Colonial Williamsburg, 101 Visitor Center Drive, Williamsburg, Virginia:
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia’s top tourist attraction and the state’s second capital after Jamestown, is like entering a time portal to the colonial era. Founded in 1699, it had been conceived as a prestigious, sophisticated gathering place because of its chosen location next to the College of William and Mary. dinosaur egg toy
As in any town, its citizens had pursued daily mercantile activities, providing functions, goods, and services in exchange for the salaries they themselves had needed to purchase those goods and services. Craftsmen had practiced their trades: blacksmiths, coopers, shoemakers, printers, gunsmith, cabinetmakers, and wigmakers had all made vital contributions to the community’s continued existence, while the remainder of the people had engaged in military and governmental pursuits.
Transportation had been provided by horse-drawn wagons and carriages, as evidenced even today by ubiquitous clompings on the dirt streets.
Several buildings had been nucleic to life. The Peyton-Randolph House and kitchen, for example, had once been the home of one of Virginia’s leading politicians and the scene of numerous social and political gatherings. Civil and criminal cases had been tried at the Courthouse. The circular, brick Magazine had served as Williamsburg’s arsenal and had stored arms and gunpowder on its upper level. The Printing Office and Bookbinding shop had been instrumental in pre-Revolution information distribution. The James Anderson Blacksmith shop had repaired arms for American forces. In 1776, the patriots of Virginia had voted for independence in the Capitol and a new state constitution had been drafted there. The government had conducted war over a five-year period from this location and legislation had created the Republican party within its walls.
The Governor’s Palace, the city’s most opulent structure, had been the residence of several royal governors and the first two elected governors of the new sovereign state of Virginia, and today retains the appearance of the home of Lord Dunmore, the last British governor to have lived there on the eve of the Revolution.
As in the current day, men often met in taverns to drink and discuss business.
The town, associated with such names as Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, Richard Henry Lee, Patrick Henry, and George Washington, had offered little manufacturing, but instead had acted as the political and economic center of Virginia for 80 years, having been England’s largest and wealthiest colony–the location of enacted laws and administered justice, and the site where the seeds of democracy and political independence had been planted in an ultimate attempt to separate itself from its source.
Williamsburg had thrived until Virginia’s capital had been relocated to Richmond in 1780, whereafter it had declined to a backwater town.
The town’s slow rebirth began in 1926 when the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation had been established to excavate buried foundations and reconstruct the crumbling buildings which had still stood, ultimately transforming it into the world’s largest, 18th-century living history museum comprised of 88 restored structures and some 500 other reconstructed ones spread over 301 acres.
Colonial Williamsburg is once again alive: the buildings can be visited; the pounding of the glowing anvil can be heard in the blacksmith shop; cases can be heard in the courthouse; costumed interpreters reenact scenes from earlier life; soldiers march down Duke of Gloucester Street; meals can be eaten in four historic taverns; 18th-century goods are made and sold in the numerous shops; and horse-drawn carriages still clomp down the unpaved streets.
An extensive Visitor’s Center, replete with gift shops, bookstores, and theaters where the introductory film, “Williamsburg: Story of a Patriot,” is shown, provides the threshold to this colonial era, and is the departure point of the shuttle buses which periodically take visitors to the city’s two entry points. At least two full days are needed to visit Williamsburg’s significant buildings, observe its costumed “citizens” at work, witness their numerous reenactments, peruse the museums, shop for period items, eat in the taverns, and partake of the evening entertainment programs. A hefty entrance fee provides access to most of these sights and events, although “add-ons” are required for certain buildings and programs, and prices vary according to the number of days the passes cover.