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Colonial Williamsburg is the historic district of the independent city of Williamsburg, Virginiamarker. It consists of many of the buildings that, from 1699 to 1780, formed colonial Virginia's capital. The capital straddled the boundary of two of the original shires of Virginia, James City Shire (now James City County), and Charles River Shire (now York Countymarker). For most of the 18th century, Williamsburg was the center of government, education and culture in the Colony of Virginia. It was here that Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Monroe, James Madison, George Wythe, Peyton Randolph, and dozens more helped mold democracy in the Commonwealth of Virginiamarker and the United Statesmarker.

The motto of Colonial Williamsburg is "that the future may learn from the past." The Historic Area is meant to be an interpretation of a Colonial American city, with exhibits including dozens of authentic or accurately recreated colonial houses and relating to American Revolutionary War history. Prominent buildings in Colonial Williamsburg include the Raleigh Tavern, the Capitolmarker, The Governor's Palace, and Bruton Parish Churchmarker. However, rather than simply an effort to preserve antiquity, the combination of extensive restoration and thoughtful recreation of the entire colonial town facilitates envisioning the atmosphere and understanding the ideals of 18th century American revolutionary leaders. Interpreters work and dress as they did in the era, and they use colonial grammar and diction, although not colonial accents.

The Historic Area is located immediately east of the College of William and Marymarker, which was founded at Middle Plantation in 1693. The new College, long a desire of the colonists, was a key factor in the establishment of the town as capital of Virginia in 1698 and its renaming for King William III of England shortly thereafter. As the new city was laid out, the school's Wren Buildingmarker stood at the western end of Duke of Gloucester Streetmarker, where it still stands today, opposite the site of the Capitolmarker where the Burgesses and later legislators met.

Colonial Williamsburg is a major source of tourism to the Williamsburg area. It has also become a touchstone for many world leaders and heads of state, including U.S. Presidents. In 1983, the United States hosted the first World Economic Conference at Colonial Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg is the centerpiece of the surrounding Historic Triangle of Virginia area, which has become a popular tourist destination for visitors domestic and foreign. Jamestown and Yorktownmarker, the other two points of the Historic Triangle, are linked to Colonial Williamsburg by the National Park Service's bucolic Colonial Parkwaymarker.

Historical restoration

The Governor's Palace, reconstructed in the 1930s, looking in from the front gate.
Early in the 20th century, the restoration and recreation of Colonial Williamsburg, one of the largest historic restorations ever undertaken, was championed by the Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin and the patriarch of the Rockefeller family, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., along with the active participation of his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, who wanted to celebrate the patriots and the early history of the United States.

Many of the missing Colonial structures were reconstructed on their original sites during the 1930s. Other structures were restored to the best estimates of how they would have looked during the eighteenth century, with all traces of later buildings and improvements removed. Dependency structures and animals help complete the ambiance. Most buildings are open for tourists to look through, with the exception of several buildings that serve as residences for Colonial Williamsburg employees.

Notable structures include the large Capitolmarker and the Governor's Palace, each carefully recreated and landscaped as closely as possible to original 18th century specifications, as well as Bruton Parish Churchmarker and the Raleigh Tavern. The historic Wren Buildingmarker on the campus of William and Mary was one of the first buildings to be restored. The ties between the College and Colonial Williamsburg remained close in the years that followed, a mutually beneficial continuing relationship.

The Mission

The major goal of the Restoration was not to merely preserve or recreate the physical environment of the colonial period, but to facilitate education about the origins of the idea of America, which was conceived during many decades before the American Revolution.

In this environment, Colonial Williamsburg strives to tell the story of how diverse peoples, having different and sometimes conflicting ambitions, evolved into a society that valued liberty and equality.


On May 13, 1607, at a small low-lying wooded peninsula, virtually an island, the Jamestown Settlementmarker was established on the south side of what is now known as the Virginia Peninsulamarker by English colonists. Soon about a dozen subsidiary settlements such as Martin's Hundred and Henricus were established in areas along the James River.

The first meeting of a representative government group in the American colonies was held at the Jamestown Settlement on July 30, 1619, making Jamestown the first Capital of Virginia. Among the 22 members of this first legislative group was the governor, who was appointed by officials of the Virginia Company in Londonmarker. The governor in turn appointed six important members of the colony to be his council. The other 15 members were elected by the free men of the Virginia Colony who were over 17 and also owned land. This body, known as the House of Burgesses, later became the House of Delegates of the Virginia General Assemblymarker.

Middle Plantation, College of William and Mary

Middle Plantation was originally established in 1632. Unlike Jamestown and other early settlements along the rivers and navigable waterways, Middle Plantation was located on high ground about half-way across the Virginia Peninsulamarker between the James and York Rivers. Not only was it at the highpoint of the width of the peninsula, it was also at the western edge of a geographic plateau of the Tidewater Region, from which the land slopes eastward down to sea level at the lower end of the peninsula. This was a natural point to build a line of defense for the lower peninsula during early conflicts with the Native Americans.

