I was fascinated by Bassett Hall or sometimes known as the Rockefeller home.
When you visit, you experience a video program shown in the Bassett Hall reception building that describes the beginning of the restoration of Williamsburg.
For those who do not know, John D. Rockefeller Jr. was an heir of the Standard Oil wealth. He became a wonderful philanthropist who became interested in the Reverand Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin's desire to restore all of Williamsburg. He invited Rockefeller to visit, showing him the Bassett Hall Home.
Eventually, Goodwin convinced Rockefeller to purchase the home. Rockefeller was most interested in the GreatOak, a huge tree that was over 100 years old. Bassett Hall became the Rockefellers' residence during their twice-annual trips to Williamsburg. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, John's wife, decorated Bassett Hall with folk art. (The folk art museum was developed from her folk art collection.)
The home is a simple two-story 18th -century white frame farmhouse that sits on 585 acres of woodlands, lawn, and gardens. The garden blooms in the spring and in the fall, just as it did when the Rockefellers made their seasonal visits. You can use the trails that the Rockefellers made in the woods and use an audiotape tour.
It's called Bassett Hall because Burwell Bassett purchased it around 1800; it was then acquired for Colonial Williamsburg in 1927. Rockefeller purchased it in 1936, and it stayed in the Rockefeller family until 1979 when it was bequeathed to Colonial Williamsburg. It was opened to the public in 1980, and was completely restored in 2000 (it took two years so it did not reopen until 2002.)
Unlike the rest of the Historic Area (18th century restorations), Bassett Hall appears as it did in the 1930s and the 1940s (the early days of the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg) when the Rockefellers lived here.
If you are tired of the commercial Christmas, then you might want to try to see Colonial Williamsburg during the holiday season. Williamsburg starts the celebration on the first Sunday in December with the Grand Illumination ceremony, which is their start to the Christmas season.
Williamsburg is most well known for its creative use of "natural decorating materials". The houses and public buildings are decorated with crafted arrangements of pine, boxwood, Frasier fir, magnolia leaves, holly, and fruits and berries. Guides lead tours through the historic area and describe the techniques and materials used in the making of the various decorations.
This year (2004),they were to have a conference and classes on this very topic.
I guess for some families, it's a tradition to come to Colonial Williamsburg each year...some have come as newly weds and now bring their own grandchildren! Remember, it is crowded during the holiday seasons so you have to make reservations early.
You can enjoy a candle-lit holiday feast at a Colonial tavern; take in the production of Babes in Toyland at the Kimball Theatre; take part in caroling at various locations throughout town; go to the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and learn how children of the past amused themselves at "Child's Play: A Celebration of Antique Toys"; take a Christmas Decorations Walking Tour; or learn how Colonial-era enslaved Africans celebrated Christmas at "Everybody's Shoutin' at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. There is a one-man show performed by Gerald Charles Dickens, the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens doing A Christmas Carol.
The easiest way to tell if any attraction is open is if there's a flag in front of it. In Colonial Williamsburg, the exhibit houses close at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, but each day, many of them may not be open, or have different hours. So if you see a British flag hanging in front of the buidling, it means the building's open.
We had a flat tire while driving on US60. Hit something in the road and bent the rim and broke the seal and punctured the tire.
Called AAA and they sent a guy out to look at it and after we got the "doughnut" spare on, he gave us the name of the local Chevy dealer where I could go and get it fixed. The tow truck guy offered to tow us (at AAA expense, not mine) but I said that I could find the repair place and the spare tire would be okay until we got the replacement.
We got to the repair place and found out that they don't normally carry rims (neither new nor used) and would have to order one shipped in from Richmond. And the car dealer did not have facilities for changing tires but would have to refer me to a Dunlop tire store.
to make a long story, short.... after 7 hours we finally got the rim delivered to the Chevy dealer, then i had to hot foot it over to the Dunlop dealer to get it fitted and a new tire replacement.
In Rochester, NY all the car dealers of all the brand-name cars all carry a supply of parts and provide all repair services (other than body-dent repairs) right on the premises.
It appears that Williamsburg, VA does it a bit differently.
The early settlers spent much time fishing, in the rich coastal waters and rivers nearby. They also harvested huge numbers of oysters and other shellfish. Here, the technique for drying fish is demonstrated.
There are numerous, different containers put on shelves of the kitchen of the Governor's House. Each is signed, so I got to know what was stored inside: sugar, salt, pepper, coffee and... secret BOHEA.
The name "bohea" was formerly applied to superior kinds of Chinese black tea. The name originates from the mountain range where it grew (on the border of Jiangxi and Fujian provinces of China). In 18th and early I9th centuries tea generally, including more and more often an inferior kinds of tea, was called bohea.
I found Bohea in local grocery in Colonial Williamsburg. I have no idea whether it was primarily choicest grade or later an inferior variety of Chinese black tea. The price indicated rather the first option but... it's pricy Colonial Williamsburg.
