December 5, 2011

Williamsburg Revisited

During my years in Virginia, Colonial Williamsburg was somewhat of a sanctuary for me.  I loved to wander the streets, linger in the gardens and soak up the atmosphere.  I especially loved to visit during December when Williamsburg celebrates Christmas.  Today I took Tim to visit another one of my favorite places.

Many preservationists dislike Williamsburg.  Some take issue with the notion of returning a town to a point in time, thus requiring the demolition of many buildings that do not fit into that time period.  Others feel Colonial Williamsburg is much too contrived and sugarcoats history.  I’ve never fallen into either camp.  I appreciate what has been accomplished here through exhaustive research and study.

Tim and I were able to take public transportation from our campground into Williamsburg, and we started our visit at the visitor center.  We watched the film Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot, which has run continuously since 1957.  I guess some things never go out of style.

We spent a leisurely day in Colonial Williamsburg, touring the Governor’s Palace and Courthouse and eating lunch at Chowning’s Tavern.  The Brunswick stew was delicious.  We wandered the streets and admired the architecture
Governor's Palace

Governor's Palace, Garden Facade

Wythe House


Bruton Parish Church
One of my favorite parts of a December visit is the opportunity to view the Christmas decorations on the exteriors of most of the buildings in the historic area.  Many visitors come solely to view these decorations.  All decorations are comprised of natural materials that would have been found in Williamsburg in the eighteenth century.  Assorted greenery is common, as are fruits, nuts and dried flowers.  Many of the wreaths can be rather imaginative.  Some contain shells, dried okra, feathers and even cookies.  Some appear to be very traditional, while others take on a more contemporary look.  It’s always fun to see old favorites as well as innovative ideas.

Colonial Williamsburg has a wonderful decorative arts museum, the DeWitt Wallace Museum, which displays many of the masterpieces from the collection.  We went there for an in-depth tour of the historic maps with a retired Catholic priest as our guide.  He was quite the character, but gave us an interesting perspective on the development of maps from the seventeenth to the eighteenth century.

Public Hospital of 1773,
Entrance to the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts and Folk Art Museums
Christmas trees are nowhere to be found in the historic area since they had not been introduced in the eighteenth century.  It was therefore fun to see the Folk Art Museum Christmas tree.  It is filled with wonderful handmade ornaments inspired by objects in the folk art museum.

Folk Art Museum Christmas Tree
Of course we ended the day with food.  We stopped by the Smithfield Ham shop and took home ham biscuits.  For those of you who have not tasted this delicacy, ham biscuits are simply baking powder biscuits filled with thinly sliced country ham.  Country ham is salt-cured and often rather salty.  It’s another favorite of mine.  I’m happy now.

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