In 1676, after the State House at Jamestown was burned during Bacon's Rebellion, the House of Burgesses met at Middle Plantation, which was nearby. With education long a goal of the colonists, the College of William and Marymarker was founded in 1693 and established adjacent to Middle Plantation beginning in 1694. George Washington received his surveyor's license from the school. Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall were among many of Virginia's (and the nation's) future leaders who received their higher education at the College of William and Marymarker, a tradition which has continued for hundreds of years. The Commonwealth of Virginia has operated the College since 1906.

Williamsburg becomes the Capital

Capitol Building
The statehouse (capitol building) in Jamestown burned again on October 20, 1698. Once again, the legislators found themselves meeting at Middle Plantation. The following year, in 1699, in a meeting held by the colonists, a group of students from the College of William and Mary submitted a proposal to move the capital to Middle Plantation, to escape the dreaded malaria and mosquitoes that plagued the Jamestown Island site. The capital of the Virginia Colony was relocated to Middle Plantation.

Soon thereafter, Middle Plantation was renamed Williamsburg by Royal Governor Francis Nicholson, proponent of the change, in honor of King William III. The new site was described by Nicholson as a place where "clear and crystal springs burst from the champagne soil" and was seen as a glorious vision of future utopia. He had the city surveyed and a plan laid out by Theodoric Bland taking into consideration the fine brick College Building and Bruton Parish Churchmarker. The main street was named Duke of Gloucester after the eldest son of Queen Anne.

Colonial Williamsburg magazine
In 1705, the first Capitolmarker building in America was built at the eastern end of the Duke of Gloucester Street opposite the College building (later better known as the Wren Buildingmarker). Williamsburg was to be the capital of Virginiamarker for the remainder of the Colonial Period. It was the center of the political and social life of Virginia for most of the 18th century. Famous members of the House of Burgesses which met in the Capital there included Patrick Henry, George Washington, George Mason, and Thomas Jefferson. A fire destroyed the building in 1747. It was rebuilt, but fell into disrepair after the American Revolution. The building now standing on its site is a 1930s recreation of the 1705 building, designed by the architects Perry, Shaw & Hepburn. The new Capitol was dedicated with a ceremonial meeting of the Virginia General Assemblymarker on February 24, 1934.

As a tradition in Virginia, since 1934, Virginia's state legislators have reassembled for a day every four years in the Capitol building at the east end of Colonial Williamsburg's Historic Area.

Capital moves to Richmond

During the American Revolutionary War, in 1780, the Capital of Virginia was moved to Richmondmarker, about 55 miles (90 km) west for security reasons, and there it was to stay.

For many years thereafter, the colonial section of Williamsburg was neglected as the modern town was built around it. By the early 20th century, many of the older structures were in poor condition, and were no longer in use. The site on high ground and away from waterways was also not reached by the early railroads, whose construction began in the 1830s. About 50 years later, when Collis P. Huntington built the new Chesapeake and Ohio Railway through the area in 1881, his main purpose was the through shipment of coal from West Virginiamarker to Newport Newsmarker and the new coal pier on the harbor of Hampton Roadsmarker at the southeastern tip of the Virginia Peninsula. In fact, the entire Industrial Revolution also seemed to only pass by Williamsburg, with barely a flag stop.

Williamsburg relied on three institutions: The Eastern Lunatic Asylum (now Eastern State Hospital), The College of William and Marymarker, and the Courthouse ; it was said that the "500 Crazies" of the asylum supported the "500 Lazies" of the College and town. Colonial-era buildings were neglected in the wake of the Civil War, which had a much larger presence in the minds of the townsfolk. Williamsburg had several Civil War commemorations every year, the most important on May 5, the anniversary of the Battle of Williamsburgmarker. On May 5, 1908, Williamsburg dedicated a monument to Confederate soldiers and sailors and placed it prominently on the Palace Green.

Recreation and Restoration

Dr. Goodwin and the Rockefellers

The Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, became rector of Williamsburg's Bruton Parish Churchmarker in 1903. The energetic 34-year old native of Nelson Countymarker was soon leading a successful campaign to save and restore the historic church building, which had been built beginning in 1711. Dr. Goodwin was also an instructor at the nearby College of William and Marymarker, home of the historic building that would come to be called the Wren Buildingmarker. He completed the church restoration in time for the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Anglican (Episcopal) Church in Virginia in 1907.

Dr. Goodwin was transferred by the Church, and worked in upstate New York until his return in 1923 to work at the College of William and Mary. What he saw in further deterioration of colonial-era buildings both saddened and inspired him. In 1924, fearing that the many other historic buildings in the area would be destroyed as time went on, he started a movement to preserve the buildings in the historic section of the town. After working for several years to interest potential individuals or organizations to assist with funding, Dr. Goodwin was fortunate in this effort to draw the interest (and major financial commitment) of John D. Rockefeller Jr., the wealthy son of the founder of Standard Oil. Rockefeller's wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller was also to play an active role.

