Friday, May 25, 2018

Day Two in Colonial Williamsburg

We spent most of our time around the Palace Green on our first day in Colonial Williamsburg, so on Day Two we focused on the other end of the Duke of Gloucester Street -- the Capitol and its surrounds. 
We arrived so early the shuttle buses weren't running yet, so we walked over. Lovely split rail fences.
Adam found an oak gall, from which he can make ink! So he swiped it off the tree. (We are naughty.)
We did enjoy the trees so much.
Adam kept calling this The Party Tree, as in Bilbo's birthday party.

Catalpa trees, I think

It was so early the shops weren't open, and the trucks and tractors were removing horse poop and doing other tidying before the guests arrived.
Our first stop was the Bake Shop. When he was a boy, Adam ate a ginger cake baked here.
They stopped making ginger cakes in 1985. Many complained about the lack of ginger cakes. A recipe was posted online. Finally in 2015 the Bake Shop succumbed to pressure and resumed baking the cakes. Adam relived yet another piece of his childhood while smelling and tasting a ginger cake.

While he waited for his cake, I sat in the assembly room at the Raleigh Tavern, listening to some very beautiful music performed by the Governor's Musick, the official group of Colonial Williamsburg.
As afternoon approached, I wanted to see the museums, which are included in our annual pass. When we arrived, they'd had a fire alarm, so we could not go in. Then began a time of shuttle riding around the town, but finally we found ourselves at the Capitol for a presentation called "Resolve" - a living history presentation about the 5th Virginia Convention, which led to and contributed to later meetings in Philadelphia that produced our independence. We were not allowed to take photos inside the Capitol.

We visited the Presbyterian Meeting House, and Adam took his turn in the pulpit.
The meeting houses were not called churches because there was only one church in Virginia, the state-approved church, the Anglican (Church of England, Episcopal) Church. Everyone else was a dissenter, and had to register as such. Dissenters had meeting houses, and their doors could not be shut during meetings.

We strolled the streets and visited the printer's shop.

Impressive topiary gate!

Inside the apothecary's shop

 The printer was a testy, opinionated fellow. He went to great pains to stress the difference between freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which he says we tend to confuse these days. Freedom of the press applies to anything printed on paper, and has nothing to do with the news media. Freedom of speech applies to anything spoken, which does apply to the news media. Interesting definitions!
We did return to the museums. I particularly wanted to see the exhibit of 18th Century keyboard instruments. Most had a recording allowing me to hear what the instrument sounds like.

I revisited the weaver's shop because I could not resist.
a talented weaver on the complicated loom with the old London pattern.
She said the day before the actual Duke of Gloucester had come in the shop, visiting from England,
and she showed us the spot where she made a mistake in her weaving, in her flummoxed
excitement to meet the 21st Century duke!
 I had to examine these lovely cloaks that they're assigned with their outfits. I love the red one. Adam wants a green one with a yellow hood liner, so he can feel like he's in a Tolkien story.
And at the last we did the Palace Exploration, when guests can explore the Governor's Palace without a guided tour.

William and Mary are in the portraits. This is the ballroom.
It was a wonderful trip. Williamsburg has changed in some ways, and not in others. Adam and remember artisans working in the 1970's, but now they have true trained actors as well, presenting the history knowledgeably and realistically.

For instance, I cried quietly as we listened to the Barber of York give his presentation in his barber shop. John Hope was a real African American freed slave in Williamsburg. He told of his troubles in trying to purchase his own 6 year old son out of slavery. The longer he waits (while trying to get the money), the more valuable his son becomes, and thus more expensive to buy. Hope himself bought slaves, trying to improve his own financial position, so he could buy his son's freedom, but struggled with participating in the very horrific institution that he loathed. My heart ached for his sorrows, knowing when he frees his son he will take the boy from his mother. 

