Like last year, much of the Historic Area will fall quiet during January as we take advantage of the shortest days of the year to tidy up, train staff, and get all our sheep in a row for spring. Here’s your guide to what is happening, what’s closed, and some of the work we’ll be doing behind the scenes.
Monday, Jan. 2, will be your last opportunity to visit Historic Area sites and trade shops before they pause operations through Jan. 27. Historic Area programming, sites, and trade shops will reopen on Saturday, Jan. 28. The Kimball Theatre will also be closed for the entire month, welcoming patrons back Feb. 1.
TICKETS AND BUS SERVICE
The Visitor Center will close on Jan. 3 as well and reopen on the same day as the Historic Area. During that time, the Greenhow Lumber House, near the south end of Palace Green, will serve as the main ticket office. Head there for your annual passes (including Good Neighbor and Collegiate passes), museum and carriage ride tickets, or guest service issues. They’ll be open daily, 9:45 a.m.-5 p.m. You can also purchase tickets at the Museum Store, or call 1-800-history (1-800-447-8679) for tickets and information.
The buses will continue running all month. However, the bus route will begin and end at the Woodlands Hotel while the Visitor Center is closed.
HOTEL AND DINING OPTIONS
No reservations are necessary at Chowning’s Tavern, which will remain open daily, 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Work it in around skating or a carriage ride. If you’re at the Art Museums, drop by the Museum Cafe from 11-4 daily. The Raleigh Tavern Bakery needs some maintenance, including a new roof, so it will be closed until at least late January. You still have a few days to indulge yourself again with a fresh-from-the-oven gingerbread cookie. Or six.
Besides Chowning’s and the Raleigh Tavern Bakery, all other Historic Taverns, will be closed through the month of February. The Taste Studio will be closed during January.
The Williamsburg Lodge, Woodlands, the Griffin Hotel (previously known as Providence Hall), and the Colonial Houses will all be open. The Williamsburg Inn and its restaurants will be open until Jan. 22, when it will shut down for major renovations. It is projected to reopen for business April 21. When the Inn closes, check-in for the Griffin Hotel and the Colonial Guesthouses will permanently move to the Orrell Kitchen just in front of the Inn.
Carriage rides will still be available daily. Stop by the Greenhow Lumber House Ticket office to schedule a ride.
Liberty’s Ice Pavilion will be open for skating daily, and there are several winter specials beginning New Year’s Day. One option is a season pass, good for unlimited skating for the season, which ends Feb. 20. the passes are just $29 for adults and $25 for youths ages 3-12. Skate rental is additional.
There are also several discounts available beginning Jan. 1:
- Military, Annual, Good Neighbor and Collegiate pass holders receive $3 off daily admission weekdays 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Receive $3 off daily skating admission with a same-day Merchants Square receipt or Kimball Theatre ticket stub.
- During January, Colonial Williamsburg pass holders who purchase Liberty’s Ice Pavilion daily admission can bring a friend for free.
- During February, college students receive $4 off Liberty’s Ice Pavilion daily admission with a student ID.
Looking to shop? Tarpley, Thompson & Co., John Greenhow Store, Prentis Store, William Pitt Store, the Museum Store, and all Colonial Williamsburg stores in Merchants Square will be open.
The Behind-the-Scenes Tour at Bruton Heights is a wonderful opportunity to see what’s happening in our Research departments, Conservation labs, and educational facilities. 90-minute tours take place every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday all year long. The tour requires a reservation and is available to annual pass holders and hotel guests. (And yes, Good Neighbor and Collegiate passes are annual passes, so take advantage of this!)
After you keep that New Year’s resolution to hit the gym—or even if you didn’t—treat yourself to some pampering at the Spa.
Up for some winter golf? The Golden Horseshoe’s Gold Course is still undergoing renovation, but the Green Course is open all month. The January schedule includes the 18th annual Millennium Golf Classic on Jan. 7-8, a 36-hole tournament for teams of two amateur players.
The Winter Blues Jazz Fest takes place January 12-15, with events taking place at both the Lodge and the Inn.
FUN AT THE ART MUSEUMS
In addition to wonderful ongoing exhibits, there is a healthy slate of programs and tours offered at our art museums in January. They’ll be open from 10-5 Sunday-Thursday, and 10-7 Fridays-Saturday.
Here’s a quick list of goings-on for easy planning:
MUSEUM TOURS & ACTIVITIES
- 10:15 A Century of African-American Quilts. Guided tour of this outstanding exhibit.
- 10:15 Backstory. Explore the hidden stories behind a selection of objects on display.
- 2:15 & 3:30 Focus on Furniture. Guided tour. You’ll be surprised how many styles from long ago we still enjoy.
- 3:00 Mapping Revolution to Republic. Guided tour, covering the critical role of maps during the Revolutionary War.
- 4:00 Confidential Compartments. Learn about secret spaces sometimes constructed into special furniture.
- 2:15 & 3:30 Focus on Furniture. Guided tour. You’ll be surprised how many styles from long ago we still enjoy.
- 10:15 Love Unites Us. What can art tell us about 18th-century customs of courtship and marriage?
- 1:30 Ceramics Up-Close. A guided tour including a behind-the-scenes view of the museum’s ceramics storage vault.
- 3:30 Maps & Migration. On a guided tour, learn what maps can tell us about early American migration patterns and routes.
- 10:15 Toys! Make a toy inspired by those on exhibit in “German Toys for America” and “A World Made Small.”
PROGRAMS AT THE HENNAGE AUDITORIUM
- Friday, Jan. 6, 4:30: Songs in Celebration of George and Martha Washington’s Anniversary. Join Henley Fork for a concert of love songs and dance music from the 17th and 18th centuries.