Re-creation and restoration started on November 27, 1926 with the noted designer Arthur Shurcliff as the chief landscape architect and Perry, Shaw & Hepburn as architects. Concerned that prices might rise if their intentions were known, Rockefeller and Goodwin kept their plans a secret, quietly buying up properties. Of course, that much property suddenly changing hands was noticeable, and after eighteen months of increasingly nervous rumors, Goodwin and Rockefeller finally revealed their plans at two town meetings on June 11 and 12, 1928.

Most townspeople seem to have been contented to sell their property and expressed enthusiasm about the plan, but a few had qualms. Major S. D. Freeman said, "We will reap dollars, but will we own our town? Will you not be in the position of a butterfly pinned to a card in a glass cabinet, or like a mummy unearthed in the tomb of Tutankhamun?"

During the restoration, the project demolished 720 Williamsburg buildings that postdated 1790, many of which dated from the 19th century. Since then, Colonial Williamsburg (CW) has been nearly completely recreated. It features shops, taverns and open-air markets in the colonial style. The Governor's Palace and the Capitol building were among the significant colonial-era buildings that had not survived into the 20th century, and the structures were reconstructed at the original sites with the aid of period illustrations and written descriptions. Of the approximately 500 buildings in the historic area, 88 are original.

In the western side of the district, near the College of William and Marymarker, beginning in the 1930s, retail shops were grouped under the name.

Operating budget, merchandising

Colonial Williamsburg is owned and operated as a living museum by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the non-profit entity endowed initially by the Rockefeller family and additionally over the years by many others, notably Readers Digest founders Lila and DeWitt Wallace.

Central to the Rockefeller vision of Williamsburg was the need for retailing to not only pay for the upkeep of Williamsburg, but also to aid in educating visitors through affordable reproductions. From the beginning, CW has been a national leader in the idea of selling museum-quality reproductions of items in its collection. The Williamsburg Reproductions program took this effort to a new level; items sold in CW's Craft House were either inspired by or exact reproductions of items in the collections. Vendors such as Wedgwood, Charles Overly, Kittinger, Martin Senour, Kirk Steiff Co., and Virginia Metalcrafters have made products licensed by Colonial Williamsburg.

Tourists on horse and wagon tour of CW

Role in community

Protecting a sense of arrival and views

Beginning in the earliest periods of the Restoration, CW acquired vast acreage in Williamburg and the two counties which adjoin it, notably to the north and east of the Historic District. One of the major considerations was a desire to preserve natural views and facilitate the effort to allow a visitor to experience as much of the late 18th century experience as possible with regard to the surrounding environment. This was described as a "rural, wooded sense of arrival" along corridors to the foundation's Historic Area. In announcing a conservation easement in 2006, CW Chairman Colin G. Campbell stated: "This view shed helps to set the stage for visitors in their journey from modern day life into the 18th-century setting. At the same time, this preserves the natural environment around Queen's Creek and protects a significant archaeological site. It is a tangible and important example of how the Foundation is protecting the vital greenbelt surrounding Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area for future generations."

The entrance roadways to the Historic Area were planned with great care. Examples of this can be seen even many years later in the pathways from the Colonial Parkway, which itself was carefully planned and maintained to reduce modern intrusions into the travel experience. Near the principal planned roadway approach to CW, similar design priorities were employed for the relocated U.S. Route 60 near the intersection of Bypass Road and North Henry Street. Prior to the restoration, U.S. Route 60 ran right down Duke of Gloucester Streetmarker through town. To shift the traffic away from the Historic Area, Bypass Road was planned and built though farmland and woods about a mile north of town. Shortly thereafter, when Route 143 was built as the Merrimack Trail (originally designated State Route 168) in the 1930s, the protected vista was extended along Route 132 in York County to the new road, and two new bridges were built across Queen's Creek.

About 30 years later, when Interstate 64 was planned and built in the 1960s and early 1970s, from the designated "Colonial Williamsburg" exit, the additional land along Merrimack Trail to Route 132 was similarly protected from development. Even in modern times, no commercial properties are encountered to reach the Visitor's Center, although the land is very valuable and the distance is several miles.

Not only highway travel was considered. Although Williamsburg's brick Chesapeake and Ohio Railway passenger station was less than 20 years old and one of the newer along the rail line, it was replaced with a larger new one in Colonial style which was located just out of sight and within walking distance of the Historic Area. Today, this circa-1935 building has been restored and modernized, and serves as the intermodal Williamsburg Transportation Centermarker, with Amtrak, Greyhound Lines and other local and regional bus services, and other transport modes all consolidated there

