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TIME TRAVEL IN Williamsburg

We pay tribute today to two great Americans _ the Rev. Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, the rector of a Williamsburg church who, at the beginning of this century, pursued his dream of restoring the city to its 18th century splendor.

And to John D. Rockefeller Jr., who embraced Goodwin's dream in the mid-1920s and financed it at a cost of $68-million.

And so, join us on a tour of the capital of colonial Virginia at a time when trouble was brewing and the colonists' loyalty to England was unraveling.

We go immediately to the county courthouse on Williamsburg's main thoroughfare, Duke of Gloucester Street, where visitors are being called upon by an impassioned Col. William Woodford to bear arms against our British oppressors and join Virginia's 1st Regiment, under the command of Col. Patrick Henry.

Instilled with patriotism, the new enlistees _ dressed in T-shirts, shorts, sandals or tennis shoes _ assemble across the street at Market Square for their first marching drills.

Meanwhile, we pull Col. Woodford aside and ask what precipitated his call to arms.

"There have been a great many incidents, sir," he says. "The list of offenses that have been perpetrated against us is as long as Duke of Gloucester Street."

The issue, in a nutshell, is taxation without representation.

"We've tried a number of times through humble petition to Parliament to address our grievances, and they neglect our petitions," the colonel says. "The time has come to fight.

"We understand there may be some engagement afoot in Pennsylvania. When these lads are fully trained, they will join Col. Washington to the northward."

But first, Jamestown

Lest we get ahead of ourselves, we will go back to the beginning and make the nine-mile drive from Williamsburg to Jamestown. This is the site along the James River where, in 1607, Englishmen first set foot on American soil.

Our group of visitors is met with a wary eye by Capt. Henry Spelman. He assures us immediately that we will not be recited names, dates and places but instead will assume the role of a ship's crew just arrived from England.

We've been ordered off the ship, and Col. Spelman has been dispatched to size us up. The year is 1621.

He disapproves of our scanty garb. He discovers that not one among us can fulfill needs for a blacksmith, cooper or cobbler.

"Truth is, you've got no skills at all, do you?

"You've been fed a lot of promises, haven't you? Told that there would be a Mediterranean climate _ cool in summer and warm in winter . . . that you'd leave England as paupers but arrive in Virginia as lords and ladies.

"What a dim-witted lot this is!"

After his 40-minute dramatic interpretation, Spelman steps out of character before bidding us adieu. His real name is William Balderson, and he is one of five people at the Jamestown site who have researched and created their own characters.

"I'm not an actor; I'm a historian," he says. "Generation X is coming along, and I've got to compete with Beavis and Butt-head and Bart Simpson for their attention. It's tough to teach history.

"Not all of us historians lock ourselves in archival libraries. Sometimes we take the fight into the street. History is about people, and there's no better case study than what happened here in Jamestown."

Now, a visit with Jefferson

Back we move to Williamsburg, where we think it best to obtain free tickets for an orientation walk through the Historic Area. Our guide, Richard Edwards, explains that 88 original buildings were preserved and restored, using the Rockefeller millions. Hundreds more buildings were reconstructed based on research.

For appearance's sake, sand has been spread on Duke of Gloucester Street to give it a more rustic look, but Edwards allows that "we couldn't make the town exactly the way it was then because you probably wouldn't want to come here on vacation." In other words, the town and its streets weren't this clean in the late 18th century.

One of the original Williamsburg buildings is the Peyton Randolph House, home of the speaker of Virginia's House of Burgesses (precursor to Virginia's House of Delegates) and president of the first Continental Congress. There, a young Thomas Jefferson is ushering visitors in for an impromptu question/answer session. A member of the House of Burgesses, Jefferson, portrayed deftly by Bill Barker, is asked about his home life.

"I might be the head of the family," he says, "but as any married man knows, the woman is the neck, and the neck turns the head any way it wants."

A woman asks whether he can recommend a good restaurant in Williamsburg.

"We use the term tavern," he says, "but it would be imprudent of me to recommend one over the other, madam. I am in politics."

