Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Colonial Williamsburg is the historic district of the independent city of Williamsburg, Virginia. Colonial Williamsburg consists of most of the buildings that comprised the original colonial capital of Williamsburg from 1699 to 1779.
Early in the 20th century, the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, one of the largest historic restorations ever undertaken, was championed by the Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who wanted to celebrate the patriots and the early history of America.
Some of the structures from the Colonial period have been reconstructed on their original sites. Many other structures have been restored to their original 18th century appearances. Most buildings are open for tourists to look through. Interpreters work and talk as they did in the era, teaching visitors more about the site. Colonial Williamsburg is owned and operated (as a living museum) by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and is not directly affiliated with the nearby Colonial National Historical Park.
A main source of tourism to Williamsburg, Virginia, visitors can witness a Colonial American City with exhibits including authentic colonial homes, American Revolutionary War history exhibits, and the town jail which includes an authentic stocks and pillory display.
The first meeting of a representative government group in the American colonies was held at the Jamestown Settlement on July 30, 1619, making Jamestown the first Capital of Virginia. Among the 22 members was the governor, who was appointed by officials of the Virginia Company in London. The governor in turn appointed six important members of the colony to be his council. The other 15 members were elected by the free men of the Virginia Colony who were over 17 and also owned land. This body, known as the House of Burgesses, later became the Virginia General Assembly.
See more about Jamestown today in the Historic Triangle section below.
Middle Plantation, College of William and Mary
Middle Plantation was orginally established in 1632. It was located on high ground about half-way across the Virginia Peninsula between the James and York Rivers. It was at the edge of a geographic plateau of the Tidewater Region,from which the land slopes eastward down to sea level at the lower end of the peninsula. This was a natural point to build a line of defense for the lower peninsula during early conflicts with the Native Americans. In 1676, after the State House at Jamestown was burned during Bacon's Rebellion, the House of Burgesses met at Middle Plantation, which was nearby. The College of William and Mary was established adjacent to Middle Plantation in 1693.
Williamsburg become Capital
The statehouse (capitol building) in Jamestown burned on October 20, 1698. The following year, in 1699, in a meeting held by the colonists, a group of students from the College of William and Mary submitted a proposal to move the capital to Middle Plantation, to escape the dreaded malaria and mosquitoes that plagued the Jamestown Island site. The capital of the Virginia Colony was relocated to Middle Plantation.
Middle Plantation was renamed Williamsburg by Colonel Francis Nicholson , proponent of the change, in honor of King William III of Great Britain. The new site was described by him as a place where "clear and crystal springs burst from the champagne soil."
In 1705, the first Capitol building in America was built at the end of the Duke of Gloucester Street. Williamsburg was to be the capital of Virginia for the remainder of the Colonial Period. It was the center of the political and social life of Virginia for most of the 18th century. Famous members of the House of Burgesses which met in the Capital there included Patrick Henry, George Washington, George Mason, and Thomas Jefferson.
Capital moves to Richmond
In 1779, the Capital of Virginia was moved to Richmond, about 55 miles west. For many years after the colonial era, the colonial section of Williamsburg was neglected as the modern town was built around it. By the early 20th century, many of the older structures were in poor condition, and were no longer in use.
Restoration, Colonial Williamsburg today
The Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, became rector of Williamsburg's Bruton Parish Church in 1903. In 1923, fearing that the buildings in the area would be destroyed as time went on, he started a movement to preserve the buildings in the district. As his primary source of funding, Dr. Goodwin was fortunate in this effort to sign on John D. Rockefeller Jr., the wealthy son of the founder of Standard Oil.
Restoration started on November 27, 1926 and since then, Colonial Williamsburg has been nearly completely restored. It features shops, taverns and open-air markets in the colonial style. The Governor's Palace and the Capitol building are among the significant reconstructed buildings within the restored area. The western side of the district, near the College of William and Mary, has been designated for modern shops under the name "Merchant's Square".
Colonial Williamsburg has become one of the more popular tourist destinations in the world, and has been the site of many summit meetings of world leaders.
The Visitor's Center (right off the Colonial Parkway) features a short movie and is an excellent place to start (and leave automobiles, which are restricted from the restored area, where wheelchair-accessible shuttle bus service is provided).
Historic Triangle: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown
The Historic Triangle is located on the Virginia Peninsula and includes the colonial communities of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown, with many restored attractions linked by the Colonial Parkway.
The National Park Service's Colonial Parkway joins the three popular attractions of Colonial Virginia with a scenic and bucolic roadway carefully shielded from views of commercial development. This helps visitors mentally return to the past, and there are often views of wildlife and waterfowl. This two lane roadway is the best (but nor quickest) way to move between the three points. Near the James River and York River ends of the parkway, there are several pull-offs, where some families allow their children to feed bread to the seagulls(Warning: No trucks are allowed).
For an even better experience, approach the area from the south by water from Surry County with a ride aboard one of the Jamestown Ferrys, which include the Pocahontas and Williamsburg. As passengers cross, they can can walk about the boat or go up to an enclosed viewing level with restrooms. Weather and daylight permitting, passengers usually see the Jamestown Island much as the first colonists may have approached it. In fact, the replicas of Christopher Newport's the three tiny ships, Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery are docked near the northern ferry landing. Both the Jamestown Ferry and Colonial Parkway are toll-free.
The first permanent English settlement in the New World which was established at Jamestown in 1607. Today, you can visit the Jamestown Festival Park and Jamestown Island attraction. Included are recreations of a native american village and colonial fort, and archaeological sites where current work is underway.
Notwithstanding the amazingly successful efforts to provide a non-commercial atmosphere at the three Historic Triangle areas (and on the Colonial Parkway between them), there are many hotels, motels, campgrounds, restaurants, shops and stores, gasoline stations, and amusements close by.
- Williamsburg Pottery Factory is also nearby on U.S. Highway 60 a new miles west of Williamsburg in James City County.
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