Yesterday’s tips included:
- Planning your trip in the Fall or Winter to avoid the heat and crowds.
- Staying in a Colonial House.
- Engaging with the locals.
Today we’ll focus on some [FREE] tours.
4. Visit the Wren Building.
The first State House of Virginia was in Jamestown. But it burned down. Then it burned again. And again. And a fourth time. The governor and the citizens of Jamestown thought they’d better look for a better location for their capital. They chose Williamsburg (then known as the Middle Plantation) because the town already had a market, a church — Burton Parish, and a school — William and Mary. The architectural gem of William and Mary is the Wren Building. It sits at the opposite end of Duke of Gloucester Street from the Capitol and it is definitely worth a visit.
The building began construction in 1695 and was completed in 1699. It is the oldest restored building in Williamsburg. It has suffered three major fires (in 1705, 1859 and 1862) and been rebuilt each time. Between 1928 and 1931 it was restored to its Colonial appearance. Every student at William and Mary has at least one class in the historic Wren Building during their time at the college. The college counts three US presidents among its alumni; Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and John Tyler. Their portraits hang in the Great Hall.
Free tours of the building are available M-F 1-5 when school is in session. Hint: As you climb the steps to the front door look for a patch of darker red brick to your left. You’ll see the initials of some of the school’s earliest residents carved in the bricks.
5.) Take the Rubbish, Treasures and Colonial Life Tour. Rev. W.A.R. Goodwin, the pastor at Bruton Church convinced John D. Rockefeller Jr. to join him in a dream of restoring the sleepy little 1920’s country seat back to the glorious colonial capital it had once been. That took a lot of money, a lot of research and a lot of digging. There is no better way to learn about how that transformation took place than on the 90 minute Rubbish, Treasures and Colonial Life tour. Meet members of the staff, learn about how archaeological methods have changed over the years, and see the treasures that await their turn to be cataloged. Tickets are FREE with your Williamsburg Admission Pass, but you must make a reservation prior to the tour.
6.) Another great free tour is the Behind the Scenes tour. This tour takes place at the Bruton Heights School and focuses on preservation techniques (as opposed how the objects are found, put together and cataloged.) You’ll see the studio where educational videos, Emmy Award winning broadcasts and blogs are made…
…then go to one of the restoration labs to see work being done on an 18th century item. We visited the Textile Lab where they were restoring some quilts for an upcoming show at the De Witt Wallace Museum.
- Over sized quilt being restored at the Textile Lab
6.) Go to the De Witt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum. With a substantial permanent exhibit and wonderful traveling exhibits we have never been disappointed by a stop at the twin museums that are accessible through the recreated Public Hospital on Frances Street.
- The Frenchman’s Map was on display as part of a temporary exhibit on maps and map making. Drawn when the French moved into the city after during the Siege of Yorktown, It is the Rosetta stone for Archeologist trying to restore Williamsburg. The Bodleian Plate, another key to what the Colonial Capital looked like, is also on display.
This is a terrific way to spend a rainy (or cold) afternoon. And if you are traveling with youngsters the Children’s room in the Abby Aldrich Museum is delightful.
- Looking up to the past.
A young visitor finds both human and equine re-enactors equally fascinating and friendly on Duke of Gloucester street.
- To read my article on Williamsburg: A Winter Escape in 2011’s Mason-Dixon ARRIVE Magazine click HERE and scroll down == it is the third article on the page.
- Williamsburg (ritalovestowrite.com)
- A Walk through Virginia’s Historic Triangle – Williamsburg, VA (travelpod.com)