On Saturday morning, Tamara, Max and I said farewell to the Greenbrier and
headed to a more special place for me, Williamsburg, Virginia, a venue to which
my visits have been fairly numerous. My first visit was with my family at age 15,
in the summer of 1965. As a rising high school junior with an interest in history, I
was immediately in love with the nature of the Historic Area’s living history
museum. I did not get to return until the bicentennial year, 1976. What inspired my
return was watching an episode of NOVA on PBS, wherein the restoration of
Winterburn’s a colonial era tavern was featured. I was so intrigued that I made it a
long weekend trip. Let me assure you, that August adventure in a car that lacked
air-conditioning was not pleasant travel-wise. While I relished memories of that
trip, my subsequent vacations usually involved visiting my parents, and my
brother’s family, in Florida. I don’t think that I returned to Williamsburg for over
thirty years. When my middle son chose to start law school at William & Mary it
led to at least ten trips to the city in the next few years. I returned in 2013 for “The
Grand Illumination.” an annual pre-Christmas extravaganza. This was my second
visit with Tamara, the first occurring in about 2019.
How hard could it be to make this journey? Get on I-64 East outside of the
Greenbrier, get off of I-64 East in Williamsburg 200 some miles later. Having to
stop for lunch, gas, bathroom breaks, etc., made it a four-and-a-half-hour journey.
On prior trips, I noticed that navigating from a room at a remote location such as
the Kingsmill resort, could be stressful in terms of finding parking, shuttlebuses to
and from the visitor’s center, and access to air conditioning at mid-day. My
solution on this juncture was to book a pet-friendly room at The Williamsburg Inn,
a property owned by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the driveway of
which ends at the edge of the restored area. As I drove up to the 88-room edifice I
was welcomed by smiling staff, who efficiently and cheerfully unloaded my car.
At registration, Max was welcomed to the hotel and I was told that he could
accompany us anywhere on the property except for Restaurants and Kitchens.
When we saw our room, it was one of the first-class rooms. For example, even
though we wouldn’t need it in June our room was one of eighteen with a wood
burning fireplace. It was huge, as was its bath, which incidentally, was fully
Our first evening was spent walking around and having dinner at The Kings Arms
Tavern, a re-creation of a colonial tavern. The hosts, servers and entertainers were
in colonial garb and, as well, fully in character. The meal of prime rib was
perfectly done, preceded by a colonial drink and syllabub for desert. After a travel
day we were all asleep early.
At Sunday’s breakfast, in the Inn we were served by a middle-aged male with a
great personality. As we were pondering the menu, Tamara asked “would it be
possible….” Remembering the Greenbrier, she was responded to with a large grin
and the statement: “this is the Williamsburg Inn, anything is possible.” The
Greenbrier has passed, long live the Williamsburg Inn.
Williamsburg sits in what is known as the “Historic Triangle.” About 8 miles to its
East is the village and battlefield of Yorktown, where in 1781, Lord Cornwallis’
surrender of his forces to Washington and his French allies effectively ended
Britain’s efforts to stop the rebellion. About 8 miles to its west is Jamestown the
site of the first successful English colony in the new world. I can not say enough
about the quality of the museums and archeology that has gone into preserving
these sites. We spent Sunday in the Restored area of Williamsburg, where one day
does not do it justice. It was the capital of Virginia from 1699 to 1782, when
government functions were moved about 40 miles west to Richmond. Thereafter
the town languished, except for the College of William & Mary. In the early 20 th
century Mrs. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (wife of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and
grandmother of our former governor and senator, Jay) was a commencement
speaker at the College and she became entranced not only with the College assets,
but the housing and commercial buildings which had survived from the 1700’s. As
a result, she and her family spearheaded a fund-raising effort to turn the town into
a living history museum.
