- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 6, 2001

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. Watch Continental Congress delegates draft a resolution defying British policies. Hear what Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry have to say. Join in 18th-century children's games at the Governor's Palace. Experience military life on the eve of the Revolutionary War. Visit a Colonial tavern.
Since its founding 75 years ago, Colonial Williamsburg has taken seriously its role as an outdoor, living-history museum, helping visitors reconnect with the past. Here, you become an active participant in 18th-century life in a town just prior to the American Revolution.
Williamsburg not only looks the part, it acts the part too. It has 500 reconstructed or restored buildings, 88 of them original, and stretches over a one-mile historic district that covers 173 acres. It has 3,500 employees, 600 who serve as costumed interpreters, with some undertaking the roles of real people from Colonial times.
You'll see tradesmen and craftspeople using tools and practices of their day as you visit their shops and homes. You'll hear about historic events like the Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer in sympathy with and support of the closing of Boston Harbor, which preceded the Boston Tea Party revolt against British taxes. You'll be there when the dissolved House of Burgesses meets at the Raleigh Tavern, which you also can visit, to call for establishment of a congress of all the Colonies.
"People come here to see history come alive and what it took for this country to separate from England," says Lorraine Brooks, public relations manager for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. "It's all based on fact, which makes it more real."
As part of the 75th anniversary observance of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation a $300 million fund-raiser is under way.
Apparently, tourists are very fond of history: In 2000, 929,000 of them visited here, producing $22.8 million in ticket sales. Day-pass tickets cost $32 for adults and $16 for youths ages 6-17. Package discounts are available.
"My wife and I enjoy visiting and returning to Williamsburg for a number of reasons, but primarily because we enjoy the historical significance associated with the entire area," says Chris Bunting of Mount Airy, N.C., a frequent visitor.
"Our favorite activities include walking tours of historical Williamsburg, drives along the Colonial Parkway to visit both Yorktown and Jamestown, and touring the plantations along the James River," he says.
"And, yes, we occasionally indulge our youthful side by visiting Busch Gardens to conquer the roller coasters."
It doesn't take long to be swept back in time. Within 20 minutes of our arrival at Williamsburg Lodge, we watched the daily flag-lowering ceremony accompanied by fife and drum.
That's just one of hundreds of touches designed to give visitors every aspect of an authentic period experience, like sipping apple cider, or posing for a photo in the public stocks at the courthouse, just for fun. If it's Tuesday …
To check out all that's offered, pick up a copy of the weekly Visitor's Companion, a free paper available at the visitors center, on shuttle buses and throughout Colonial Williamsburg. It lists "Your Place in Time," the key to understanding your visit in the Colonial capital.
Currently, Colonial Williamsburg is operating as if it's 1774 "Prelude to Independence" with a special theme for each day of the week. Monday is Court Day, when citizens take their neighbors to court. Tuesday is Muster Day, when men perform their military duties. Wednesday is Revolutionary Day, when the colony's leaders challenge Parliament's authority. Thursday, Friday and Saturday repeat the Monday-Wednesday schedule. Sunday is the Day of Rest, when issues of religious change come to light on a day of worship.
One of the places to worship is the Bruton Parish Church, an Episcopal church dating to 1715. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Monroe, John Tyler and Patrick Henry were among those who worshipped there. In Colonial times, attending church was required in order to vote in Virginia.
Since Williamsburg was the capital of England's oldest, largest, richest and most populated colony, it's here that the young attorneys and politicians of the day were found. Interestingly, it's also here where Thomas Jefferson in 1779 introduced his Statute for Religious Freedom, setting the stage for separation of church and state and laying the groundwork for the First Amendment to the Constitution.

