The Crown still rules daily in Colonial Williamsburg. The King is still King. Even on days when the city is set during the latter half of the Revolutionary War, post-Declaration of Independence, Colonial Williamsburg is not yet American.
I had the privilege of visiting this colonial city and experiencing a modern-day version of the 18th century. The heat and humidity alone gave me an idea of life in the colony of Virginia. In spite of the heat, I explored the city and reconnected with my nation’s history. Maybe reconnected is not the right word. It was an immersion. A chance to experience and learn about a life so different from my own.
For those who have not visited Colonial Williamsburg, the city is a combination of restored structures and recreations of establishments that once stood on Duke of Gloucester Street, Nicholson Street, and Palace Green Street. Everyone who works in the city is dressed in colonial garb regardless of the temperature. Some of these individuals even have colonial inspired accents to accompany their 18th century fashions. The horses are not cleaned up after to further the experience. No one confirmed this assessment, but cleaning up after horses, in the middle of the day, would likely take away from the authenticity of the experience. At least in my opinion. While visiting, I had the opportunity to spend time in almost every establishment in the city. For length purposes, I will highlight just a few.
I had the chance to tour a recreation of the Capitol where the House of Burgesses met and crimes were tried in the General Court. They still try cases in that Court and I spent an evening as a juror in a Witch Trial. I thought the “Witch” was innocent, but then again I was relying on 21st century knowledge in an 18th century case. That seems to be a bit unfair. Regardless of my opinion, she was found guilty and a good time was had by all.
Like the Capitol, the Palace was also a recreation of a building that played a prominent role in daily colonial life. The Governors of the colony of Virginia lived in this enormous home. Although, according to my tour guide, for Lady Dunmore, wife of Governor Dunmore, the home was a bit too small. I guess perspective is everything. The Palace provides visitors with a sense of what it was like to be the Governor or even his daughter, and what it was like to attend a ball. However, all the fun that was had in the Palace came to an end and by the battle of Yorktown, the Palace was turned into a hospital.
In addition to the Capitol and the Palace, I spent time at Richard Charlton’s Coffeehouse where I had the chance to meet the Editor of the newspaper and try some colonial inspired coffee. I do not like coffee, but this coffee was quite good. I also paid a visit to the wigmaker, the shoemaker, the silversmith, the milliner, and many other tradesmen and women who served the city of Williamsburg. If you are wondering, I did not visit the candlestick maker.
The best part of visiting these shops was the chance to learn about the crafts housed within the walls of these colonial shops. I leaned where the materials were obtained from, how the tradesmen and women performed their crafts, and who visited the shops during the 18th century. Of note is that each shop seems to compare the price of a good to the price of shoes. I did not have a chance to ask why everything is compared to shoes, but perhaps I will send 21st century Colonial Williamsburg an email and find out.
I also had the chance to dine colonial style at two Taverns. The food was authentic, but the entertainment was even more so. The desserts (well I should preface this by saying that I love dessert) were fantastic. At King Arm’s Tavern, my colonial dessert was meringue with vanilla ice cream and a hefty topping of strawberries. I am not sure how authentic this dessert was, but it was good.
On each of the evenings during my stay, I attended an evening activity. I felt like I was back at camp. As I mentioned, the Witch Trial was one such activity. I also took part in a Tavern Ghost Walk where I was told about the ghosts that inhabit the city at night. The leader stated that all of the stories were true and I believe her. Another evening was spent listening to stories told by ghosts during Ghosts Among Us. Some of the ghosts should really be acting on Broadway. Finally, with lightning and thunder in the background, I spent my last evening in Colonial Williamsburg learning all about Blackbeard through Pirates Among Us. The lightning really added to the authenticity of the activity.
There may no longer be a Crown that rules over us, but each day in Williamsburg, Virginia, the Crown still rules. Each day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the 21st century becomes the 18th century. Yes, the city uses 21st century work hours with the exception of Tavern dining, evening activities, and one store that monopolizes on the fact that the others are already closed. With that said, below please enjoy some photos taken on my iPhone, a gadget that would likely have me accused of witchcraft in the 18th century.
King Arm’s Tavern
Dining 18th Century Style
Evening Approaches Colonial Williamsburg