When you turn down Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, you know you’re going to discover something new about the past: either the 1600s when the town was established, or the 1930s when John Rockefeller and Samuel Goodwin put their heads together to bring it back to life.
Most of the frame buildings burned at one time or another and were subsequently rebuilt according to original drawings. But artifacts in the museums are the real thing, having been donated or resulting from architectural digs.
We were there recently on an especially crisp fall afternoon. We warmed our hands by the fireplace of the tailor’s shop, where we learned that most cloth was imported rather than made in homes or the village.
We toured a number of taverns where prominent citizens met to discuss the issues of their day. Two are open for business and have delicious southern fare. We tried the pottage pie and hot buttered rum cider at the King’s Arms. My favorite shingle was Chownings.
Crossing the green to the Abby Rockefeller Museum of Folk Art was well worth the effort. Portraits of Presidents Washington, Jefferson and Madison and orator Patrick Henry hang in the same hall. Dozens of pieces of china, pewter, silver and furniture stand quietly in their glass cases for inspection. Architectural plans plus salvaged ballisters, clapboards and weathervanes illustrate craftsmanship of 400 years past.
Though it takes more than a day to absorb all that Williamsburg has to offer, one was all we had on this trip. It was instructive and enjoyable. And, considering the the decorations and shopping, a good segway to the holiday season ahead.