Category Archives: Williamsburg

James Monroe 4.28.13 Thought of the Day

“The best form of government is that which is most likely to prevent the greatest sum of evil.”–James Monroe

James Madison, Hamilton's major collaborator, ...

James Madison, Hamilton’s major collaborator, later President of the United States and “Father of the Constitution” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

James Monroe was born on this day in Westmoreland County, Virginia, USA in 1758. Today is the 258th anniversary of his birth.
Monroe’s was born to Spence and Elizabeth Monroe a moderately well to do couple of Scottish, Welsh and French Huguenot descent. His father was a planter and carpenter. Elizabeth tutored her children at home, and James didn’t start school until he was 11, when he went to “Campbelltown Academy between 1769 and 1774,” [Biography.com]

In 1774 his father died and Monroe inherited the family’s plantation and slaves.  His mother passed soon after. James and his brothers  be came ward of uncle.  the same  year he entered the College of William and Mary. William and Mary is in Williamsburg, Virginia, which was then the capital of the colony of the State. It was quiet an interesting time to be studying in the city. The Royal Governor  and his family had fled the city, the arsenal and Governor’s Palace had been looted and ‘revolution’ was in the air. Monroe was part of a group of men who raided the Governor’s Palace and liberated its cash of weapons. They used the weapons to form the Williamsburg Militia.

In Winter of 1776 he left school and volunteered with the Continental Army.  He was shot in the shoulder at the Battle of Trenton, New Jersey.  And he fought with distinction throughout the war.

He met Thomas Jefferson during the war, and Monroe studied law under the Virginia statesman when the Revolution drew to a close. After passing the bar he was quickly elected to the Virginia Assembly  (probably through Jefferson’s influence.)

Elected to the Continental Congress in 1783, Monroe worked for expanding the power of Congress, organizing government for the western country, and protecting American navigation on the Mississippi River. [Mille Center.org]

He was initially opposed to the ratification of the Constitution and fought to have senators and the President directly elected. He also fought for the inclusion of a Bill of Rights.

As a youthful politician, he joined the anti-Federalists in the Virginia Convention which ratified the Constitution, and in 1790, an advocate of Jeffersonian policies, was elected United States Senator. [Whitehouse.gov]

He lost the 1790 race for the US House of Representatives to James Madison, but “was quickly elected by the Virginia legislature as a United States senator.” [Biography.com] Jefferson, Madision and Monroe joined forces to oppose Federalist policies of Vice President John Adams and Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton.

James Monroe, fifth President of the United States

James Monroe, fifth President of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Monroe served as Minister to France from 1794-1796 and he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase.

In 1816 he ran for  president with the blessing of his friend and  outgoing POTUS Madison. He won, becoming the 5th president of the United States. (4 of the first 5 US presidents were from Virginia, Monroe is the last of the “Virginia Dynasty”.)

His term started with a honeymoon dubbed the “Era of Good Feelings.” However, Economic depression and slavery disputes meant that the honeymoon didn’t last long.

The Monroe Doctorine is his legacy in foreign affairs. Foreign powers  must leave the American continents alone and “henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European Power.”[Whitehouse.gov]

During his presidence five states were admitted to the Union: Mississippi (1817), Illinois (1818), Alabama (1819), Main (1820), and Missouri (1821).

Monroe died on the Fourth of July, 1831.

James Monroe County (New York)

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Williamsburg (part 3)

Textile 3

[This is part three of my What To Do in Williamsburg Blog for part one go HERE. For part two go HERE. ]

Previous tips included:

  1. Planning your trip in the Fall or Winter to avoid the heat and crowds.
  2. Staying in a Colonial House.
  3. Engaging with the locals.
  4. Visit the Wren Building
  5. Take the Rubbish, Treasures and Colonial Life Tour & the Behind the Scenes Tour
  6. Visit the De Witt Wallace and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museums

Today we’ll go inside some of Williamsburg’s beautiful houses and get a little spooky after dark.

7. Tour the Governor’s Palace. It is the largest and finest residence in Williamsburg and it is meant to awe, inspire and intimidate all who see it. The moment you walk into the entrance hall lined with fire arms and crossed swords you know the power behind the man who lives here. It was home to seven colonial governors and two elected Virginia governors before Thomas Jefferson moved the Capital further west to Richmond in 1780.

Front gate leading to the Palace.

Front gate leading to the Palace.

Tours, which require a separate ticket, will bring you through the public and private portions of the house.

One of the beds in the Palace.

One of the beds in the Palace.

After your tour explore the vast gardens. Don’t miss the box wood maze. And be sure to climb the pyramid over the ice house. I found the gardens more enchanting than the building itself.

View of the box wood maze taken from the top of the pyramid. This was from our 2010 trip, and it had just snowed.

View of the box wood maze taken from the top of the pyramid. This was from our 2010 trip, and it had just snowed.

There were dozens of hidden treasures.

Window through the garden wall looking out to the canal.

Window through the garden wall looking out to the canal.

