Sunday, June 06, 2010


After teaching for two days, Tory and I jumped in the car and decided to spend a day exploring a bit of our history at Williamsburg, just a short physical distance away, but once inside, miles away in years...200+ years, to be sure. Some of my ancestors were in Virginia at this time and I am excited to see how they lived. I can't imagine leaving the relative safety of your home to take a dangerous voyage by ship to reach a land with few amenities and many risks, to make a new home and life for yourself. I wish I knew what motivated the move to the new world.

We were greeted by history at the gate and instantly moved into another age. Even the modern bathrooms had a historic twist. Many of the buildings are reproductions, but some date back to the original settlement times and everywhere there is evidence of a time when art and necessity went hand-in-hand as the isolation of the new colony required that most things be made by a skilled artisan. And what things they made.

We approached the Governor's Palace first. The original palace burnt to the ground not long after it was built at a tremendous cost to the settlement and the King. The ornate gate set the tone for an amazing tour.

High ceilings with crown moldings and wainscoted walls grace the interior.

A display of weaponry in the foyer was there to impress citizens of the might of the Governor and the King, who selected him.

The walls were covered with gilded, embossed leather that looked like metal with a fine patina. The cost was so great for the walls, that it was written into a bill to ensure the cost would be covered.

The colors were brighter than I expected - bright sea green and sky blue. I had always pictured colonial times in shades of sepia and burnt umber. But from the gardens to the home interiors, color abides everywhere. The rooms had fancy wood stoves and hand-carved moldings.

The carpet is an exact copy of an original made for the palace at the time it was built. Aren't the colors amazing? It would easily fit in a modern house today.

Look at the amazing crown molding and carved additions to the window trim.

Outside were beautiful gardens framed by covered walkways. A perfect place to shelter from the hot Virginia sun on a summer day.

Who knows how old these carved initials are and whose love they declared for the world...

To the rear of the palace were formal English gardens fully in bloom.

After we finished the tour of the palace, we headed to the shoppes and demonstrations of colonial crafts. First stop was the bookbinding shop where they continue to craft books with beautiful leather covers, marbled paper and gilded pages. Just to see the tools used to make the books was amazing. I was disappointed they were not actively creating books, but the shopkeeper was happy to explain the antique tools and how they were used.

We passed many folks dressed to the times, which added to the feeling that we had stepped back in time.

In the blacksmith shop, we were treated to a demonstration of iron forming by fire and bellows.

My personal favorite was the silversmith's shop. I could have moved right in. What an amazing array of tools and how I longed to run my hands over them and use them to create something beautiful!

Meet Paul Revere....a bit south of Massachusetts, but ready to ride and call warning that the British are coming...

The apothecary shop was amazing and beautiful...full of glass and mysterious names, exotic mixtures and tools that looked like they came straight from the Inquisitor's dungeon!

The day went by so quickly that there was still much to be seen when we realized we were starving and the taverns would not be open for dining for another hour. We hopped back on the bus for a bite to eat before traveling to the Folk Art Museum, housed in a reproduction of the first mental hospital to be built in the States. From little more than a bare cell where patients were chained to the wall, to a time when the patients were treated more humanely, it was amazing to see how patients were treated before modern medicine. And the the Folk Art Museum was amazing, crammed with carving, fine metalwork and ceramics and pottery of the time. Unfortunately, we had little time to explore this amazing place and I will have to mark it down for future exploration.

Sadly, we had to head for the hotel as we were out of time this day. What a rich history we have in this country and I was glad for the opportunity to explore a small bit of it. On to Chincoteague in my next of the missing ponies and abundant waterfowl.


Eva said...

Oh how I wish I could of joined you ... I looooove history - my kind of thing. I sometimes wonder if I was born in the wrong era. Mind you - I think my 'station in life' then, would not of been as appealing as I would like to envisage.

Looking forward to your next stop!

Paula McNamee said...

Thanks for sharing your photos and descriptions of what you saw. I'm glad that you got to see some of the countryside while in Virginia.

CarolCot said...

I'm so enjoying reading about your time back east. Almost feel like I was there too. Thanks for posting the great pictures and wonderful descriptions.

Tory Brokenshire said...

Jan your writing is beautiful, I was there but learned even more by reading your post. Thanks for such a good time!

Jen Crossley said...

YOur a natural story tell Jan,I so enjoyed seeing everything through your eyes