The area to the immediate east of the Historic Area in James City County included a vast tract known as the Kingsmill Plantation property. It was bisected by the historic Quarterpath Road, dating to the 17th century, which led from Williamsburg to the James River at Burwell's Landing. The manor house, built in the 1730s, had burned in 1843, but several brick dependencies survived (and still do into the 21st century). Immediately to the east of the Kingsmill tract was Carter's Grove Plantation. It was begun by a grandson of Royal Governor Robert "King" Carter. For over 200 years, it had gone through a succession of owners and modifications. Then, in the 1960s, after the death of its last resident, Ms. Molly McRae, Carter's Grove Plantation came the control of the Rockefeller Foundation, and was given to Colonial Williamsburg as a gift.
Traditional, Colonial-style Christmas decorations in Williamsburg

(Carter's Grove, at a distance of , was operated as a satellite facility of Colonial Williamsburg, with several important programs there, until 2003. Eventually, most of the programs were relocated to be closer to the Historic Area, and the property was sold in 2007, with restrictive and conservation covenants to protect it. See separate article Carter's Grove for more details).

However, between Carter's Grove and the Historic District was the largely vacant Kingsmill tract, as well as a small military outpost of Fort Eustismarker known as Camp Wallace. At that point in time, the mid 1960s, CW owned land extended all the way from the Historic District to Skiffe's Creek, at the edge of Newport Newsmarker near Lee Hallmarker.

Local economy and tourism

Distant from the Historic Area and not along the carefully protected sight paths, the vacant land basically known as the Kingsmill tract was long unproductive for either CW or the community. That changed in the early 1970s, under the leadership of CW Chairman Winthrop Rockefeller.

Rockefeller, a son of Abby and John D. Rockeller Jr., was a frequent visitor and particularly fond of Carter's Grove in the late 1960s. He also served as Governor of the State of Arkansasmarker. He became aware of some expansion plans elsewhere on the Peninsula of his St. Louis-based neighbor, August Anheuser Busch, Jr., head of Anheuser-Buschmarker (AB). A businessman and promoter, he had originated the use of the now famous Clydesdale team as a company logo in the 1930s.In 1959, the company had opened what today is known as a theme park in Tampa, Floridamarker which was known as simply "Busch Gardens". It was visionary, and predated the massive Walt Disney Worldmarker development nearby by several years; today it is known as Busch Gardens Africamarker.

While details have never been widely publicized, by the time "Win" Rockefeller and "Gussie" Busch completed their discussions and negotiations, the biggest changes in the Williamsburg area since the Restoration began 40 years earlier were underway. Among the goals were to complement Colonial Williamsburg attractions and enhance the local economy.

The large tract consisting primarily of the Kingsmill land was sold by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to Anheuser-Buschmarker (AB) for planned development. The AB investment included building a large brewery, the Busch Gardens Europemarker theme park, the Kingsmill planned resort community, and McLaws Circle, an office park. AB and related entities from that development plan now are the source of the area's largest employment base, surpassing both Colonial Williamsburg and the local military bases. In 2008, Anheuser-Busch ranked as the world's second largest brewer.

Although it is not directly affiliated with the nearby Colonial National Historical Parkmarker, the nearby Colonial Parkwaymarker and attractions at Jamestown and Yorktownmarker presented by state and federal entities are complementary adjuncts to the restored area of the colonial city. With Colonial Williamsburg as its centerpiece, the Historic Triangle of Virginia is a much visited tourist destination.

Colonial Williamsburg Today

A tourist destination

Reenactors explain the process of wig making and significance of wigs in Colonial life.
Colonial Williamsburg is a combination of a historical landmark and a living history museum. It has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Virginia. With its historic significance in democracy, it and the surrounding area have been the site of many summit meetings of world leaders, notably the first World Economic Conference in 1983. Colonial Williamsburg has also hosted visiting royalty from several nations, including King Hussein of Jordanmarker and Emperor Hirohito of Japanmarker. Queen Elizabeth II has paid two royal visits to Williamsburg, most recently in May 2007 during the 400th anniversary of the founding of the nearby Jamestown Settlementmarker.
A workshop seen on Duke of Gloucester street
Colonial Williamsburg is an open-air assemblage of buildings populated with historical reenactors whose job it is to explain and demonstrate aspects of daily life in the past. The reenactors (or interpreters) work, dress, and talk as they would have in colonial times. While there are many living history museums (such as Old Sturbridge Villagemarker in Massachusettsmarker or Castell Henllysmarker in the UKmarker), Colonial Williamsburg is unusual for having been constructed from a living town whose inhabitants and post-Colonial-era buildings were removed.
Interior of Greenhow store.
Only the tourists are out of time/place
Unlike other living history museums, however, anyone can walk through the historic district of Williamsburg free of charge at any hour of the day. Charges apply only to those visitors who wish to enter the historic buildings to see arts and crafts demonstrations during daylight hours, or attend scheduled outdoor performances such as the Revolutionary City programs.

The Visitor's Center near the Colonial Parkway features a short movie, "The Story of a Patriot", which was made in 1956. Visitors may park at the Visitor's Center as automobiles are restricted from the restored area. Wheelchair-accessible shuttle bus service is provided to stops around the perimeter of the Historic District of Williamsburg, as well as Jamestown and Yorktown during the peak summer season.