The new focus in Colonial Williamsburg on the lives of 98% of its population is refreshing -- this includes slaves, indentured servants, freed slaves, women, and poor whites -- anyone who was not a wealthy, landowning, white male. And while the lives and efforts of this handful of men are very important to our history (they held the power that allowed them to make the crucial political changes that shaped our nation), the silence around the others has been accepted for too long. Colonial Williamsburg is now trying to dig into those other lives also, reminding us all that democracy continues to grow and improve in our own time. It's a courageous move, in my opinion. As I walked those ancient streets, I saw who the primary customer base is, for this living history museum: wealthy white people. There were school groups including black and Hispanic children and teachers, and some African American guests. But the vast majority of visitors were white, and wealthy enough to afford tickets. We must assess our own history honestly. It's sad and uncomfortable to hear the obvious truth about Colonial Williamsburg: that the Palace Green was lined with rich homes full of 3 or 4 whites, and 20 slaves living in the attics. I sometimes think it's a miracle that new freedoms have been acquired by anyone at all, especially those in slavery. 

It was a sobering visit, and rightly so. Our history is often an ugly one, even in the days when we shouted "Liberty and justice for all!" I think it was usually meant, "Liberty and justice for some!" But thankfully, along the way, some brave people expanded liberty to others, even at great personal cost. I'm thankful they did.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Get-Away to Colonial Williamsburg

Before the wedding is upon us and the guests start to arrive, Adam and I are taking a little trip to Virginia, to visit a place dear to our hearts.
 For Christmas Adam bought us annual passes to Colonial Williamsburg, but we couldn't get up here until now. We couldn't leave the farm untended, but right now we have a kid at home, so we skedaddled! 
Standing outside the Governor's Palace gardens
I'll just post more photos and add captions when needed.
Visitor Center, large and well-organized

Governor's Palace, where the shuttle bus first takes you

a magical avenue behind the Palace

a maze, viewed from a high mound with the old ice house beneath it

The carriages were fun to view even for those who did not ride.

We enjoyed the Palace Green.
Colonial Williamsburg was quiet and uncrowded today.
Adam's hope was to relive some fond childhood memories.

happy campers

The Wythe House. Mr. Wythe was Thomas Jefferson's law teacher.
Jefferson's love of science and nature was derived from this man.

"No Stamp Act" the tea pot says. 

This massive basket! It was in Wythe's laundry house.

Mr. Wythe's vegetable garden was stunning. His plants were huge for this time of year!
 My favorite location was the weaver's shop, as you'd expect. Here are some photos from that shop. I chatted at length with the spinner; she was so helpful and informative about cleaning fleece and how to use combs effectively.

 Their wheels are made by craftsmen at Williamsburg who use the antique wheels in their museum's collection as models.

The weaving room was so impressive! They use wool from their own sheep on site. The loom on the right is warped with very fine thread. The pattern loaded is from a scrap of paper found in a London flat about to be demolished! 

 Here's the cloth pattern from that London flat. The fabric on that loom is the first time that pattern has been recreated for hundreds of years.

 This is their Great Wheel.
 And here are the fabulous combs she uses. Adam eyed them well in case he decides to make me some.They make combing/dizzing the fleece so easy.
 And here's her diz, made from a piece of horn from a craftsman in the town.

 The Bruton Parish Church (Episcopalian) is lovely. We had a nice chat with a member there. I'd love to attend one of their musical services or return at Christmas.
 This podium for reading the Lesson was given by Teddy Roosevelt.
 Adam's daddy was stationed at Fort Lee, Va. years ago. Adam came to Williamsburg with his Boy Scout troop when he was ten years old. They attended church at Bruton Parish, and Adam sat in this pew, #12.
 The taverns are lovely. This is upstairs in the Josiah Chowning.
 Full meals are quite expensive at the taverns, so we decided to drop in mid-afternoon when it was slow, and just have a "flight of ales" and a bowl of chips.

 Even though there were empty tables, they seated us with another couple, an aunt and her nephew, and we enjoyed a lovely chat with them.
The old trees are a delight.

 Before my feet gave out entirely, we ended our first day with a tour of the Everard House, which is celebrating its 300th anniversary. I couldn't resist a photo of Mr. Everard's bed.
We ate dinner at a cheese steak shop and spent the night at an Air B&B for the first time! That's a novel experience, staying in a stranger's home and basically renting a bedroom. But it was fine. We don't sleep well away from home.

Today we return to Williamsburg. We'll see the inside of the Palace, visit the bakery, and spend a good big of time in the museums, strolling along the streets and viewing the craftsmen in between. I might slip into the weaver's shop again.