- Tuesdays, Jan. 10 & 24, 10:30: Give Ear to My Song. Balladeer Bill Weldon presents music from the tavern, the sea, the field, and the hearth.
- Thursdays, Jan. 12 & 19, 10:30: A Town Without Time. Meet Rev. W. A. R. Goodwin as he conducts a visual tour of the transition of Williamsburg from a sleepy village to a restored national treasure.
- Friday, Jan. 13, 4:30: Yankees in the Streets: Williamsburg during the Civil War. Carson Hudson offers an illustrated lecture about the Battle of Williamsburg, May 5, 1862, followed by a book signing.
- Friday, Jan. 20, 4:30: Witchcraft in Colonial Virginia. Carson Hudson discusses how colonial Virginians shared a common belief in the existence of witches with their northern neighbors, followed by a book signing.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Hundreds of front-line Historic Area staff, including some colleagues in our Products division, will participate in Winter Training, with a combination of program updates and mandatory and elective classes. It’s one of the few times during the year when we can afford to convene large groups to do multi-day training.
One major initiative is directed toward adopting best practices in historical interpretation. The goal is to use a common framework to ensure that every guest finds meaning and relevance in the presentation of the incredible historical resources at our disposal.
The electives will allow staff to explore topics of personal interest and professional usefulness, in content areas that range from money in the colonies to costuming and attire to hymns and psalms. Some will even take some shots at the Musket Range! Colleagues from around the Foundation will be sharing their expertise; look for more stories about training during January.
One exciting addition to Winter Training will be the presentation delivered by Brian Mast from Black Belt Museum, who will help us develop better skills for reaching guests of all abilities, such as those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We’re committed to taking any steps that will help us to better deliver great experiences to all our guests, no matter their background.
We also have 25 Sites and Orientation Interpreters who are cross-training to lead school groups in the Historic Area. It’s an opportunity to brush up our skills and deepen our knowledge so we can share it with you. (And we’ll still have some schools and groups visiting in January!)
COACH & LIVESTOCK
At least one carriage will still be running daily. The Coach & Livestock Department will also be tending to some off-season business, cleaning and painting the stables, and cross-training staff for less-familiar duties.
The animals will also be put to work, doing the heavy pulling as our coach drivers practice their skills in pursuit of Level 2 accreditation from the Carriage Association of America (you may remember their training for Level 1 earlier this year). Lancer will be learning to drive, and Lord Brigadoon will see about getting licensed as a stallion.
MAINTENANCE AND PRESERVATION
The January pause in programming affords our skilled maintenance staff the opportunity to dig in and attack their long to-do list, from preventive maintenance at the Governor’s Palace, Capitol, and William Pitt store to a substantial campaign of repairs to steps, thresholds, and walkway and piazza paving. With old buildings, there’s no end to the work, and so much of it is critical.
Meanwhile, our landscapers will install automatic irrigation in the Governor’s Palace gardens. Hope the ground doesn’t freeze!
The Kimball Theatre will get some general TLC, including a fresh coat of paint and, hopefully, some repairs to the decorative plaster.
A comprehensive list would be ridiculously long, but the following anecdotal information offers an idea of how busy our tradespeople will still be in January.
When the shops are open the guests always come first, which can make getting bigger projects done a challenge. The Harpsichord Makers are determined to make major progress on the new spinet begun earlier this year.
The extra time will allow the Weavers to do some training as a team: on warping modern looms, practicing spinning silk, and taking a trip to Collections to look at a knitting frame they hope to reproduce.
Work heats up over the winter for the Wigmakers, with more than a hundred wigs and hairpieces coming into the shop to be washed and redressed. All told, there are more than a thousand wigs and hairpieces adorning the heads of actors, interpreters, dancers, musicians, and tradespeople around town.
The Joiners plan to deliver a corner cupboard to Washington’s Ferry Farm. They’ll also be trying to get some work done, constructing benches for the redesigned African American Meetinghouse on Nassau St. and a convertible chair table for the annual Woodworking Conference in February, where Master of the Shop Ted Boscana will be a featured speaker.
If you visited the Native American encampment on the corner of Nicholson St. and Botetourt St. you probably noticed the construction of the new site for the Carpenters. They’ll be building the new saw house and laying out the carpenters’ yard, and getting ready to shift their interpretation from the rural carpentry of the Great Hopes location to urban carpentry.
And beware of runaway barrels as the Coopers move their whole operation from their current location on Nicholson St. down to their new shop, in the Lumber House on the Wythe property.
If you haven’t already, make sure you’re following our Historic Trades & Skills Facebook Page where you’ll see behind-the-scenes pictures and video throughout January.
We’ll be doing lots of collaborative planning in preparation for the spring launch of our effort to create bustling hives of 18th-century activity at four key sites: the Wythe House, Geddy House, Randolph House, and Public Armoury. (Read more about it here.) This will be a team effort that includes not only our Actor Interpreters and Character Interpreters, but also Groups Interpreters, Sites Interpreters, and Historic Tradespeople. It takes a village to make the 18th century come alive!
The Chownings will be developing their new kids’ show, The Duelist. Meanwhile, our American Indian Interpretive staff will be expanding to eight full-time members, and they’ll be more visible than ever before with the creation of a new, expanded encampment in the Spring near the Market House.
The Nation Builders will spend time rehearsing for new programs as well as prepping existing programs for new spaces. Expect to see them in the Kimball Theatre more often next summer! There are many exciting shows on the way: for President’s Day weekend and Black History Month, not to mention the official introduction of George Mason. (Stay tuned for an upcoming blog to meet him!).
As you can see, there isn’t really a lot of downtime for us. So even if the streets seem unusually quiet, please know that we’re working hard to make sure your next visit is your best yet!
Thanks to Wayne Reynolds and Fred Blystone for use of some of their photos!