The costumed interpreters have not always worn Colonial dress. As an experiment in anticipation of the Bicentennial, in summer 1973 the hostesses were dressed in special red, white, and blue polyester knit pantsuits. Visitors were confused and disappointed and the experiment was dropped at the end of summer. For the Bicentennial, docents wore historical costume after all.

Grand Illumination

The Grand Illumination is an outdoor ceremony and mass celebration involving the simultaneous activation of thousands of Christmas lights held each year on the first Sunday of December. The ceremony was invented in 1935, based on a colonial (and English) tradition of placing lighted candles in the windows of homes and public buildings to celebrate a special event such as the winning of a war or the birthday of the reigning monarch. The Grand Illumination also has incorporated extravagant fireworks displays, based on the 18th-century practice of using fireworks to celebrate significant occasions.

Local lingo

When visiting Colonial Williamsburg, it helps to know some of the local lingo.Locals, students, and employees frequently call Colonial Williamsburg "CW". The main portion is often called the "Restored Area" or the "Historic Area." One of the main streets, Duke of Gloucester, is called "DoG street."

The Colonial Williamsburg area has two intersections called "Confusion Corner." The area more properly known as "College Corner" is the intersection of Jamestown Road, Richmond Road, North and South Boundary Streets, and the west end of Duke of Gloucester Street (in front of the Wren Buildingmarker of The College of William and Marymarker, itself often called simply "The College.") Also known as "Confusion Corner" is the intersection of Page, Lafayette, Francis, and York Streets. The intersection is nicknamed as such due to the irregular traffic pattern where right-of-ways are unclear. When students at the College refer to "Confusion Corner," they are always referring to the five-way intersection of Jamestown Road, Richmond Road, and North and South Boundary Streets, as it is located between the main campus of the College and some College buildings such as the Bookstore. Some locals recall a time before a stoplight existed at the other "Confusion corner."


Image:Colonial Williamsburg Thomas Jefferson Reenactment DSCN7269.JPG|"Thomas Jefferson" (reenacted) gives a speech in the garden of the Governor's Palace.Image:IMG 0914.JPG|Revolutionary War era reenactment video with

fife and drum paradeImage:Williamsburg Cello + Flute.jpg| Two reenactor musicians Video of viola da gamba Video of a flute recorderImage:Colonial Williamsburg Living History.jpg| Reenactment of events leading to the settlements Jamestown&WilliamsburgImage:Colonial Williamsburg Duke of Gloucester Street.jpg| Colonial Williamsburg 1 Colonial Williamsburg 2 Colonial Williamsburg 3

Many times there are reenactments by historical interpreters in period costumes representing Colonial Willamsburg as can be seen in these multiple videos. In addition to simple period reenactment, there are times where Colonial Williamsburg may have certain themes, including the founding of Williamsburg, occupation by British forces, or visits from Colonial leaders of the day, including General George Washington.

Attendance, revenue trends

Attendance at Colonial Williamsburg peaked in 1985 at 1.1 million visitors. After years of lowered attendance, it began to rebound somewhat with the Jamestown 2007 celebration and the Revolutionary City programs of live, interactive street theater between re-enactors and audience members, which began in 2006.

Since bottoming out in 2004, total attendance has climbed about 10 percent total over the last few years, according to a report in July 2008. During the most recent year, CW's hospitality revenue increase of 15 percent was much stronger than the ticket sale gain of 5 percent, reflecting how the hospitality money is not always coming from CW Historic Area tourists, according to an official.

Financial challenges

A challenge for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has been operating deficits. Operating income comes from attendance, merchandising, and hospitality properties, as well as non-operating income resulting from investments of the endowments. Financially focused efforts in recent years have primarily focused on cost containment and stimulating attendance and hospitality revenues. The Foundation has also sold some property assets not essential to its core mission, including most of its formerly owned properties on nearby Peacock Hill, which has the local distinction of having formerly been home to Georgia O'Keeffe, Mayor Polly Stryker, and Dr. Donald W. Davis, founder of the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciencemarker.

Carter's Grove

In a front-page article in The New York Times on December 31, 2006, it was reported that the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, struggling because of dwindling attendance and lack of sufficient endowment funds for upkeep, would be offering the Carter's Grove mansion and grounds for sale to a private purchaser, possibly as soon as January 2007. The article stated that the dilemma of historic museums and houses is that there are too many of them, upkeep is too expensive, and fewer people are visiting them.

Carter's Grove was a relatively late addition to Colonial Williamsburg's holdings. Historians have noted that one of the dreams of CW founder John D. Rockefeller Jr. which was not fulfilled in his lifetime was inclusion of one of the extant James River Plantations, which were important local features during the time period CW recreates. The Kingsmill property fell short on that measure, as the manor house had burned in 1843, and only a few brick dependencies remained when CW acquired that property. After the founder's death in 1960, several of his sons led the foundation. An opportunity arose during Winthrop Rockefeller's tenure as chairman when, after hundreds of years of multiple owners and generations of families, Ms. Molly McRae of Carter's Grove died, and the property became available. In 1969, Carter's Grove was added to Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's properties through a gift from the Rockefeller Foundation.

