Yorktown by Day

Yorktown Travel Blog

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Yorktown Victory Monument
We finished touring the Mariner's Museum around 1:00 p.m. Rather than seek lunch there or in Newport News, Susan and I wanted to go directly to Yorktown and spend the afternoon there. There would be a spot for lunch in that historic locale. Avenue of the Arts leads out of the musem area and past the expanding campus of Christopher Newport University. (Approriate, for he was a sea captain in the era of discovery and exploration.) The park setting soon came back out to busy J. Clyde Morris Blvd. (US Highway 17).  We could follow US 17 across the peninsula to Yorktown.

We'd last visited Yorktown in March 2008.
Nelson House
That was at night, as Julia wanted to see Cornwallis' Cave in the dark. Today was a sunny afternoon. We parked in the National Park Service's parking lot for the Yorktown historic area and found the Carrot Tree restaurant in the Cole Digges House was serving until 2:30 p.m.

After lunch it was time for a  walk around Yorktown, and, of course, time to take pictures! Yorktown is much smaller than Williamsburg. The main part of the town is situated on a bluff overlooking the York River. Yorktown is most famous as the site of the decisive 1781 battle that assured American victory in the American Revolution. Yorktown was founded in the late 17th century as a port, principally for shipping tobacco to England from plantations in the middle peninsula.
British cannonball in the Nelson House
Yorktown remains the county seat of York County, though it has the look of a village today. Many homes, business, and taverns once lined the bluff, with trails leading to the docks and warehouses below. Today, the majority of the town falls under Colonial National Historic Park, but therein is a mix of publically preserved, privately owned, and commercially operated buildings. Some of the Colonial era structures are preserved for display by the Park Service, other historic buildings have been presered but are leased to commercial enterprises, and others are privately owned. It's an interesting public-private partnership and very different from Colonial Wiliamsburg. Main Street is closed to motor traffic during the day which makes it very walkable.

The entrance to Yorktown is dominated by the Yorktown Victory Monument at the head of Main Street.
Nelson House
The monument was completed in 1911 for the 130th  annviersary of the battle. The Nelson House was the home of Thomas Nelson, jr., a prominent merchant and trader. He became a signer of Declaration of Independence. The house was occupied by the Nelson family until 1907 and is owned by the Park Service today. Notable are the visible British cannonballs that struck the house during the 1781 siege. The cannonballs did not destroy the house, but remained stuck in the brick wall. The "Great Valley" leads from the Nelson House down to the York River. It was used for rolling hogsheads of tobacco from the bluff down to the wharves and is a typical "rolling road". It's still used as a footpath.

At Main and Read Streets is the brick Custom House (begun as a warehouse) and across the street the Cole Digges House.
"Great Valley" colonial pathway
Nearby is Grace Church. The plaster exterior walls cover the original 1697 marl structure. (Marl is a clay taken form the riverbed.) The unusual, but ultimately sturdy building material gave it the name the "Church of Marl". Thomas Nelson, jr., his grandfather, Thomas Nelson, and other members of the Nelson family are buried in the churchyard.

York Hall, built in 1955, is the administrative seat of York County. It was the York County Court House until 1997 and was the fifth courthouse to be built on the site since 1697. York Hall displays typical colonial-style architecure and includes the signature arched entrance featured on traditional Virignia courthouses.

From the bluff, we drove down to the riverfront. Yorktown has been seeking to commercialize its waterfront into a mini-Williamsburg of shops and restaurants as Riverwalk Landing.
Custom House
I'm not sure how successful this has been. The shops sell things like Vera Bradley purses and scarves and Christmas ornaments. But the small beach has always been popular with swimmers and sunbathers. The schooner Alliance was sailing around the river on a sightseeing cruise, which made for an attractive scene. (The Alliance is a new sailing ship, built in 1995.)  Afer walking along the boardwalk and beach, it was time to return to Williamsburg. On the way out, we stopped at Yorktown National Cemetery, located in a part of the 1781 battlefield. (The National Cemetery was created for Civil War casualites. During the Civil War Battle of Yorktown, toops reused many of the Revolutionary War earthwork fortifications.) 

The Colonial Parkway took us back to Williamsburg.
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Yorktown Victory Monument
Yorktown Victory Monument
Nelson House
Nelson House
British cannonball in the Nelson H…
British cannonball in the Nelson …
Nelson House
Nelson House
Great Valley colonial pathway
"Great Valley" colonial pathway
Custom House
Custom House
Cole Digges House (1720)
Cole Digges House (1720)
Quiet Yorktown
Quiet Yorktown
Yorktown Main Street
Yorktown Main Street
Sommerwell House
Sommerwell House
Grace Church (1697)
Grace Church (1697)
Grave of Thomas Nelson at Grace Ch…
Grave of Thomas Nelson at Grace C…
Yorktown residences
Yorktown residences
York Hall
York Hall
Yorktown Green
Yorktown Green
Cornwallis Cave
Cornwallis' Cave
Schooner Alliance
Schooner Alliance
George Washington discusses strate…
George Washington discusses strat…
Yorktown Marina
Yorktown Marina
George P. Coleman Bridge over the …
George P. Coleman Bridge over the…
Yorktown National Cemetery
Yorktown National Cemetery
Yorktown Sights & Attractions review
The Coleman Bridge Across the York River
The George P. Coleman Bridge is a highway bridge spanning the York River between Yorktown and Gloucester Point, Virginia. The 3750 foot (1140 m) bridg… read entire review
Yorktown Sights & Attractions review
The World Turned Upside Down
Yorktown Battlefield is the site where combined American and French forces lay siege to the British Army under Lord Cornwallis. On October 19, 1781, C… read entire review
Yorktown Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Historic atmosphere at the Carrot Tree
The Carrot Tree Restaurant in Yorktown is located in the 1720 Cole Digges House. (The house is owned by the National Park Service and leased to the re… read entire review
Yorktown
photo by: spocklogic