February 19 - 25, 2017: Issue 301


A line of shops on Duke of Gloucester Street

By George Repin

Before the arrival of English colonists at Jamestown in the Colony of Virginia in 1607 the area which later became Williamsburg was largely wooded. 
By 1638 it was settled and called Middle Plantation.  After the statehouse of Jamestown, the capital of the Colony of Virginia, burned down on two occasions, the colonial capital was moved to Middle Plantation in 1699 and renamed Williamsburg in honour of King William III of England.  A long term aspiration of the colonists had been the establishment of a school of higher education.  On receipt of a royal charter the desired school was founded in Middle Plantation in 1693, named the College of William and Mary in honour of the monarchs at that time, and was already accepting students when the name Williamsburg was adopted for  the area. The school is the second-oldest institution of higher education in the United States, second only to Harvard University – and the oldest in the American South.

For eighty-one years of the 18th Century Williamsburg was the centre of government, education and culture in the Colony of Virginia.  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, James Madison and other significant figures in the future United States of America adopted and adapted the preferred features of the forms of British government to the needs of the United States.  During the American Revolutionary War, under the leadership of Governor Thomas Jefferson, in 1780, the government moved to Richmond, approximately 55 miles to the west, which remains the capital of Virginia to this day.

The Capitol Building.

The General Court in the Capitol Building in which the highest judicial tribunal in the colony met twice each year.

The front of the Governor's Palace with a coach on the road..

The Governor's Palace.

Rear approach to the Governor's Palace through a formal garden.

British Coat of Arms over the rear entrance to the Governor's Palace.

With the seat of government gone Williamsburg entered a long, slow period of sleepy stagnation and decay.  It escaped much of the ravages of the Civil War although federal soldiers burned the College. Bypassed by progress the town maintained much of its 18th Century characteristics.

By the early 20th Century many older structures were in poor condition, and were no longer in use or were occupied by squatters.  The Reverend W.A.R. Goodwin who first came to Williamsburg in 1903 as rector of the Bruton Parish Church enlisted the community’s support for the restoration of the 1711 church building.  On his return to Williamsburg, after fifteen years at a church in New York State, he was saddened by the deterioration of colonial-era buildings and stimulated to renew his association with the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, believing that Williamsburg was the only colonial capital still capable of restoration.

In 1926, John D Rockefeller Jr. inspired by the foresight and enthusiasm of the Reverend Goodwin became interested in the preservation and restoration of eighteenth-century Williamsburg and thereafter devoted his personal attention and resources to that goal.

Ultimately the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation was established.  In the words of the Board of Trustees the purpose of Colonial Williamsburg is  “to re-create accurately the environment of the men and women of eighteenth-century Williamsburg and to bring about such an understanding of their lives and times that present and future generations may more vividly appreciate the contribution of these early Americans to the ideals and culture of our country.”

In 1980 (when I visited Williamsburg) the Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg embraced about 175 acres – the heart of the old city. There were eighty-eight original eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century structures within and near this area. Several main buildings which did not survive the years had been reconstructed on their original foundations after extensive archaeological investigation and historical research.

House of George Wythe (restored)

Christiana Campbell’s Tavern (reconstructed)

Four taverns had been reconstructed for use as restaurants. There were craftsmen’s workshops demonstrating trades of the period, including a printing shop, a shoemaker’s, blacksmith’s, a cooperage, a cabinetmaker, a gunsmith, wigmaker, a musical instrument maker and a silversmith. In most of these workshops tradesmen in period costume could be observed at their trades.

Close-up view of the " Fine Millinery Shop" on Duke of Gloucester Street.

The musical instrument maker in his workshop.

A day spent exploring Colonial Williamsburg is a day well spent.      
Photographs by George Repin in 1980.

