Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Williamsburg / Duke of Gloucester

Colonial Williamsburg
Teacher's Institute / Summer 2009
Series Part # 4
Main Drag of Williamsburg
Following the destruction of Jamestown by the torches of Nathanial Bacon, the colony of Virginia decided to scrap plans to rebuild and sought out a new location for the capital.  A short distance inland but far from the mosquito filled swamps of Jamestown was a settlement known as Middle Plantation.  The settlement gained the name from the fact it was located in the middle of the peninsula.  It was the home to the College of William and Mary, which is the second oldest college in America. The House of Burgesses voted Middle Plantation as the new site for Virginia's capital and renamed the settlement Williamsburg after his majesty, King William III.  

Duke of Gloucester Street Map
The center spine of Colonial Williamsburg is the Duke of Gloucester Street running from the College of William and Mary on the west end all the way to the Capitol Building on the east. As in the 18th century, the street continues to be the center of activity. This is where you will find the many popular colonial period taverns, frequented today by tourists and locals alike. The street was the center of commerce in Virginia where craftsmen put their skilled labor on display, shopkeepers offered the latest products from London, and several newspapers including the Virginia Gazette informed the public of local and world events. The quality and price of goods tended to increase as you traveled down the three blocks toward the Capitol Building.

Morning Stroll to Work
The tree-lined street from the college to the capitol building is about a mile long and very broad at 99 feet wide. Over the years the roadway became very uneven through erosion becoming full of ruts and sinkholes. Locals often liked to joke that the Duke of Gloucester Street was 100 feet wide and 2 feet deep following a soaking rain. Today the center of the street is paved flanked by cobblestones to prevent erosion and muddy tourists tracking dirt into the restored buildings.  The Duke of Gloucester Street was once the heart of Virginia, where the most important people of the colony converged to conduct business, attend to legal matters, or vote in the elected legislature known as the House of Burgesses. For over 80 years Williamsburg was the powerful southern center of the English Colonies but the drums of war soon put the city at risk. Virginia's capitol was moved further inland to Richmond during the American Revolution, to protect the capital city from the guns of British warships.  As the government, businesses, and courts moved the bulk of the population to the new capital city, Williamsburg relapsed back into the slow pace of a peaceful small town.

Duke Of Gloucester / Circa 1910
In the book Williamsburg: Before and After, the town prior to restoration was described as the community time forgot. Many of the colonial buildings continued to exist with some modern upgrades. Some buildings added a second floor, a front porch, or a new addition. Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin became the rector of the Bruton Parish Church, which continuously operated on the Duke of Gloucester Street since the 1700s. He took over the church as rector and oversaw a complete historical restoration of the brick church building. Following the project's completion, Goodwin was inspired by the fact that so many historical buildings still existed within the community that also could be saved and restored. A cause was born and Goodwin was soon seeking out individuals with the financial means to help preserve Williamsburg. The photograph above shows the Duke of Gloucester Street looking west, circa 1903. The steeple of Bruton Parish Church can be seen in the distance.

Goodwin and Rockefeller
The proposed preservation of Williamsburg was unique in size and scope because Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin was not out to restore a few buildings but the entire town, which had never been done before. The task would be enormous and would require massive amounts of financial support. The townspeople who would be displaced would also have to cooperate. Philanthropist John D. Rockefeller was inspired by Goodwin's vision and eventually came on board with is wife Abby Alrich Rockefeller to provide the major source of funding for the project. During the 1930's many properties were purchased and restored while others were rebuilt on their original foundations. The layers of paint and building modifications were pealed away to reveal the original structures, which were then meticulously preserved. Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin died in 1939 but his vision lives on and continues to expand to the present day.

 Colonial Merchant Shops
Over the years, Williamsburg slowly came back to life as the 18th century town when it was the capital of the Virginia colony. Today the 173-acre site contains 88 restored original buildings and over 50 more that were historically reconstructed. Most of the buildings that were no longer standing in the 1930's had fallen victim to fire at one time or another. This is the most common cause of death for colonial era buildings in all historic towns from New England to Georgia. Williamsburg's two most grand structures, the Governor's Palace and Capitol Building, both fell victim to fire between 1740 -1765 and were rebuilt as the project's centerpiece properties in the 1930s.

 Famous Bruton Steeple
The sturdy brick Bruton Parish Church was built in 1715 and has served the community spiritually ever since. The church was originally Anglican, the official state Church of England, which was enforced by British Law. The popular church was attended by George Washington, Thomas, Jefferson, and Patrick Henry until Independence was declared. At this point, the church was seen as a symbol of the king's authority in America. The House of Burgesses decided to cut off all financial tax support to the king's church and as a result, the church building's appearance and parish membership began to decline over time. Later, the church reinvented itself as one of the new Episcopalian churches in America. Today Bruton Parish Church has over 1700 members and the beautiful sanctuary is open to the public for guided tours.

 Bruton Church Interior
Like many churches close to the fighting during the Civil War, Bruton Parish served as a makeshift hospital for Union and Confederate wounded during the little known Battle of Williamsburg in May of 1862. The clash took place between Union Brigadier General Joseph Hooker and a Confederate re-guard regiment led by Major General James Longstreet. The battle was brief and took place as the Confederate forces were retreating from Yorktown toward Richmond. Union forces prevailed but the Confederates continued moving south, escaping through the dark of night following the engagement. The wounded left behind from both sides were nursed within the parish walls and several causalities were later buried outside within the church yard.

 Reserved Sunday Seating
It was a great experience to see the interior of the church where families rented out box style pews. Like many colonial era buildings in Williamsburg, the church had gone through a lot of physical interior changes over the years. It was Reverend Goodwin who oversaw the church's restoration back to the building's original colonial style. I am standing in the Washington Family pew in the picture above. Some pews that were rented and reserved, display the family name on the sliding pew door that was closed when the family was seated for services.

Please See All My Photo Albums of Williamsburg at...

Did you know: Two of Martha Custis Washington's children (to her first husband) that died in infancy are buried here in the Bruton Church yard.

Did you know: Sixteen signers of the Declaration of Independence and three future presidents (Jefferson; Monroe; Tyler) attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg.


Colonial Williamsburg / Series Part # 1

 Colonial Williamsburg / Series Part # 2
Jamestown Matters – Archeological Dig

Colonial Williamsburg / Series Part # 3

 Colonial Williamsburg / Series Part # 4
Williamsburg / Duke of Gloucester Street

 Colonial Williamsburg / Series Part # 5
Williamsburg / Capitol and Gaol

Colonial Williamsburg / Series Part # 6
Williamsburg / Governor’s Palace

Colonial Williamsburg / Series Part # 7
Williamsburg / Great Hopes Plantation

Colonial Williamsburg / Series Part # 8
Williamsburg / Market Square

Colonial Williamsburg / Series Part # 9
Yorktown / Surrender Field

Colonial Williamsburg / Series Part # 10
Parting Shots / Photography


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