The Road to Williamsburg
Williamsburg Travel Blog› entry 24 of 108 › view all entries
We had been planning our Williamsburg trip for a while. Williamsburg is one of our favorite road trip destinations and hardly a year goes by that we don't visit there. But, we had not made it in 2007. Last visit had been two years before at the tail end of our South Carolina trip. Along were our daughter and her boyfriend, as this week was Spring Break for Fairfax County Schools.
We left Springfield at 9:20 a.m. and headed towards Occoquan, along the same route I've described. There, we picked up I-95, avoiding traffic around Springfield and southern Fairfax County. Traffic was remarkably light this day, given that I-95 is the major Interstate Highway along the East Coast and many school systems were also out for break.
Check-in time at our hotel was not until 3:00 p.m. But there was much to do. The first order of business, after driving by the historical area to make sure it had not changed (it hadn't), was to have lunch at Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Que. (See review.) Pierce's is an institution in Williamsburg and a must! Everyone from families to office workers to construction workers to members of the military from nearby installations comes here to enjoy the famous Virginia-style barbeque.
After lunch, it was time to get down to business! We headed back to the Historic Area and found parking off of Francis Street across from the Historic Area. Some background for those not familiar with Williamsburg. Williamsburg was the capital of Viriginia from 1698 to 1780. Many famous events leading up to the American Revolution occurred in Williamsburg. Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry were active here. After the Revolution, Williamsburg remained a commercial center, but had lost its former prominance. Many colonial-era structures fell to ruin while others were adaptively re-used and folded into the modern town. Then in the 1930s, the Rockefeller family funded the restoration of the historic part of the town as Colonial Willliamsburg. Today, Colonial Williasmburg, centered around Duke of Gloucester Street, is often considered a Colonial theme park. One does have to buy a theme-park like admisison ticket to see the exhibits, go inside the major buildings, and take part in the programs.
We all had our separate agendas. Everyone knew I wanted to take pictures. Susan wanted to check out some of the shops at Merchant's Square while dd and bf wanted to wander around by themselves. So, off we went. I made for Duke of Gloucester Street. In front of me was the Nicolson Store. This strucutre is an original from the Colonial era and has undergone a variety of transformations over the years. (I've seen a photo of it in use a a gas station in the 1930s.) Working my way up Duke of Gloucester I noted the many restored storefronts and buildings in the bright March sunlight. Along the way were many Colonial Williamsburg "cast members" dressed in period attire to add a live atmosphere while directing visitors.
I was soon passing the Court House of 1770 and the Powder Magazine. These two structures are originals. The Court House served as Williamsburg's courthouse until 1932. Until the reconstruction of Colonial Williamsburg began in the late 1930s, the octogonal Powder Magazine housed the only museum of the colonal era. It's my favorite structure in Williamsburg. At one end of Duke of Gloucester is Palace Green, the open commons dominated by the reconstructed Governor's Palace. (Most visitors don't realize how similar the town plan of Williamsburg is to the plan adopted for Washington, DC. At one end of the main street is the Legislative building, with the Executive residence at the opposite end, offset by an open green.) On Palace Green is the George Wythe House, the home of George Wythe.
Abou this time, Susan called on the cell. She was at the Barnes & Noble/William & Mary Bookstore over on Merchant's Square. One of my objectives this visit was to photograph the Wren Building at William and Mary, which had previously escaped my lens. So, I went on over to Merchant's Square en route to William and Mary. Merchant's Square is a shopping district extension of Duke of Gloucester Street lying between the Historic District and the College of William and Mary.
Passing through Merchant's Square, I arrived at the gates of the College of Wiliam and Mary. William and Mary, founded in 1693, is a selective Virginia state university. The College Yard contains several historic structures, including the Wren Building, the first building on campus. Sir Christopher Wren is thought to have provided the design for the
Returning to Merchant’s Square, I encountered dd and bf enjoying some chocolate covered strawberries they had purchased at the Wythe Candy Shop. (They shared.) I was far from finished with photography, so I soon headed back to the Historic Area.
There was a commotion in the Historic Area.
By 4:00 p.m. it was time for the family to meet up and proceed to our hotel, Fairfield Kingsgate Resort.