Before going further, I would remind the reader that I have spent a good bit of time
researching and writing about the period of 1755-1763, which we Americans refer
to as “The French and Indian War,” as much of that conflict was fought within 100
miles of our homes. If we think about places such as Fort Ligonier and Fort
Steuben they have been recreated as they were in the 1760’s. Colonial
Williamsburg and Yorktown exist much as they did in the 1760’s. Yes, there are
some recreations, such as the Capitol Building, and Governor’s Palace which were
lost to fires, but they are so well researched and crafted that if George Washington
or Patrick Henry strolled down Duke of Gloucester Street, I like to think that they
would feel at home. I always have. For example, I have had the opportunity to
attend Anglican Sunday services at the Bruton Parish Church which was
constructed in 1711, and been in continuous service since that time. But on a more
basic level, one can learn how paper or candles or jewelry was made 250 years
ago, by watching craftsmen use the old methods of production. One can go into
houses of Colonial leaders and see how they lived, or shops of artisans. One can
also speak with and learn from docents portraying slaves to learn more of their
lives. Even today one can visit the site of the Bray school, the first place in the
Colonies to educate slave children and freedmen. The Restored Area is truly a 300-
acre time capsule, that embodies pre-revolutionary war tidewater life.
We finished the day with cocktails on the Inn’s patio terrace. The bartender and the
other guests were extremely friendly. Additionally, the bartender made a
wonderful suggestion about our upcoming dinner in the Terrace Room: Pork
Tenderloin with Cherry Sauce. A great dinner.
The next morning, we visited the Yorktown battlefield and museum. To my way of
thinking it is extremely well done. Although it is martial in spirit, it manages to
bring home the human side of the conflict as well. In one way, as I looked out over
the 1781 battlefield, I could take a deep breath and think: “So this is how it all
began.” In a way it did. There was no way that the Colonists should have defeated
the mighty British army. Yet it did, right on these grounds. However, it would
never have been possible without the extensive help received from the French
through loans, Naval support, and armed infantry. No wonder the musicians of the
British Army played the song: The World Turned Upside Down,” as they stacked
By other measures it all began 174 years earlier in 1607, with the founding of
Jamestown. After much travail, starvation and perhaps even a resort to
cannibalizing the dead the small English colony there managed to survive. Visiting
it today one can see the foundations of the original dwellings, as well as the
discovery of the original fort.
But the area has so much more. I also had the time on this visit to spend time at the
two art museums located adjacent to the Restored Area. One specializes in colonial
furnishings and housing the other in folk art. It would take at least a whole day to
do justice to them both.
Lest I forget, the College of William & Mary, is worth a visit. It is the second
oldest college in the U.S. founded in 1693, making it younger than only Harvard.
One of its features is Wren Hall, named for famed English Architect Sir
Christopher Wren. Dating to 1695, it is the oldest Collegiate Building still in use in
the country, regardless of its need to be restored on three occasions as a result of
18 th and 19 th century fires. The campus is home to about 7,000 undergrads and
about 2,000 undergrads. It is prestigious, generally ranking in the top ten of public
universities and top 50 of all U.S. universities. The nations first law school was
founded there, and the university educated three future presidents, numerous
Supreme Court Justices including John Marshall, and other public servants. Who
were William & Mary? The King and Queen brought to the throne in 1688 by the
Glorious Revolution, removing King James II, and finally establishing the future of
England as a Protestant country.
We concluded our visit with a country French dinner at the Blue Talon Bistro. The
next morning armed with coffee and pastries from Aromas Coffee shop we had for
Yes, Max was a wedding crasher. Tamara told the story last week. She was
bringing him to our room and had to pass a wedding party lined up in the hallway.
The Mother of the Bride went into hysterics as if she had never seen a dog before.
As the MOB screamed “A dog, a dog, what is a dog doing in here.” Max panicked
and went into “I am hiding” mode, by ducking between attendants and sitting
down on the Bride’s 10-foot train. He then proceeded to look around as if trying to
ascertain the source of the excitement. Fortunately, he was on leash and Tamara
was able to entice him back to the room which was just a few feet away. No
damage was done to the dress. Maybe a little damage was done to the dignity of