Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Colonial Williamsburg on Monday-Meeting Patrick Henry

With anticipation we took the nature path from the visitor center to Colonial Williamsburg for our second trip with our children.  It is fun to walk across the bridge and read the signs that take us out of the 21st century into the 18th century.  We were excited about visiting a new part of the Colonial experience: Revolutionary City. (Be certain to visit all of the hyperlinks for video and audio clips and podcasts.  They are incredible!)  This is where the visitors get to actively engage with the interpretors on the Duke of Gloucester Street near the Capitol.  There are 3 key days that rotate through the week.  I planned our vacation to hit these appropriately.  Our first day there was Monday, where the focus is on vignettes of the various people of the era from 1775 to 1793.  They portray how the Declaration of Independence affected them...or not.  Very interesting.  We were privileged to get an inside look at what freedom meant to different people...and to consider what freedom means to us today. 

When we arrived it was 1775. Patrick Henry was speaking in front of Raleigh Tavern, sharing some key events and parts of his famous speech.  He's a different actor than the one we met 4 years ago, but he was appropriately "on fire" for his beliefs. =)  Whenever I listen to Patrick Henry, I'm inspired to take action! Huzzah!

Then we went behind the coffeehouse and met one of the  Randolph sisters.  It is now July 1776. She was reading a letter that she had received from her brother, who has been arguing for freedom for the colonies.  She, herself, was arguing with her brother that the freedom he was fighting for did not include women!  As I recall, she was a widow and had difficulties dealing with her husband's property after his death, a situation many widows of the time faced.  One of the purposes of Revolutionary City is to actively engage the visitor.  When she began her discourse, she came to our side and asked us if any of us had a brother with whom we had disagreements.  

After that we went to the Capitol to await the arrival of Mrs. Washington. The timeframe is now August 1777. To our surprise a herald quickly rode up to the Capitol, loudly announcing the arrival of Lady Washington!  None of us had time to get our cameras ready, so here he is  in the background awaiting her arrival.  

We think the man in the cream colored clothes is Edmund Randolph.  He greeted Mrs. Washington.

Arrival of Lady Washington to Williamsburg

Mrs. Washington shared greetings from her husband and received honors in his name.  

Lady Washington and Edmund Randolph

Then we saw a soldier, home from one of the battles, who's leg had been injured.  He had been writing Congress for compensation but getting none.  Mrs. Washington overheard and gave him some money to get the medical care he needed and provide for his family, and told him to write to her husband.

Afterwards, we returned to the back of the Coffeehouse.  Now the time was 1793.  Gowan Pamphlet, a preacher for the black Baptist Church, gleefully announced that he had gotten his papers of freedom and that his church was being accepted with the other Baptist Churches.  One of his parishoners, a slave, protested that he was turning his back on his brothers and sisters.  He promised her that he would never forget where he came from and that this was a door to help empower his people.

Gowan Pamphlet

Finally, we returned to Raleigh Tavern to meet President George Washington! As I recall it was near the end of his presidency and he shared his memories of the events leading to freedom and his hopes for our country.  I could clearly hear overtones of exhortation for us to make prudent decisions regarding our freedoms in the 21st century,  

President George Washington

Wow!  This was a wonderful experience.  By now it was noon so we sat on the benches under the trees of Raleigh Tavern and watched the hustle and bustle on the street while we ate our lunches.  Then we took our time to see some of the buildings and trades.  Before Revolutionary City we  had taken a tour of the Capitol.  It was interesting to hear where the term "bar" came from! 

Governor's Palace
Earlier that morning, our first tour had been of the Governor's Palace. (After having read so many GA Henty novels, I wondered if the dc would see the "powerfulness" of the entryway.) When we were in the upstairs bedrooms, the kids had fun looking out of the window of Patrick Henry's daughter's room.  At least according to the book we read, it was the one overlooking the Palace Green.   This gorgeous palace was home to many Governor's for the King of England, until independence was declared and the colonies became states. Then Patirck Henry was elected the first governor of Virginia and lived here.  The next governor was Thomas Jefferson, who lived there until he moved the capitol to Richmond, because of the impeding British invasion. 