Until his death in 1973, Winthrop Rockefeller appeared to live some of his father's unfilled dreams at Carter's Grove, frequently hosting international and special guests. During that period, and for many years thereafter, Carter's Grove was open to tourists. A major archaeological discovery was made of the site of circa 1620 Wolstenholme Towne. New interpretive programs were based there, including some featuring the lives of the African Americans who had less well-known but crucial roles in the Colonial era.

However, the manor house was more problematic. It had been substantially remodeled, overhauled and altered throughout its 200 year life and did not lend itself well to portraying its appearance and uses of the 1770s era CW focuses upon. Also, the distance of the plantation from the Historic Area provided logistical problems, extra costs and lower attendance than had it been located closer.

In 2003, as CW attendance and operating revenues continued to drop, Carter's Grove was closed to the public while its mission and role in CW's programs were redefined. Later that year, Hurricane Isabel rendered serious damage to Carter's Grove Country Road, which had linked the estate directly to the Historic Area, a distance of , bypassing commercial and public roadways. In an efficiency move, Colonial Williamsburg shifted some of the interpretive programs to locations contiguous to the Historic Area in Williamsburg. The foundation announced in late 2006 that it would be offered for sale, under specific restrictive conditions.

In December 2007, the Georgian-style mansion and were acquired for $15.3 million by CNET founder Halsey Minor, whose announced plans to use the property as a private residence and a center for a thoroughbred horse breeding program. A conservation easement on the mansion and 400 of the is co-held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. The easement protects and preserves the mansion, the James River viewshed and the archaeological sites on the property. While some local residents lamented CW's decision to sell Carter's Grove, others stated relief that it would remain largely intact, no small matter in one of the fastest developing counties in Virginia.

Quarterpath, Carr's Hill, and other land tracts

In addition to the large sale of surplus land of the old Kingsmill plantation to Anheuser Busch in the 1970s, and the more recent sale of Carter's Grove, the Foundation has also sold several outlying tracts of land not considered fundamental to its mission.

One of these is a tract along historic Quarterpath Road north of State Route 199 and south of U.S. Route 60 east of the Historic Area. In 2005, it was the City of Williamsburg's largest undeveloped tract under single ownership."Observers have noted that, while most of the Quarterpath land will be developed, the previously vacant land will include park and recreational facilities, and Redoubt Park, dedicated to preserving some of the battlegrounds from the Battle of Williamsburgmarker which occurred on May 5, 1862 during the Peninsula Campaign of the American Civil War.

A portion of the Carr's Hill Tract in York County, north and west of Bypass Road and State Route 132, was also sold. Developments thereon were restricted under the terms of sale so as to not negatively impact the vista available to motorists approaching Colonial Williamsburg. In February, 2007, a developer announced that 313 homes were planned to be built on of the historic tract's . CW had earlier announced that it had donated three conservation easements to the Williamsburg Land Conservancy on of the Carr's Hill tract land west of Route 132 in York County.


CW has hired former NBC journalist Lloyd Dobyns to produce podcasts for the museum where he usually interviews various staff members about their particular specialty.

Educational Outreach

In the 1990s Colonial Williamsburg implemented the Teaching Institute in Early American History, and Electronic Field Trips. Designed for elementary and middle/high school teachers, the Institute offers workshops for educators to meet with historians, character interpreters, and to prepare instructional materials for use in the classroom. Electronic Field Trips are a series of multimedia classroom presentations available to schools. Each program is designed around a particular topic in history and includes a lesson plan as well as classroom and online activities. Monthly live broadcasts on local PBS stations allow participating classes to interact with historical interpreters via telephone or internet.

In 2007 Colonial Williamsburg launched A mix of historical documents and user-generated content such as blogs, videos, and message boards, the site aims to prompt discussion about the roles, rights, and responsibilities of citizens in a democracy. Preservation of the Founding Fathers' ideals in light of recent world events is a special focus of the site.


Colin G. Campbell, former president of Wesleyan Universitymarker, is the Foundation's current President and CEO. Richard Tilghman of Richmond, VA is Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Getting there, getting around


The closest commercial airport is Newport News/Williamsburg International Airportmarker about 25–30 minutes driving distance away, depending on traffic. Williamsburg is about midway between two larger commercial airports, Richmond International Airportmarker and Norfolk International Airportmarker, each about an hour's distance away. The land transportation service from Richmond is more dependable time-wise due to periodic traffic delays between Norfolk and Williamsburg at the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnelmarker.

Amtrak offers a passenger rail service stop at Williamsburg, as does Greyhound and Carolina Trailways with intercity buses.

