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Colonial Williamsburg: Stepping Into American History

Sep 13, 2021 05:02PM ● By Story and photos by Lisa Ballard
The two-story clapboard house and every other house in the walk-through historic site could have been in New England, but my husband Jack and I were in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. The 18th century home was dark red with dark red shutters, a shake roof, and a couple of brick chimneys. It's modest (well, modest by today’s standards) front door faced the street. We walked toward the tidy property, which caught our attention due to its crimson color, and noticed the gate to the backyard was open.

What we saw next was not exactly a basic backyard. Several buildings, including a brick kitchen, stable, chicken coop, coach house, dairy, and a second two-story dwelling—a former slaves’ quarters—filled the space around a large shade tree and shaggy lawn. A man dressed in red knickers and a red tunic with a white, puffy-sleeved shirt and white knee socks tended a small garden by the back fence.

Colonial Williamsburg is a “living museum” in which historians in costumes perform daily tasks around Williamsburg as they might have done during the 1700s. These in-character guides portray people who lived and worked in Williamsburg when it was the capital of the colony of Virginia and a center of political influence leading up to the American Revolution and during Virginia’s early statehood.

“Peyton Randolph, who owned this house, was the most influential Patriot you’ve never heard of,” said the gardener. “He would have been president of the United States, but he had a stroke and died nine months before the Declaration of Independence.”

To continue reading this story please see page 66 in the Here In Hanover Fall 2021 digital edition.

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