In my previous blog, we began a trip down Duke of Gloucester Street, focusing on the Historic Sites, mapping out what is around them, as well as other helpful information to assist with planning your next trip. We want you to make the most of your visit and hopefully this will be a helpful tool for you, in addition to our other travel blogs and the online calendar.
For my second post, I plan to continue our journey from the direction of the Palace just past where Botetourt intersects with Duke of Gloucester Street.
Between the Courthouse and our next building is my favorite tavern—Chownings (especially because I like eating at odd hours and they are the only tavern without a break between lunch and dinner seatings!) This is where you’ll often find musicians and possibly even the Chownings themselves interacting with guests as they wait for their tables to be called.
Now, on with our tour of the town….
Summer Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays
Guided Tours: You will join around 18 guests other guests during this 25-30 minute tour which runs every 15 minutes or so, depending on volunteer staffing levels.
Tour Topics: The story of Henry Wetherburn, his family and slaves, tavern life, lodging, dining, entertainment and the operation of a very successful business in the 1750s—owning one of the finest taverns in colonial Williamsburg.
Nearby Trades: Milliners & Tailors (currently, the two share the Margaret Hunter Shop until the Tailors move to their new home in August!); Silversmiths; Anderson Armory (Blacksmiths, Tinsmiths, and Historic Foodways); and the Wigmakers
Nearby Activities: Kids Archaeology DIG, Golden Ball (jewelry store), and the Raleigh Tavern (special events)
Nearby Snacks: Raleigh Tavern Bakery
Summer Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m./7 days a week
Guided Tours: Tours run about three to four times an hour. Up to 16 guests at a time can be in a group. Each tour lasts roughly 20 minutes.
Tour Topics: This is a fun building because the time period when you step inside is about a decade sooner than some of the other stops around town. For that reason, you’re likely to discuss the Stamp Act and other events occurring between 1765-1766. You’ll have the choice of a sampling of coffee, tea, or 18th-century style drinking chocolate. You may also have an encounter with a member of the 18th-century community (perhaps a Burgess, a clergyman, a dancing or teaching instructor, a fur trader or interpreter for the Royal Governor, or even the proprietor himself). These folks are known to stop by the Coffeehouse regularly to mingle with guests. You will also learn about the credit and tobacco culture, what exactly the purpose of the coffeehouse is, and some of the events going on in the 1760s that will plant the seeds for the next decade.
Extra Fun: This is a really fun site in which to immerse yourself—especially if one of our Nation Builders or Character Interpreters is present and invites you to sit down and take tea at their table. It’s a great opportunity to branch out and sit at a large table for a few minutes with people you don’t know, or perhaps it will be just you at a small table alongside a person from the past. Either way, don’t be shy to play along!
Nearby Trade: Apothecary
Nearby Activities: Charlton Coffeehouse Stage (check the calendar for events that take place here almost daily!)
Nearby Dining: King’s Arms & Shields Taverns as well as the Raleigh Tavern Bakery. Stop by for fresh ginger cookie right out of the oven!
Summer Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m./ 7 days a week
Free-Flow AND Guided Tours: We take in as many people as we can, as often as we can, but there’s also such a thing as building capacity. For instance, if you just got done with your tour of the Capitol and there were 75 people on it, even half of that tour group is not going to fit in the front parlor of the Gaol. So for large groups, we will often speak to everyone outside for about 5-7 minutes, then let you walk through the building and answer questions. Set aside 10-20 minutes total for this building (unless you have a lot of questions or just love hanging around in 300 year old Gaol cells….*eyebrow raise*)
Tour Topics: Crime & Punishment! That’s the short version. What was life like if you were brought to the Capitol to be put on trial? What did the job entail for the Keeper of the Public Gaol? Who were some interesting people housed at the Gaol and what happened to them?
This can be a really good site for those families with children who are just interested enough but can’t actually deal with a full 30-minute tour. Although if your children don’t like dark spaces and things that can look a little scary, it’s a jail, so please keep that in mind.
Extra Fun Stuff: Sometimes there are horses and sheep hanging out in the back pastures! There’s a pretty view behind the Gaol…if you can get past the reproduction gallows…
Summer Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m./7 days a week
Free-Flow AND Guided Tours: Similar to the Palace, the Capitol takes in groups of up to 75 people every 15 minutes beginning at 9 a.m. (on a rare day, this may end up being every 20 minutes), and the last tour will enter the building at 3:40 p.m. or 3:45 p.m. everyday EXCEPT Sundays (See: Extra Fun Stuff)
Beginning at 4 p.m., you may explore the Capitol at your own pace, and ask questions of the Historic Interpreters stationed throughout the building.
Tour Topics: Learn about the Colonial Government of 18th-century Virginia, meet in the (reconstructed) room where elected representatives like George Washington and Patrick Henry served as members of the House of Burgesses and then delegates to the Virginia Conventions. Learn how laws were made—who made them, why, perhaps you’ll be involved in a court case in the highest court in the colony of Virginia. Or perhaps you’ll learn about the rights of 18th-century Virginians and how they differed depending on whether you were male, female, free, or enslaved. The possibilities are endless!
