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.
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.
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
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.