Previous Reflections by George Repin 

The Nineteen Thirties  Remembering Rowe Street  The Sydney Push  Saturday Night at the Movies  Shooting Through Like A Bondi Tram  A Stop On The Road To Canberra  City Department Stores - Gone and Mostly Forgotten  An Australian Icon - thanks to Billy Hughes  Crossing The Pacific in the 1930s  Hill End  The Paragon at Katoomba  Seafood In Sydney  How Far From Sydney?  Cockatoo Island Over The Years  The Seagull at the Melbourne Festival in 1991  Busby's Bore  The Trocadero In Sydney  Cahill's restaurants Medical Pioneers in Australian Wine Making  Pedal Power and the Royal Flying Doctor Service  Pambula and the Charles Darwin Connection  Gloucester and the Barrington Tops  A Millenium Apart  Have You Stopped to Look?  Gulgong  Il Porcellino  Olympia  Durham Hall  Sargent's Tea Rooms Pie Shops and Street Photographers The Ballet Russes and Their Friends in Australia  Hotels at Bondi  Alma Ata Conference - 1978 Keukenhof - 1954 The Lands Department Building and Yellowblock Sandstone  The Goroka Show - 1958  A Gem On The Quay  Staffa  The Matson Line and Keepsake Menus Kokeshi Dolls  The Coal Mine At Balmain  The Hyde Park Barracks  The Changing Faces Of Sydney From Pounds and Pence to Dollars and Cents Nell Tritton and Alexander Kerensky  Making A Difference In Ethiopia William Balmain  J C Bendrodt and Princes Restaurant Azzalin Orlando Romano and Romano's Restaurant  Waldheim  Alcohol in Restaurants Before 1955  King Island Kelp  The Mercury Theatre   Around Angkor - 1963   Angkor Wat 1963  Costumes From the Ballets Russe Clifton at Kirribilli  Chairman Mao's Personal Physician  The Toby Tavern The MoKa at Kings Cross  The Oceaographic  Museum  in Monaco  The Island of Elba  Russian Fairy Tale Plates  Meteora  Souda Bay War Cemetery Barrow, Alaska  Cloisonné  Tripitaka Koreana Minshuku The Third Man Photographs and Memories  Not A Chagall!  Did You Listen? Did You Ask?  Napier (Ahuriri, Maori) New Zealand  Borobudur  Ggantija Temples Plumes and Pearlshells  Murano  University of Padua  Ancient Puebloe Peoples - The Anasazi   Pula  The Gondolas of Venice Cinque Terre  Visiting the Iban David The Living Desert Bryce Canyon National Park   Aphrodisias   The Divine Comedy Caodaism  Sapa and local Hill People  A Few Children  Cappadocia  Symi Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre   Aboriginal Rock Art on Bigge Island    ANZAC Cove (Ari Burnu) 25 April, 1997  Hotere Garden Oputae  Children of the Trobriand Islands  Page Park Market - Rabaul  Rabual   Kotor, Montenegro   Galleries of Photographs I   Lascaux  Galleries of Photographs II   The Cathedral of St. James – Šibenik, Croatia  Ivan Meštrović  - Sculptor   Delphi   Gallery of Photographs III  The Handicrafts of Chiang Mai Raft Point  San Simeon - "Hearst Castle"  Floriade - The Netherlands - 1982  Russian New Year  Mycenae  "Flightseeing" Out Of Anchorage Alaska  The White Pass and Yukon Route  Totem Poles  Tivkin Cemetery  Krka National Park - Croatia   Tavistock Square and the BMA  Orthodox Easter  Wieliczka Salt Mine  A Walk on Santorini  Indonesian Snapshots Ephesus - The Library of Celsus  Ephesus - Some Places Of Interest  Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Valley United Nations Headquarters 1958  A Miscellany of Flower Images Gardens Bath St. David's In Wales   Zion National Park Nicholas Himona - Artist  Kraków  Lilianfels  Collonges-La-Rouge  Gingerbread Houses   Cape Sounion   Delos  Wroclaw  

Copyright George Repin 2017. All Rights Reserved.