Wednesday, September 2, 1981

71-73. Williamsburg and Jamestown, Virginia

Day 71:  Monday, August 31, 1981
Day 72:  Tuesday, September 1, 1981
Day 73:  Wednesday, September 2, 1981

The past few days have been quite relaxing.  I doubt if I've traveled 50 miles since last Saturday.  There is so much to see and do here, it would be easy to spend a week, or a month, or a year, on this peninsula.

A Williamsburg residence
A Williamsburg residence.
I doubt the streets were paved back then.
Two days ago, I met Mike, an architecture student who is working at C.W. for the summer, doing architectural documentation on several buildings.  He's been house-sitting, moving from house to house as families take their vacations.  This week, he was staying at the John Greenhow house, in Duke of Gloucester Street near the magazine and the church.  Being a sometime bicyclist, he struck up a conversation with me, and I ended up staying with him for three days.  It was surely much more convenient than biking back and forth to a campground.

Yesterday, I cycled out to Jamestown.  Compared with Williamsburg, it's rather a letdown.  The only remains of the original colony are part of a church tower, and foundations to mark the locations of the houses.  The foundations were excavated years ago, then reburied to preserve them.  New brickwork now indicates the positions of these foundations.

Glassblowing at Jamestown
A demonstration of
colonial-era glassblowing
at Jamestown
In the 1700s, after the capital had moved to Williamsburg, Jamestown Island became part of a plantation.  The ruins of the main house, destroyed three times by fire, still stand like a sentinel over the forgotten streets of the town.

Carter's Grove is another 18th-century plantation, about six miles south of Williamsburg on the bank of the James River.  It was but one link in the chain of the mighty Carter empire, which at its peak held 300,000 acres in Tidewater Virginia.  Almost all the outbuildings have disappeared, but the main house has been preserved and is now maintained and exhibited by the C.W.F.  The last owner, so the story goes, wanted to buy Westover Plantation, but couldn't so she bought Carter's Grove and remodeled it to look like Westover.  I was a little disappointed in the house, but enjoyed talking to the gardener.

Much of my time these past three days has been spent searching for ghosts.  One book (Ghosts of Virginia, by Marguerite DuPont Lee) has two pages on a Williamsburg ghost, but the account is romanticized and full of historical errors.  The official C.W. position is that there might well be a ghost or two, but it's not worth looking into because C.W. deals with historical fact, and ghosts cannot be substantiated.  (Maybe transubstantiated?)  But in casual inquiries around the area, I turned up evidence of perhaps half a dozen ghosts.  Didn't see any, though.

Fifes and drums
Fifes and drums and fifes and drums and...
Today, the Lord Mayor of London visited C.W. in connection with the Yorktown bicentennial celebration.  The C.W. fife and drum regiment put on a show, and there was a musket salute.  It made a nice show for the tourists, but Mike said that he tires of listening to the fifes and drums all summer.

For supper last night, Mike and I went to a small restaurant in Williamsburg.  Surprisingly, it featured decent food at a low price.  For $3.75, we had a huge portion of lasagna with tossed salad and garlic bread.  I topped it off with three beers.  The lasagna wasn't as good as mine, but it filled us up.

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