Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Colonial Williamsburg: 18th-Century Historic Life

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation operates the world’s largest living history museum in Williamsburg Virginia, the restored 18th-century capital of Britain’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous outpost of empire in the New World. Named in honour of William III, King of England, Williamsburg is one of America’s oldest planned communities, and was a centre of political activity before and during the American Revolution of 1775–1783, where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry debated taxes, slavery, and the inalienable rights of men. Funded largely by the family of John D. Rockefeller Jr. in the 1930's, the 301-acre historic area restoration of Colonial Williamsburg was launched as an interpretation of a colonial American city, with many of its historic structures rebuilt and with 'interpreters' reenacting 18th-century life, working, dressing, and talking as they would have in colonial times, preceding and during the American Revolution. 

A footman outside the Governor's Palace

Here the British flag flies most of the year over the Capitol building. Women wear long dresses and ruffled caps, and men don powdered wigs. Taverns serve Colonial fare, blacksmiths and harness makers use 18th-century methods, and the local militia drills on Market Square. Clip-clopping horses draw carriages just as their ancestors did when George Washington rode these streets. Rare animal breeds, historic trades, and lovingly restored gardens add layers of wonderful authenticity to the Colonial Williamsburg experience. 

A total of 88 original 18th-century and early-19th-century structures have been meticulously restored, and another 500 have been reconstructed on their original sites. In all, approximately 225 period rooms have been re-created with the foundation's collection of more than 60,000 pieces of furniture, ceramics, glass, silver, pewter, textiles, tools, paintings, prints, maps, firearms, and carpets. Period authenticity also governs the landscaping of the 301 acres of gardens and public greens. The restored area is surrounded by a greenbelt controlled by the foundation, which guards against development that could mar the illusion of the Colonial city.

Actors re-enacting outside the Governor's Palace which was the official residence of the Royal Governors of the Colony of Virginia

The Governor's Palace

The Palace garden allée

A gorgeous bed of tulips in bloom in the Palace garden

The palace kitchen with vegetable garden

Many men and women work tirelessly in Colonial Williamsburg keeping the grounds and vegetable gardens in perfect shape

A wooden bridge over a small pond at the foot of Palace Kitchen, provides irrigation for the vegetable garden

Colonial cooks making dough for biscuits

Keeping in character, the kitchen staff recount their daily life, as they prepare traditional dishes for the Palace Governor

One of the townspeople sipping a cup of ale in the heat of the afternoon

Horse and carriage clomp along Duke of Gloucester Street

Tarpley, Thompson & Company, a colonial-style tavernware shop

Fellow outside the Pasteur & Galt Apothecary Shop

The Apothecary Shop merchant explains how all of medicines were stored in drawers, bottles and jars

A Colonial-style apothecary bottle of Peruvian Bark Tincture

The colonial Post Office

The Shoemaker

Colonial townsfolk

Seamstress outside the Peyton Randolph House, originally built in 1715

The Raleigh Tavern on Duke of Gloucester Street

A coachman beside his horse drawn carriage

The troops convene outside the Capitol Building

Fifers and drummers marching up Duke of Gloucester for the evening re-enactment on the common

With the onset of war in 1775, Virginia began to train an army to defend against a British invasion. Fifers and Drummers were an important part of the 18th-century military. Just as Virginia enlisted soldiers and stockpiled arms and ammunition, it also trained fifers and drummers to work with soldiers in the field. The Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums – also known as the Field Music of the Virginia State Garrison Regiment – carries forward the tradition of military music. 

The Continental Army convenes on the common

With the fanfare of the Williamsburg Fife and Drums, the battle ensued

A display of gunfire by the troops

Followed by the blast of cannons

At the close of "battle", the fife and drums march through Colonial Williamsburg to close the day

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