Williamsburg is located adjacent to east-west Interstate 64 and the parallel U.S. Route 60 passes through the city. A third road, State Route 143, also extends east to Newport News and Hampton, ending at Fort Monroe. From Richmond, Interstate 295, and other points west, many visitors approach via State Route 5, a scenic byway which passes many of the James River Plantations, or from the south via State Route 10, State Route 31 and the Jamestown Ferrymarker. The Virginia Capital Trail is available for bicycles and pedestrians along the Colonial Parkway and Virginia Route 5 and will eventually extend to Richmond.

Williamsburg offers good non-automobile driving alternatives for visitors. The area has both a central intermodal transportation center and Williamsburg Area Transport (WAT), a public transit bus system which operates a network of local routes.

The Williamsburg Transportation Centermarker is located in the restored Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O) station, and is a combined intermodal facility with taxicabs, Amtrak passenger railroad service, and intercity bus service provided by Greyhound Lines (and its Carolina Trailways subsidiary) and Hampton Roads Transit which provides two express routes (one from downtown Newport News and one from Virginia Beachmarker). The transportation center is centrally located near the downtown, restored areas, the College of William and Mary, and Colonial Williamsburg's Visitor's Center.

Local bus services

The community's public bus system, Williamsburg Area Transport (WAT), has its central hub at the transportation center. Various color-coded routes, with buses accessible to disabled persons, serve many hotels and motels, restaurants, stores, and non-CW attractions in City of Williamsburgmarker and much of neighboring James City Countymarker and part of York Countymarker. Colonial Williamsburg (CW) operates its own fleet of buses with stops close to attractions in the Historic Area, although no motor vehicles actually operate on Duke of Gloucester Street (to maintain the colonial-era atmosphere). During the peak summer months, CW also operates buses to Jamestown and Yorktown attractions, for visitors who prefer to park their personal vehicles at the main Visitor's Center parking area.

Historic Triangle: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown

The Historic Triangle is located on the Virginia Peninsulamarker and includes the colonial communities of Jamestown, Williamsburgmarker, and Yorktownmarker, with many restored attractions linked by the Colonial Parkwaymarker.

Colonial Parkway

Colonial Parkway tunnel (south exit) in Colonial Williamsburg
National Park Service's Colonial Parkwaymarker joins the three popular attractions of Colonial Virginia with a scenic roadway shielded from views of commercial development. This helps visitors mentally return to the past and maintain the ambiance while moving between the major attractions by motor vehicle or bicycle. There are often views of wildlife and waterfowl. Near the James River and York River ends of the parkway, there are several pull-offs with views and wildlife feeding opportunities. No trucks are allowed and animals and birds have right-of-way over vehicles.Some visitors choose to approach the area from the south by water from Surry Countymarker with a ride aboard one of the Jamestown Ferriesmarker. Weather and daylight permitting, passengers usually see the Jamestown Island much as the first colonists may have approached it. The replicas of Christopher Newport's three tiny ships, Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery are docked near the northern ferry landing. Both the Jamestown Ferry and Colonial Parkway are toll-free.


Today, visitors can go to the Jamestown National Historic Site, Jamestown Festival Park, Historic Jamestownmarker and Jamestown Island attractions. Included are recreations of a Native American village, replicas of sailing ships and a colonial fort, and archaeological sites of the Jamestown Rediscovery project where current work is underway.


There are two large visitor centers at Yorktownmarker, battlefield drives, and a waterfront area.

Commercial enterprises

Notwithstanding the successful efforts to provide a non-commercial atmosphere at the three Historic Triangle areas (and on the Colonial Parkway between them), there are many hotels, motels, campgrounds, restaurants, shops and stores, gasoline stations, and amusements close by. Several major attractions are:

Criticism and controversy

Removing the town's recent history from Historic Area

Some residents of Williamsburg, including Major S. D. Freeman and Cara Armistead, questioned the 1928 transfer of public lands (as compared to private properties). The most painful incident was in January, 1932, when the large marble Confederate Civil War monument was removed from Palace Green, where it had stood since 1908, and relocated in the Cedar Grove Cemetery, on the outskirts of town. Many citizens, although supportive of the Colonial reconstruction, felt this was too much obliteration of their history. The case went to court, and eventually the monument was relocated to a new site east of the then-new courthouse. Today the memorial rests in Bicentennial Park, just outside the Historic Area.

There has been some debate in the historical community as to the wisdom of eradicating all traces of a town's recent history in favor of an idea of its earlier history, particularly if, as in this case, more buildings are recreated than are restored.

Architectural and environmental accuracy criticized

Ada Louise Huxtable, noted architecture critic, wrote in 1965: "Williamsburg is an extraordinary, conscientious and expensive exercise in historical playacting in which real and imitation treasures and modern copies are carelessly confused in everyone's mind. Partly because it is so well done, the end effect has been to devalue authenticity and denigrate the genuine heritage of less picturesque periods to which an era and a people gave life."

