The Road to Williamsburg

Williamsburg Travel Blog

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On to the Historic Triangle!

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.

Duke of Gloucester Street
Reaching the outskirts of Richmond after some 80 miles, we diverged to I-295, the Richmond bypass, and took it over to I-64. I-64 leads down the Virginia Peninsula to link Richmond with Williamsburg, Norfolk and Virginia Beach. This region of the state is called Tidewater, where the major rivers of Virginia meet the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic. We had covered the 140 miles (234 km) in 2 hours 25 minutes including one stop. Remarkable time.

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.

Nicolson Store

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.

Cool Colonist
However, you do not need a ticket to enjoy a walk through the Historic Area, take pictures, absorb the "historick" atmosphere, (and shop at the replca stores). 

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.

Court House of 1770
Most really get into their characters.

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.

Magazine (Powder Horn)
(George Wythe was Thomas Jefferson's law professor at William and Mary and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.) On the corner is Bruton Parish Church. Bruton was Williamsburg's only church in colonial times and is an active Epsicopal church today. (The church is not part of Colonial Williamsburg and a ticket is not needed to visit inside.) I went inside for a few interior photos. The layout of the church is very similar to colonial Pohick Church near home, but with a few more elegant appointments.

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.

Bruton Parish Church
The modern buildings are in the colonial brick style. Merchant's Square was actually designed in the 1930's as an integral part of the Colonial Williamsburg reconstruction and was one of the first pedestrian shopping precincts in the USA. Orignally intended to accommodate ordinary tourist ammenities, it houses upscale shops and restaurants today.

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 Wren Building, but no one knows for certain.

Governor's Palace
Anyway, I took my photos of the 17th century academic structure, still used for classes. In front of the Wren Building is a modern statue of Lord Boutetourt, a popular English Governor of Virginia. (Once in the 1980s we were on a tour of the Governor’s Palace when the Major Domo character challenged us at the entrance with “My Lord Botetourt is Not at home!”, but he let us in anyway.)

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.

Wythe House
Walking over for a closer look, I was again challenged, this time by a Rabble Rouser character. Turns out part of the Historic Area had been closed off for a Williamsburg: Revolutionary City reenactment and only ticket holders could enter. So, I went around and looked at the Windmill and the Public Gaol, areas not part of the reenactment. I eventually arrived back by the reconstructed Capitol and had made a full circuit.

 

By 4:00 p.m. it was time for the family to meet up and proceed to our hotel, Fairfield Kingsgate Resort.

Children Gambol on Palace Green
We’ve stayed at Kingsgate before. It’s located in a residential area close to Richmond Road. It’s quiet, comfortable, and very convenient to everything in the Williamsburg area. The rooms are suites, so Susan and I had the master bedroom, dd the smaller bedroom, and bf the sofabed in the living room. We went to Ruby Tuesday’s for dinner and then picked up coffee, tea, bagels, orange juice, and cereal for breakfast in the suite each morning. Rounding out the evening, dd and bf checked out the indoor pool.

jennjeff1 says:
Jenny and I are going to Williamsburg this weekend! ~Jeff
Posted on: May 22, 2008
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On to the Historic Triangle!
On to the Historic Triangle!
Duke of Gloucester Street
Duke of Gloucester Street
Nicolson Store
Nicolson Store
Cool Colonist
Cool Colonist
Court House of 1770
Court House of 1770
Magazine (Powder Horn)
Magazine (Powder Horn)
Bruton Parish Church
Bruton Parish Church
Governors Palace
Governor's Palace
Wythe House
Wythe House
Children Gambol on Palace Green
Children Gambol on Palace Green
Rabble Rouser
Rabble Rouser
The Capitol (House of Burgesses)
The Capitol (House of Burgesses)
The Capitol (House of Burgesses)
The Capitol (House of Burgesses)
Merchants Square
Merchant's Square
Merchants Square
Merchant's Square
Statue of Governor Lord Botetourt
Statue of Governor Lord Botetourt
Wren Building at William & Mary
Wren Building at William & Mary
Wren Building at William & Mary
Wren Building at William & Mary
Presidents House at William & Mary
President's House at William & Mary
Innovative Colonist
Innovative Colonist
Windmill
Windmill
Lady of the town
Lady of the town
Carriage Ride
Carriage Ride
Magazine (Powder Horn)
Magazine (Powder Horn)
Side Street
Side Street
Public Gaol
Public Gaol
Williamsburg Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Pierce's Pitt for the best in BBQ!
I can't say enough about Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Que! This is an eatery that you must visit when in Williamsburg! Pierce's serves the best in Virginia-sty… read entire review
Williamsburg Hotels & Accommodations review
Wyndham Kingsgate Resort in Williamsburg
We frequently stay at Kingsgate when visiting Williamsburg, Virginia. The hotel is centrally located to the major attractions of Colonial Williamsburg… read entire review
Williamsburg Sights & Attractions review
Bruton Parish Church
Bruton Parish Church is the historic Colonial era church in Colonial Williasmburg. It is in the middle of the Colonial Williamsburg themed Historic Ar… read entire review
Williamsburg Sights & Attractions review
Colonial Williamsburg: History Recreated
Colonial Williasmburg, Virginia, is one of the most famous among the living museum period recreations. Since the 1930s, early structures have been res… read entire review
Williamsburg
photo by: Andy99