Even if you don’t take a formal Palace tour be sure to stop in to see the cellars and the kitchen. It will give you a fascinating glimpse on how they kept this huge home running. The cook, a man, was one of the highest paid and best regarded people in Williamsurg btw.

They made one big meal for the day. What kept was "left over" for breakfast.

They made one big meal for the day. What kept was “left over” for breakfast.

8. Tour the Thomas Everard House. On a prime piece of real estate on the Palace Green is the Thomas Everard House. Everard was an orphan when he arrived in Virginia as an apprentice to Matthew Kemp. Everard trained for seven years as a clerk. Soon after his apprenticeship was finished he was appointed clerk of Elizabeth City County court. Eventually he became the clerk of York county court for 36 years,  Mayor of Williamsburg and held other prestigious post in the city. He purchased the house on the corner of Palace Green and expanded it.

The front of the Everard House faces the Palace Green.

The front of the Everard House faces the Palace Green.

His wife died fairly young but his two daughters, Fanny and Patsy lived with him as they grew up.

One of the girl's bedroom.

One of the girl’s bedroom.

Fanny married Rev. James Horrocks in 1765. He was the rector of Bruton Parish Church and president of Williams and Mary. He was a powerful man in the colony. When Rev. Horrocks died she returned to her father’s house. Sadly she died a year later. Her sister, Patsy lived, there until 1774 when she married.

Parlor

The house is in a “U” configuration. On the main floor the parlor and dining room face the front. The Parlor is a public room in the house. This multi use room can be set up for music, games or dancing.

Thomas’ bedroom was accessible through the drawling room.

Everett's bedroom

He  had a quieter prospect  of the yard and garden out his window. A back door allowed for special friends to enter his cozy retreat.

Like the Parlor, the Dinning Room also faces the Palace Green. Dining

The door in the back of the dining room led to Thomas’ study. This room was also accessible through a rear door.

Evert's study

The Thomas Everard House is open 9-4 Tue, Wed & Friday.

9. Visit Bassett Hall. Williamsburg would not have been possible without the vision of one man and the generosity of another. The first man was Rev. W.A.R. Goodwin, The second was John D. Rockefeller, Jr.. Goodwin convinced Rockefeller to help him rebuild the Revolutionary City to its Colonial glory. Rockefeller and his wife Abby Aldrich Rockefeller.

Bassett Hall front

It was their retreat from the outside world. The Rockefellers visited there twice each year. The house and grounds have been restored not to the colonial era, but to the 1930s when the Rockefellers lived there.

Abby filled the rooms with her folk art finds.

The drawing room at Bassett Hall.

Folk art graces the walls at Bassett Hall.

One of her special interest was “School Girl Art.”  A sub set of her Folk Art collection the School Girl Art was literally done by girls who were away at school, usually finishing school in the 19 and 18th centuries.

A sample of School Girl Mourning Art memoralizing some one close to them who has died.

A sample of School Girl Mourning Art. The artist was encouraged to memorialize some one close to them who had died.

The family entertained  the locals — rich and poor– at their dinner table.

Dining rm

Dining Room decorated to Christmas

During the summer guest were often invited to tea in the Tea Room which was in a building overlooking the garden.

Looking back at the house from the garden.

Looking back at the house from the garden.

Bassett Hall is open Wed-Sun 9-5. Don’t miss the informative movie at the beginning of the tour. You’ll learn a lot about the Rockefellers and the re-making of Williamsburg.

10. Get spooky with it. When you visit a 300 + year old city you expect a lot of history, and probably a few ghosts. So join in the fun and take a Ghost tour. We did the Tavern Ghost tour and it was fun (if not very scary.)  Better still participate in the Cry Witch Program at the Capitol.

Capital for cry witch

The Capitol Building at night before the Cry Witch program.

You’ll witness the trial of Grace Sherwood with first person interpreters bringing the transcript and court room drama to life. We don’t know what the actual verdict was, those documents have been lost. So the audience in the courtroom gets to weigh the evidence and decide Grace’s fate.

Tomorrow we finish up with Williamsburg and move up the road to Richmond.


Williamsburg (part 2)

Textile 3

[This is part two of my What To Do in Williamsburg Blog for part one go HERE.]

Yesterday’s tips included:

  1. Planning your trip in the Fall or Winter to avoid the heat and crowds.
  2. Staying in a Colonial House.
  3. 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.

English: The front of the Wren Building at the...

English: The front of the Wren Building at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Wren Building from the William and Mary Campus side. (Photo credit: Bill.)

Wren Building from the William and Mary Campus side. (Photo credit: Bill.)

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.

Glass fragments are sorted by type in drawer in the Archeology labs in Williamsburg.

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…

Film Studio at Williamsburg's  Bruton School facility.

…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

Over sized quilt being restored at the Textile Lab
Detail from an over sized quilt being restored at the Textile Lab.

Detail of quilt

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 mapmaking. Drawn when the French moved into the city after during the Siege of Yorktown, It is the Rosettastone for Archeologist trying to restore Williamsburg.

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.<br /><br />A young visitor finds both human and equine re-enactors equally fascinating andfriendly on Duke of Gloucester street.

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.

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