It Started with a Telegram
Bruton Parish Church also is a good starting point for discussing how Colonial Williamsburg of today came to be.
As the story goes, the church's one-time rector, the Rev. W.A.R. Goodwin, saved the then-fast-fading, 18th-century village. It was Mr. Goodwin's vision and John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s $68 million that made Colonial Williamsburg a reality.
The birth of the project can be traced to Dec. 7, 1926, when Mr. Rockefeller sent a coded telegram that he signed "David's Father" to Dr. Goodwin. It simply read: "Authorize purchase of antique referred to in your long letter of December fourth at eight on basis outlined in shorter letter same date."
The financier had proceeded cautiously at first, investing in a property at a time, the first being the Ludwell-Paradise House. The clandestine beginnings of the project not only kept plans under wraps from the townspeople initially, but also kept land prices from escalating.
Later as his enthusiasm grew to match the rector's, Mr. Rockefeller and his wife spent part of each year in Williamsburg at their Bassett Hall property, which they later bequeathed, along with its furnishings and its 585 wooded acres to Colonial Williamsburg.
Colonial Williamsburg was built on the original concept of "six appeals" that would attract the American public history, research, gardens, trades, collections and architecture, along with a mission, as Mr. Rockefeller put it, "that the future may learn from the past."
You'll find the rector's Bruton Parish Church on Duke of Gloucester Street, which was proclaimed "the most historic avenue in all of America," by President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he dedicated the street in 1934. Other presidents who visited have included Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Clinton.
Also on Duke of Gloucester Street is the Magazine, where the town's gunpowder was housed. The Magazine was built in 1715 after Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood urgently requested a "good substantial house of brick" to store the colony's arsenal of weapons. Spotswood is credited for the Magazine's octagonal design.
At its busiest, it contained an estimated 2,000-3,000 muskets with accompanying shot, powder and flint. A pre-war turning point occurred here when British marines sneaked into the Magazine and stole the colonists' gunpowder. The incident was one of several to push Virginia toward the fight for independence.
Today, there's a display of firearms and military equipment. Another impressive weapons display can be found in the entrance hall of the Governor's Palace.
Near the Magazine there is a market where ladies' straw hats are on sale. Their pastel ribbon streamers wave in the breeze, beckoning visitors to come take a look. In doing so, you'll step back 200 years in time to shop for such offerings as rolling pins, paper-wrapped soap bars, rock candy, licorice root, pewter jacks, wooden tops, clay marbles and salt-glazed mugs.

Not to Be Missed
Visitors can view a 35-minute film, "Williamsburg The Story of A Patriot" in which Jack Lord of "Hawaii Five-O" fame portrays a fictitious, 18th-century patriot. Lord's character heads to the Colonial capital of Williamsburg to become a member of the House of Burgesses, where the growing movement toward independence is palpable. Since it premiered in 1957, the film has been viewed by more than 30 million visitors.
Various programs and re-enactments are going on throughout the day. We wandered into "On Our Own Time" behind one of the Colonial houses near Wythe House. The topic was slaves gathering to share their "sweet and bitter life experiences." The program portrays slaves having the chance to visit on their own time, since the master has gone away for a day in the country.
As we and others sit and eavesdrop, four slaves talk casually among themselves. From their conversation which is never scripted, but rather created by the actors themselves after studying the history and the period we ascertain that in 1774:
* It's illegal to preach without a license.
* Half the "cargo" arriving in slave ships is deceased, but the living are taken directly to the auction block at Raleigh Tavern. "The law says you be property," says one slave.
* Law forbids slaves to marry, so many express their commitment by "jumping the broom," the same custom as in Ireland.
* Slaves often sleep in stables.
* A black arriving from a non-Christian country is automatically a slave.
* Years may be marked as tobacco seasons as in "10 tobacco seasons when I done arrived here," as one slave recalled.
* And the master can't free a slave that's the job of the 12-man governor's council.
In direct contrast to this slice of slave life, next we stop by the palatial Colonial Governor's Palace, where favorite activities of the day included fox hunting, horseback riding and fencing. The latter could offer a genteel lady an indication of the gentleman's stature in the community. The gentried men of the time had highly developed calf muscles from such activities, and when a Southern lady lowered her eyes to curtsy in greeting, she was actually checking out those muscles. Some gentlemen who weren't well endowed were even known to pad their stockings.
At the wall-surrounded palace, you'll see dining and sitting rooms, waiting rooms for callers, bedrooms and the ballroom, along with the separate cooking kitchen, and kitchen gardens and cutting gardens. There are formal gardens, as well, featuring a maze. And the nearby pond has a Chippendale bridge.
Anther don't-miss building is the Capitol. Its H-shaped design is no accident. Housing the Burgesses on one side and the court on the other, the adjoining wings allowed for mediation back and forth among committee meetings. The guided tour inside will allow you to sit in the very space occupied by some of superstar patriots of the time.
Children will enjoy the Fifes and Drums March at 5:30 from the Palace green to the Capitol, each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In fact, visitors are welcome to tag along and become part of the redcoat parade. For even more fun, rent children's period costumes for the day, then allow children to trade their modern cash for 18th-century money they can spend with area merchants.
This living, working city's picturesque, tree-lined streets by day take on a romantic tone at twilight when "Williamsburg by Night" programs get underway. Lantern-toting guides lead ghost walks and evening tours. There's a dramatic witch trial, military camp activities, black American stories, music and dance, and even a free, candlelit, harpsichord concert at Bruton Parish Church.
Within or near Colonial Williamsburg, visitors also have access to five museums: the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Bassett Hall, Carter's Grove plantation and its Winthrop Rockefeller Archaeology Museum.


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