wait for a turn. It’s a 15 minute wait for us to get in, and David is annoyed at me for wanting to see this shop. I hold my ground. And, boy oh boy, are we in for a treat! This place is probably my favorite in this whole town! We get ushered into the coffee house and straight to the tables where we are joined by a gentleman of yesteryear, Mr. Charlton himself! 

We have a choice of either coffee or hot chocolate made in the same way it was years ago. I try the coffee. It’s good. The kids try the authentic hot chocolate, which is made from cocoa, vanilla, cayenne and a pinch of sugar. It’s kind of bitter – an acquired taste, I suppose. 

The gentleman from yesteryear spends the entire time talking and talking. I guess in his day it was customary for only men to sit in the coffeehouse where they would discuss politics and current events. He remarks about how times are changing and there are ladies present, even though he is quite sure they don’t enjoy the subject at hand. He tells us about some corruption occurring in town. That doesn’t sound like anything unusual to us modern folk. We are so used to corruption in our society that we don’t even bat an eye at his tales of dirty dealings. 

Oh oh….. the gallows.  If I had some rotten tomatoes at hand I would throw them at these two. 

Amazing cabbages growing in a garden. 

Well, never forget the gunsmith! They made rifles by hand in those days. 

My husband, being the fine woodworker that he is, is enthralled by this machine. 

Another important profession in the day was the blacksmith. I had to ask this female blacksmith if they had women in this profession in the 1800s. She claimed they did, but I don’t believe her. 

Now here’s where it gets super interesting! We pay a visit to the Rockefeller’s home, the Bassett House. Yes, that’s right! This very unassuming home was a favorite of the Rockefeller family! They stayed here quite often when the restoration projects were underway. 

All the furnishings in here are original. 

The Rockefeller kitchen is awesome!

Again, I have to say thanks to the Rockefellers for restoring Colonial Williamsburg from the dust bin of history for future generations to enjoy. 

Our time in Colonial Williamsburg comes to an end way too soon. We totally could have spent another day here. To finish out the day the troops fire off the big guns. 

And then we are entertained by period musicians. 

I have to say that recently I have seen an article that relates of how attendance is down at historic sites in the U.S., and Colonial Williamsburg has been hit particularly hard. In fact, it loses a staggering $148,000 per day, as attendance has dropped in half since the peak in the 1980’s! Attendance by young people in particular has decreased. 

It appears that Americans are becoming increasingly incurious about the history of their nation. And that’s a shame. A nation should be acutely aware of their country’s past, the victories and mistakes, good and bad….. to learn from those things — lest history should repeat itself…. or not. Colonial Williamsburg is an incredible American gem that brings history alive! Do yourself and your country a favor….. visit historical sites…. study history….. don’t be a dunce, like me!

As I mentioned earlier, this incredible living history museum is right next to the town. In fact, you can freely walk into town from several parts of the museum. When the day ends we walk into Williamsburg to find some dinner. It’s so cute! I love this place. 

David finds this shop called Rick’s that sells amazing cheesesteak! Don’t need to go to Philly for this! It’s actually better than the cheesesteak we had in Philadelphia.  

You may well imagine since Williamsburg is such a touristy place that the hotels are expensive. We want to go to nearby Jamestown and Yorktown tomorrow, so we need to find a place for the night. I am prepared! I brought along our camping gear, and we will save $300 tonight!

We drive less than 20 miles to the Chickahominy Riverfront Park to a gorgeous campground where we can stay for less than $30. There’s even a pool here! Good night, peeps, I am in my paradise!

And the morning dawns bright and beautiful! 

Looks like the boys had a topsy turvy night sleeping in the back of the van. “Get up, we are off to Jamestown and Yorktown!”

Let’s keep history alive and relevant. 

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