Dissolving the House of Burgesses: Wednesdays & Saturdays 10:15 a.m. By joining the 10 a.m. tour, you can become a part of the House of Burgesses that Lord Dunmore, Royal Governor of Virginia, dissolves in the spring of 1774 (please arrive 10-15 minutes early and plan accordingly during busy times of the year).
To Be Free & Independent: Sundays at 4:45 p.m. Become a part of the 5th Virginia Convention! Hear arguments from men like Patrick Henry, James Madison, George Wythe, Edmund Pendleton, and perhaps even read aloud, yourself, words from some of the men who met here in Williamsburg on May 15, 1776 to unanimously vote to Declare our Independence. This occurs during the free-flow portion of the day, and you are welcome to still walk through at your own pace once you are inside, should you not wish to participate in the program.
Extra Fun Stuff: And we also have really cool stuff, like the Speaker’s Chair!
Nearby Trades: Gunsmith
Summer Hours (beginning June 20): 9 a.m.- 5 p.m./ 7 days a week
Free-Flow AND Guided Tours: The experience begins in front of the Brick Office with a brief introduction to the property, who lives there and how to see the site and a couple of expectations. Guests are then invited to stay as long or a little as they like, wander the site at their own pace and participate anywhere they see an activity or costumed interpreter.
Tour Topics: This is a very interactive site, where topics may discuss the Powell family itself, the enslaved individuals of the household, general overviews of what life and daily activity was like depending on your role in the household, and anything in between. It is a site heavily geared towards the interactive and children, but trust me, kids of all ages enjoy the opportunities offered here!
Guests have the opportunity to help ‘run the household’ as the day goes along—so don’t expect to be cooking dinner in the (working!) kitchen at 4 p.m., but rather cleaning up afterwards (this is the only site where the food is cooked in the kitchens and then taken to the table like it would have been in the 18th century!).
You may arrive on a day where there are gardening chores to be done, laundry, cleaning and sweeping, making the beds, sewing projects, or perhaps you will learn about apprenticeship, marketing, or music and dance.
Extra Fun Stuff: Games include things such as Battledore and Shuttlecock, Hoops and Stick, Bubbles, Bilbo Catchers, and Nine Pins
New this year: Coach & Livestock will be offering a chicken egg incubator experience (look for a future blog on that one) as well as other introductions to our Rare Breeds like our oxen!
Nearby Dining: Christiana Campbell’s Tavern
Summer Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m./Wednesday, Thursday & Saturday
Guided Tours: Tours take up to 16 guests every 30 minutes, but will change based on visitation. There is an introductory video prior to the tour that runs automatically every 15 minutes (the video is approximately 12 minutes long).
Tour Topics: The focus is on the Rockefellers and the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg beginning in the 1920s.
Extra Fun: The grounds and gardens at Bassett Hall are lovely. It’s a little off the beaten path, but it’s quite beautiful, and if you’ve got lots of time and it’s nice out, taking a walk through the woods behind Bassett Hall is a quiet and contemplative journey.
And Don’t Forget…
Great Hopes Plantation—walk from the Visitor Center toward the Historic Area and participate in a hands-on experience of an 18th-century middling plantation.
Wren Chapel—over on William & Mary’s Campus, this is not a tourable site, but if you’re interested in architecture and old buildings, the outside is largely original and it’s a pretty beautiful space!
The Public Hospital & Colonial Williamsburg Art Museums—wonderful programming, incredible art displays, and a perfect way to end your journey through the Historic Area, as they are open later!
As you can see, there is an awful lot to do between 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., just within the main buildings. Add in our incredible trades, some scenes or special programming, and try to fit in lunch or any ‘chat time’ with our costumed interpreters—and you can see why a Multiday Ticket is a beautiful thing.
If you have a group of people coming, or would like a personal guide, I highly suggest contacting our School & Groups Department. These folks are amazing and would love to work with you to plan your perfect day (or days!) in the Historic Area.
For those of you who are planning a first-time visit, I hope to see you soon, and for those who haven’t visited inside of the buildings for quite some time. Y’all come back now, ya hear?
A huge thank you to Wayne Reynolds, volunteer, and local photographer-at-large, who spent the last few weeks taking some updated photographs specifically for this blog post. You’re the best!
Guest Blogger: Whitney Thornberry Austin
Whitney is a Sites Interpreter who has been with the Foundation full-time since March of 2015, and performing in evening programs since 2014 (shameless plug for this summer’s events of Affairs of the Heart, Life of a Jolly Pyrate, and To Hang a Pirate). She and her husband, Bryan, live in the Historic Area with their rescued pup Derby (a sweet girl of 3 who thinks the horses are just big dogs with which to play).
Whitney loves hosting dinner parties, sewing, reading, distressing furniture, science fiction, historical dramas, old movies and anything from the Williamsburg Winery. Her mother used to say she was born in the wrong century—and now she gets the best of both!