Two weekends ago, my husband and I took a little weekend trip up to Williamsburg, Virginia, where we met my in-laws and toured the Happiest Place on Earth, at least for a history nerd like me: Colonial Williamsburg!
Williamsburg was once the capital of the colony of Virginia, and an important, bustling city in the Tidewater area. When the capital was moved to Richmond toward the end of the Revolutionary War, Williamsburg settled in to being a quiet college town and, as is typical of American towns, in danger of having most of its 18th century buildings razed to make way for progress. However, in the 1920’s, a local pastor, along with John D. Rockefeller (who, as you might guess by his last name, provided the money) began what’s referred to as the “Restoration”. They began buying up and restoring as many historic buildings as they could get their hands on.
This restoration continued throughout the 20th century, and now there are around 88 (seriously!) original, restored buildings in the Historic Area. It’s like being immersed in the past, in a way that I haven’t experienced anywhere else. If you are at all interested in American history, really, just go there.You will love it.
This was my second trip, and I saw completely different things than my first trip. (You can read about my first trip here and here.) I would recommend at least getting a two-day pass on your first visit, because you will easily find enough to fill two full days. My husband and I may have purchased annual passes. Whoops! We intended to just get the weekend pass, but it was only $20 more for the 2 annual passes, and we only live 3 hours away! So, it made total sense, you see? No regrets. hehe
Looking back at the photos from my first trip, I took a lot of the buildings and streets. However, this time I definitely focused on the details!
There are lots of animals around, which also adds to the colonial atmosphere. You could tell we are city folk by the way we stood around entranced by chickens.
Leicester longwool sheep are also raised there, but I didn’t happen to see any on this trip. There’s a weaving shop, which obviously is a big highlight for anyone interested in fiber! An interpreter in the shop spins and explains the process of shearing sheep, carding, spinning, and weaving as it was done then. There wasn’t any mention of handknitting during the particular demonstration that I saw, and the non-knitters with me were growing restless, so I satisfied myself with a quick look around and a couple photos of a swift and hand-dyed yarn.
There are a few shops in the Historic Area that sell hand-made items created by the interpreters themselves, who are also trained in the trades that they teach visitors about. For instance, you can buy silver items crafted by the silversmith, pottery created by the potters, and even rifles made by the gunsmith (if you’re willing to sign up on the seven-year-long wait list). The shops sell yarn that’s been spun and dyed in Williamsburg, with wool from the sheep that live in Williamsburg. How awesome, huh? If I remember correctly, it runs about $30-ish dollars a skein.I plan on picking some up on a future trip when I’m a little more flush with cash!
I am always so sad to leave Williamsburg! Although of course it’s an artificially constructed “past” and I wouldn’t truly want to live in the 18th century, the spare simplicity of the homes and shops just draws me in. The textures of the buildings, the colors of the clothing and decorations, and the well-used, well-made objects just seem more real somehow than all the plastic and extra stuff we’re surrounded by now. It makes me want to throw everything away and start over, aquiring only useful and lovely things in a more careful and thoughtful way.
Hmm. Now that I’m feeling all pensive, I think I’ll go enjoy the fall weather (finally!) and knit. : )