On the Palace Green we saw these oxen.  DS had read about them at the CW website for a science lesson while we studied the American Revolution.  He was thrilled to see them up close. 


The kids wanted to do the maze, so we returned to the Palace after lunch.  DS is waving to me from the center.  I should have gotten a close up!  The hill on which I stood to take the picture has an icehouse underneath!

Maze behind Governor's Palace

I had learned from a friend that children who come in costume get a little more attention.  Hmmmm.  Remember the costumes I had sewn?  Might as well get some use out of them!  LOL I told the children about it and left the decision to them.  I didn't know if they'd feel too old.  Or too hot!  LOL  After all it was August and we did have a couple of 99 degree days!  They decided to wear them and they were so glad they did!  They got lots of compliments (well so did I on my seamstressing and tailoring...but they are not truely authentic.  However, I must admit, that when we met the Marquis de Lafayette the next day, I was elated that the sleeve cuffs on his shirt and my son's were nearly identical!  If we lived in the area, sigh, I would probably purchase the real patterns and really try to make authentic costumes.  Authentic patterns are in their shops!)   Here is dd in the Palace Garden...

Governor's Palace Garden

Here is ds walking through the gardens...

Governor's Palace Garden

After running through the gardens, the maze, crossing the bridge over the pond and checking out the kitchen, we went to a nearby shop for some ice cold refreshment.  While we were outside the shop, an interpreter walked by and noticed the costumes, so he spent some extra time with them and taught them their "courtesies".  This is where we get the word, "curtsy" today.  When you notice the gentlemen extending their legs in their "courtesy", it is to show off their great calve muscles, proving that they ride horses and are therefore men of wealth!  If they are single, they especially do this to show off to the girl they want to marry and prove they have wealth.  Wherever the children went, other costumed interpreters would do their "courtesies" and give them a little more attention, and my children knew exactly what to do next!

Learning Courtesies

Then the interpreter invited them to play colonial games.

Playing 18th Century Games

After that we went to see the basketmaker.  Ds was carefully examining the work.  I know he was comparing it to our basket weaving efforts last spring!


While waiting to go into the George Wythe house, the costumed "gatekeeper" was pulling apart seed pods from the Catalpa Trees from the Palace Green. We asked lots of questions about that.  He was looking for worms to use to go fishing that night.  I thought he was doing this as a 21st century person, because the "gate and doorkeepers" talk about any time frame.  But when our group was called for the tour, he heartily complimented our questioning and getting involved...oh, we were talking to an 18th century person.  It's a little hard sometimes in Colonial Williamsburg to know when one of the interpretors are in the 18th century and when they are in the 21st century.   =)

At the George Wythe house, where Thomas Jefferson learned how to be a lawyer, the children got to practice their penmanship with quills and ink. This left an impression on ds so that he bought his own set at the print shop later with the money my parents had given him to spend at CW.  He got the clay inkwell, parchment paper, quill, stamp with his initial, ink and perhaps more.

Quill and Ink

Here is dd...

Quill and Ink

Mark Catesby Prints
After touring the Wythe house, we toured the Geddy House.  He was a silversmith and we learned a little about the different objects he'd made.  It was like a guessing game figuring some of the pieces out.  Then we looked at the foundry. There was an area for children to do watercolor paintings, using pictures of fruits and flowers that were commonly hung on the walls in that era.  DS worked long and hard on his and mixed the paints to get the right shading. The teenage costumed interpreters were impressed with his watercolor. 

