Colonial Williamsburg


Our second road trip in Virginia took place on September 11th, the day after our road trip to Monticello in Charlottesville. This time Lea and I were on our way to Colonial Williamsburg which has been described as a living-history museum. I've dreamt of going there since I was really young; walking through the old streets and seeing the horse-drawn carriage while passing people dressed in colonial attire. Also exploring the old homes, taverns, shops, and government buildings.

The drive to Colonial Williamsburg was lovely. I never considered my hometown of Tampa, Florida much of a "big city", but my reaction to the land and scenery of Virginia convinced me otherwise. We took the highway, and our view was that of trees that stretched for miles. During our drive, I couldn't help but put into perspective just how much land Thomas Jefferson had to cover during his travels between Monticello and Williamsburg, especially since we had just visited Thomas Jefferson's home the day prior and the distance was still fresh in my mind. It must be the history student in me, but I also imagined the carriage and horseback rides of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries that must have taken place beneath the modern roads.


Our first stop in Colonial Williamsburg was the Governor's Palace which was once the home of two post-colonial governors of Virginia: Patrick Henry (1776-1779) and Thomas Jefferson (1779-1780). The original building was destroyed in a 1781 fire which at that time was being used as a hospital for wounded American soldiers. The building was later reconstructed and replicated with late 18th-century furnishings.


The George Wythe House was one that I had been looking forward to touring for quite some time. His home was our next stop after eating lunch at Aromas Cafe and exploring Merchants Square. Not only was George Wythe was the first American law professor, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, scholar, and Virginia judge, but he was also a great friend and mentor to Thomas Jefferson. He taught at College William & Mary. His home was everything I expected from a man of scholarly pursuits.


The streets of Colonial Williamsburg were just as I envisioned they would be. Every now and then, we would hear and see the horse-drawn carriage down the road. We walked by taverns, including one of George Washington's favorite called Christina Campbell's Tavern which has a menu that 18th century Virginians would have been accustomed to. Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to eat lunch there. Another place we didn't get the chance to tour was the Peyton Randolph House, which is the dark red home in the photographs below.

We did, however, pass by R. Charlton's Coffeehouse. This is where discussion and debate on politics and news often took place over a cup of coffee, tea, or chocolate. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were frequent visitors, as were merchants and other elites. This is another place I want to physically go inside next time I visit. Regrettably, it's another site we were unable to fully experience due to time restrictions.

The Duke of Gloucester Street has gone through many changes over the centuries. During the 20th century, utility poles and power lines obstructed the 18th-century authenticity. Ultimately they were moved underground and even the roads with traffic were rerouted to present the street in such a way that could evoke the feeling of stepping into history. Some of the places that can be seen from this street, between the College of William & Mary down to the Capitol, include the Market Square, the Bruton Parish Church (which is where the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George Wythe, Patrick Henry, and George Mason went to worship), Palace Green, the Weaver's Shop, the Shoemaker's Shop, the Courthouse, the Magazine, several different taverns, the Printing Office, the Bookbindery, the Post Office, Bake Shop, and Apothecary.


The Magazine is where the military equipment, arms, ammunition was stored. Just prior to the beginning of the American Revolution, it was the location of the confrontation between the residents of Williamsburg and the royal British government.


The Colonial Williamsburg courthouse was the site where Benjamin Waller read the Declaration of Independence from the steps on July 25th, 1776 and also where the Treaty of Paris was announced seven years later, which ended the American Revolution.


Being the bibliophile that I am, the bookbindery was one of the more interesting places we visited. Inside, the bookbinder explained how the books were made in Colonial times. It was a time-consuming process and much more complex than the production of the newspaper. The dainty old-fashioned post office is still a functioning one where stationary, books, and other prints can be purchased.


The Pasteur & Galt Apothecary Shop on Duke of Gloucester Street was more than just a type of "pharmacy" in colonial times. The apothecary did more than provide and sell prescribed medicines, they also performed surgery, administered medical procedures, and served as man-midwives. They were often practicing doctors. Similar to our drugstores today, the Williamsburg apothecary sold spices, oils, candles, toothbrushes, and other cooking ingredients.


The Gaol, which is pronounced "jail", held prisoners that were awaiting trial and convicts waiting to be hanged, whipped, or branded in accordance with their crime. During the American Revolution traitors, spies, deserters, and royalists were held as prisoners in the gaol.


I am thrilled that Lea and I chose to visit in September. The leaves were just beginning to fall and the weather was stunning. Below are some of the autumnal moments I was able to capture on  camera.


The capitol was, without a doubt, my favorite building that we toured on this day. Though the building that stands today wasn't the original, it has been reconstructed beautifully. Virginia was the first colony to express support for independence, and it was here where the Virginia Convention met on May 15th, 1776 to pass the resolution which called for its delegates at the Philadelphia Continental Congress to push for American independence. We were told story after story. The Capitol also held dinners, dances, and a number of other social events.

I am so grateful that we had the opportunity to explore Colonial Williamsburg. I hope to visit again someday when I have other destinations crossed off my bucket list, perhaps during Christmastime so there's a different atmosphere. I would also love to experience the ghost tour, spend more time in the bookshop at Merchants Square, and tour several other buildings. There are plenty of reasons for me to return.



  1. Thanks for sharing your photos. My husband and I were in Williamsburg a few years ago in the fall and LOVED it! We actually can't wait to go back.


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