Among Williamsburg's noted structures is the Raleigh Tavern, built in 1717 and lost in a fire in 1859. Tour guide Vincent Sansone, outfitted in period dress and looking every bit as if he could have been the tavern's proprietor, says the Raleigh was the first building to be rebuilt and opened as an exhibit by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation _ because of the importance of the events that took place in the tavern.

In Colonial days, he explains, taverns were centers of social activity where one might go to rent a room, to eat or drink, to hold a dance or a music recital, or to conduct a meeting.

In 1774, Virginia's royal governor, Lord Dunmore, dissolved the House of Burgesses because of its protests, so the Burgesses reconvened in Raleigh Tavern's Apollo Room. It was there that Virginia's revolution began, with the Burgesses calling for all the colonies to meet at the first Continental Congress.

"All important decisions were now being made in this room," Sansone says.

The enthusiasm with which Sansone discusses the building makes it clear that he loves history. A 38-year-old Virginia native, he wishes more of his countrymen were smitten.

"I find that most people who come here are not aware of their history," he says. "Some know a little aspect of their history, but not the broader picture . . . People from other countries put us to shame. Our history is only 200 years old, and we don't know what happened."

The Governor's Palace

Two blocks north of Duke of Gloucester Street is the magnificent Governor's Palace, rebuilt on its original foundation with the aid of drawings discovered at Oxford University.

The palace was home to Virginia's seven royal governors and, after Virginia embarked on self-government, to governors Patrick Henry and, briefly, Thomas Jefferson. The capital was moved to Richmond in 1780.

The palace has been furnished as it was during the term of Lord Dunmore, who was Virginia's last royal governor, and one of its most popular.

So good were relations between Dunmore and his constituents that the Burgesses hosted a ball at the palace for Lady Dunmore on the same day that they voted to adopt anti-British measures.

Relations took a turn for the worse in April 1775, however, when Dunmore, in response to growing militancy among Virginians, dispatched British marines under cover of darkness to steal gunpowder from the town's magazine and transport it to a British ship anchored in the York River. Now considered the enemy, Dunmore and his family fled the palace a month later.

A must-see on our Williamsburg tour is the reconstructed Capitol, which sits as a bookend at one end of Duke of Gloucester Street, with the College of William and Mary at the other.

We enter the House of Burgesses, where our guide, Ben Schulz, encourages us to assume the roles of such figures as Patrick Henry and to deliver famous declarations that were uttered in this very room.

Actually, Patrick Henry's "give me liberty or give me death" speech was delivered in Richmond, not Williamsburg, but he is at his agitated best as we revisit the courthouse. Henry, as Col. Woodford did, is recruiting enlistees.

"The time for hesitation is behind us," he shouts to the crowd. "We stand at the doorway of a great and rich destiny. May our creator grant us the courage to step through that doorway."

Again, more enlistees fall in across the street and receive their marching orders.

Having accomplished his task and chatted with passersby, Henry leaves Market Square and marches down the middle of Duke of Gloucester Street. We intercept him just long enough to learn that his real name is Bill Weldon and that he has been working at Colonial Williamsburg for 14 years.

"I love it," Weldon says, ". . . the chance to confront the present with the past. We hope to get the people in the present to examine the world they live in, what their values are and what kind of world they want to have.

"Most of us who work here would like this to be a forum on citizenship. Otherwise it doesn't mean a lot."

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The Fife and Drum Corps performs regularly at Colonial Williamsburg, presenting military music and drills of the 18th century.

Visitors meet the past one-on-one through participatory programs such as a mock news conference with Virginia Gov. Thomas Jefferson, portrayed by historian Bill Barker.

Stage wagons and carriages provided transportation for 18th century Williamsburg visitors and still do today, since most streets are closed to motor vehicles.

The Raleigh Tavern was Williamsburg's most famous tavern in the 18th century. The center of social, political and business activities, patriots met here to voice their opposition to the policies of the British crown.

The shoemaker at Colonial Williamsburg practices one of more than 35 historic trades that are demonstrated for guests throughout the town.

The Governor's Palace, home of seven royal governors and Virginia's first two state governors, is among 28 public buildings, homes and trade shops where Colonial Williamsburg visitors can step back in time to the eve of the American Revolution.

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