Day was coming to an end.  Some ladies who were costumed doorkeepers at some of the shops were enthralled with the kids' costumes.  They said we had to visit the milliner, who liked to rave over costumed children. The milliner  is dd's favorite. We went in but the milliner was not there, however the tailor was. By listening to all the visitors asking questions, I learned a lot about fabrics of the times.  The tailor pulled out samples that would be used for a gentleman, and those that would be for a lady. Interestingly, the tailor was dressed differently from everyone else in town.  He wore a turban and a robe and slippers.  When dh asked him about that, he said it was of Eastern influence.  Many things in town were, had we noticed?  Yes, we had seen Eastern fences, bridges, paintings, plates, furniture.  The Dutch were importing with the Far East back then and would trade that with England and then the colonies.  Homes of influence would buy these items and display them.  Although Colonial Williamsburg definitely has a strong colonial style, there was that little touch of Eastern influence which was subtly used.  Part of the influence was the dress.  The robe was a kimono, worn loosely.  Then there was the turban.  The gentlemen would  often relax like this in the evening.  There was a famous painter from Boston during this time who had painted many influential people of American dressed like this.  Had we ever heard of John Singleton Copely?  While that name rang a rusty bell in my head, ds spoke up.  Yes, he knew that name. He painted the famous portrait of Paul Revere holding the silver urn.  The tailor was impressed! (Yea TOG! That was in the Esther Forbes book we read on Paul Revere last spring!) The tailor got his Copley art book out to show the pictures of people wearing the robe and turban. Then ds asked if he could look through the book and he found the Paul Revere portrait. The tailor was of Tory leanings, so he said even though his politics didn't agree with my ds (a patriot), at least they had a common bond in knowing the works of Copley!  =) Well, the shop had closed, the tailor was kind to give us extra time, but we had to drag ds out of there.  =)

We walked to Christiana Campbell's Tavern for dinner.  That was fun.  Once again the children got extra attention due to their costumes.  The colonial musicians came to our table.  And the costumed interpreters came to our table too.  They asked if ds was going into a trade or higher education.  Oh, higher education, definitely.  How old was our dd?  Fifteen.  Oh, she was of marrying age!  DD giggled about that!  George Washington has written about the wonderful seafood he had in this tavern, and we quite agree!  We wanted fresh seafood, being on the Atlantic Coast.  I'm not a big fan of friend seafood, but that was the plate that looked most interesting for dd and I to share.  It had a mix of shrimp, scallops and cod.  The waitress asked if we'd like all that and I confessed we weren't fans of fish.  So instead of the cod they gave us more of the good stuff...the shrimp and scallops!  They were delicious!  Much better than any I've had anywhere else, even fried! They were very light and plump and fresh.  After our meal the children got sourvenir pins and I got a pamphlet of their recipes.  DH got the bill!  LOL  

Christiana Campbell's Tavern

After dinner we leisurely walked back down the back roads of CW.  This area is more pastoral.  Lots of fenced in areas with different animals.  This time we saw the gorgeous horses used to pull the coaches.  I would love to live in one of these homes back here.  My favorite is a large house on a hill behind the gaol.  Another favorite is one that has a rippling creek running through the backyard.  It is so quiet and peaceful back there.  We just took our time enjoying the sites and taking pictures (I'm saving all the garden and architecture and pastoral pictures for a slide show later.)  It is fun to catch a glimpse of a costumed interpreter walk down the streets, seeing the colorful birds hop around, hearing the rippling brook.   Sigh.  I wish I was still there.

Horse at Dusk


  1. Kelly @ Wisdom BegunAugust 20, 2008 at 9:26 AM

    What a really neat post! It is my hope that one day we'll get to visit Colonial Williamsburg. For now, I'll just live through you. :-)

    From Kelly @ TOGLT

  2. I'm probably going to have to call you for more details on some things but this sure is fun -- living through your vacation and making plans for ours.

  3. I can't wait to go there someday! We will study American History next year and the year after, so maybe during that time...?

  4. Such a nice post about CW! I live in the area and it is always nice to read about people's visits!

    (Oh and anyone planning on visiting, can rent costumes for kids at the Visitor's Center... they have special events just for kids who wear the costumes (like planting seeds with the gardeners, etc,))

  5. I wish I were still there too! What a great post, and great pics. I love that your family got so much out of this trip, seeing and experiencing so much of the political history of that time as well as the craftsmen and shops and architecture, etc. Our dc were a little young to appreciate "Revolutionary City" when we were there, but hopefully when we go again someday they will glean even more from it!