A more nuanced interpretation may be that of University of Virginiamarker Professor of Architectural History Richard Guy Wilson, author of Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, who described Colonial Williamsburg as "a superb example of an American suburb of the 1930s, with its inauthentically tree-lined streets of Colonial Revival houses and segregated commerce."

However, these objections are countered by the considerations that, at the time the Restoration began, Williamsburg was the only site available with so many original structures which could be saved, and that the portions which were recreated, while not always accurate in detail, were also with the purpose of the educational mission of Colonial Williamsburg. More modern buildings needed to be out of sight, and many were saved by moving them. For what remained or was recreated, even more modern amenities and safety items, such as indoor plumbing, trash collection, electricity and fire protection, and nearby motor vehicle access, were all incorporated only with substantial efforts to minimize the intrusion.

At Appalachian State University a graduate level class is taught on the preservation and restoration of Colonial Williamsburg as part of its Public History program. One of the main questions asked during the class is whether Colonial Williamsburg has become a sort of "theme park" with its many reenactments and "living history" programs.

African Americans

Colonial Williamsburg has been criticized for neglecting the role of free African-Americans in Colonial life, in addition to those who were slaves. Free blacks in America were first documented in Northampton Countymarker, Virginiamarker, in 1654. At that time, a "free Negro", Anthony Johnson, won a court case involving an African American slave he owned. Some other blacks bought their freedom; other were freed by manumission. By 1776 approximately 8 percent of African Americans in the British colonies which became the United States were free.

Despite abolition of slavery in 1865 after the American Civil War, later that century and during the first half of the 20th century, racial segregation persisted in Virginia, with many Jim Crow laws requiring it. When it first opened in the 1930s, Colonial Williamsburg had segregated dormitories for its reenactors. African-Americans filled historical roles as servants, rather than free people as in the present day. Colonial Williamsburg allowed the entry of blacks, but Williamsburg area hotels denied them accommodation, and state law forbade blacks from eating in the restored taverns and from shopping in nearby stores.[44828] In the 1950s, African-Americans were only allowed to visit Colonial Williamsburg one day a week until after the U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker's landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954 began dismantling segregation laws and practices. Colonial Williamsburg offered some of the earlier public accommodations on an integrated basis.

In the 1970s, in reaction to increasing scorn of its one-sided portrayal of colonial life, Colonial Williamsburg increased its number of African-American slave interpretors. In 1994 it added slave auctions and slave marriages; the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference later protested. In 1999 Colonial Williamsburg added a new program to explain slavery and its role in Colonial America.

In recent years Colonial Williamsburg has expanded its portrayal of 18th-century African Americans to include free blacks as well as slaves. Gowan Pamphlet, a former slave who became a free landowner and Baptist minister, is among the personalities featured in Colonial Williamsburg's current Revolutionary City program, and a recreated Great Hopes Plantation represents a middling plantation, not one owned by the wealthy, in which working class farmers worked alongside their slaves. Their lives were more typical of colonial Virginians in general than the lives of the well-born plantation owners, their families and slaves.

See also

Further reading

  • Coffman, Suzanne E. and Olmert, Michael, Official Guide to Colonial Williamsburg, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Williamsburg, Virginia 2000. ISBN 0-87935-184-5
  • Gonzales, Donald J., Chronicled by. The Rockefellers at Williamsburg: Backstage with the Founders, Restorers and World-Renowned Guests. McLean, Virginia: EPM Publications, Inc., 1991.
  • Richard Handler and Eric Gable, The New History in an Old Museum: Creating the Past at Colonial Williamsburg, Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina 1997. ISBN 0-8223-1974-8
  • Huxtable, Ada Louise, The Unreal America: Architecture and Illusion, The New Press, New York 1997. ISBN 1-56584-055-0
  • Scott Magelssen, Living History Museums: Undoing History Through Performance, Scarecrow Press, 2007. ISBN 0-8108-5865-7

External links

(an article from Colonial Williamsburg Journal, 2004)


  2. That the future may learn from the past
  3. John D. Rockefeller Jr. and the Restoration of Colonial Williamsburg
  4. Williamsburg Before the Restoration
  5. Reactions: Congratulations and Controversy
  6. CW Easement to Preserve 230 Acre Tract: The Williamsburg Land Conservancy Deal Removes Some Development Rights to Carr's Hill. - Science - redOrbit
  7. News Releases
  8. Dressing for the Occasion
  9. Tracie Rozhon, "Homes Sell, and History Goes Private", The New York Times, Sunday, December 31, 2006, Section 1, page 1.
  10. Can history beat failing economy? -
  11. Carter's Grove mansion sells for $15.3 million | |
  12. Carter's Grove sold for $15.3 million -
  13. Conservation easement protection
  14. 3 Quarter time -
  16. Colonial Williamsburg podcasts with Lloyd Dobyns
  17. Teacher Institute in Early American History
  18. Electronic Field Trips
  19. Metropolis Magazine - Jan 1998
  20. The Society of Architectural Historians
  21. Great Hopes Plantation at Colonial Williamsburg

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