When I was 15 my parents took us on a vacation of a lifetime. No, it wasn’t Walt Disney World! In my opinion it was better: Williamsburg, Virginia. Williamsburg was founded as Middle Plantation in 1632 and later served as the capitol of Virginia Colony from 1699 to 1780 and is the home of William & Mary College which was founded in 1693. In the early 20th century Williamsburg was restored through the efforts of Dr. Goodwin and through his influence John D. Rockefller Jr. Together they created what is called Colonial Williamsburg, a 301 acre historic area. Today Williamsburg is part of the Historic Triangle along with Jamestown and Yorktown and attracts millions of tourists each year.
In 1995 we as a family rented a condo (with a hot tub!) and bought yearly passes to Colonial Williamsburg. It was a day’s ride from where we lived in Pennsylvania with a generous stop for lunch. The first afternoon we visited Basset Hall which was the residence of John D. Rockafeller. We also visited the Virginia jail. The jailer lived in a house that had a door that led to the jail. The debtor’s prison didn’t look so bad. It had a fireplace and a bed; however, the other section where the murderers were kept was just awful. One of the cells even had a coffin in it.
Another day we visited the Governor’s Palace. It was impressive. The governor had a lot of weapons on the ceiling and the walls and in the stairwell. The gardens were even more extraordinary! We went through the maze in the garden. I would have been happy to browse quietly through the garden with a book for probably weeks.
After the gardens, we listened to a wheelwright. One of the neatest things about Williamsburg is the amount of people dressed in period costumes just walking up and down the Duke of Gloucester Street or working in shops just like they would have in the 1600-1800’s. The wheelwright told us how he would have made wheels for wagons and carriages.
After that we headed towards the tavern where we were going to eat lunch. We stopped at the apothocary shop where my dad bought some chocolate. On the way down the Duke of Gloucester Street we stopped at the stocks in front of the courthouse where people were punished for wrongdoing. My mom insisted that all three of us kids get in the stocks for a picture. I was reluctant, but she insisted we would not get lunch until we complied. Being hungry I dutifully posed for the picture.
The tavern was called Chownings and it was authentic–maybe a little too much so. I remember there being lots of flies and thinking that would have been normal for the 1600s, but I wasn’t a fan in the 1990s. I ordered beef stew with a roll, root beer and vanillla ice cream for dessert. The root beer tasted different from what I was used to, but I enjoyed everything else.