The first lady was dressed in impressive summer gown. The most characteristic feauture of the 18th century gown are so called petticoats, a seperate woman's skirt-like garments worn with a gown. Women often wore many, even... 8 petticoats more for fashion than for heat, not mention any comfort.
Usually the skirt was open in the front to reveal the separate petticoat. The first lady had a little bit different, more modern and easier to fast wear, gown with many... fake petticoats. A real petticoat was a seperate cloth but an essential part of the dress and not an undergarment.
Haha, I just realised that I know personally one, over 70 years old, woman living in a small village close to my hometown in Poland, who used to wear a few skirts (something like petticoats) but exclusively for special occasions (when she goes to a church for example). Anyway, it's very unique custom in Poland, now.
Williamsburg offers a glimpse into Colonial life and the people you'll meet will be in costume and playing a role. There are trades people, historical interpreters and character interpreters that will make you feel welcome while educating you at the same time. I sure wouldn't want to trade places with them in the summer time. Those outfits must get hot!
We met this smiling face, on my picture, somewhere close to the Governor's Palace. Most of the folks, employers of the colonial Williamsburg were smiling to their visitors. Nothing special and unique in the USA but very nice.
Generally I found the USA a very smiling country. Keep smiling is the main and pretty rule in the USA. When you see people smiling all over the place, like I saw in Williamsburg, it is usually for one of two reasons.
One, because they are happy people.
Two, because the business they work for INSIST that they smile at customers.
Of course, after one gets used to smiling everytime they see someone, it becomes a habit, a very pretty habit.
Keep smiling :-)
I found numerous signs of British, royal power over colonial Virginia in its former capital, Williamsburg. The best visible sign was all the British flags and the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom, like the one, on my picture, put on the rear wall of the Governor's Palace.
The Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom have evolved over many years since the 1100's. This one, in Williamsburg features different shield (only its lower left part is the same) but has the same English lion and Scottish unicorn supporting the shield as the current coat of arms. The Latin writings around the shield and below are the same today as well:
1. "Honi (or Hon Y) Soit Qui Mal Y Pense" which means ""Shame to him who evil thinks" (an ancient order of knighthood of which the Queen is Sovereign);
2. "Dieu et Mon Droit" which means "God and My Right" (the motto of the Sovereign).
This costumed guy, on my picture, was a cooking interpreter. He prepared and cooked some real meals on a fireplace in the kitchen of the Governor's Palace. He explained and gave us some information on the art of the 18th century cooking. The meals were displayed on a large, wooden table.
Well, I got an impression that in these old times of poor cooking equipment, no exact measurements of quantity and temperature, cooking had to be real art. Making delicious meal depended more on the cook's skills, his taste, nose and heart than on exactly written and done step by step recipe.
The only inconvenience is that those delicious meals cooked by highly skilled cooks were availavble for very few folks of the upper class. I am not sure whether I would be born in rare upper class that time :-). The cooking and preparing food in upper class houses took ages and was very expensive.
I found this unique container, on my picture, in the kitchen of the Governor's Palace. It is made of almost white and hard stone and was used either for storing some hot meals or for mixing/grating some meal's ingredients.
Most cookware displayed in the kitchen is made either from copper (a reddish-coloured metal) or from brass ((alloy of copper and zinc). Some cookware is made of iron or pewter (gray alloy of mainly copper, antimony and bismuth or lead) as well. Nowadays it's proved that this cookware (except the iron one) can cause severe disease (more in my Warning Or Dangers tips).
There is an impressive, stone oven, in the kitchen of the Governor's Palace. It was used both for heating (like classical, decorative fireplaces) and mainly for cooking.
Wood was used for both heating and cooking in colonial Virginia in 18th century. There was a lot of trees in Williamsburg that time. Later on, the wood had to be transported from surrounding areas. During the Civil War, the Union troops which occupied Williamsburg, used numerous wooden fences for heating and cooking.
The coachman of the governor's carriage was worn in breeches, leggins and boots for his work as you can see on my picture.
Breeches were seen in many forms and lengths since late 16th century until the early 19th century. They were worn by all levels of society but those of the lower class were usually made of durable linens instead of aristocratic and expensive soft silk or cotton, wool or leather.
Breeches of 18th century were cut just beneath a knee, tight and revealed the shape of the leg. The breeches of the governor's coachman and generally the upper class gentelman were made of silk and had button-side, decorative fastening on both legs.
Leggins were seen below the breeches. They fully covered the lower leg from a few centimeters/inches above the knee extending to cover the top of the foot and were made of stout woolen or linen cloth or of leather. Leggins and shorter (from mid-shin to foot) spatterdashes were worn mainly for outdoor activities by the laboring men, sporting gentlemen and the military. Otherwise the gentelmen wore stockings or hose. The leggins of the coachman were supported by a garter tied up below his knee and fixed to the leg of his boot.
Leather boots of many sorts but usually black were worn for sporting, riding and working by upper class gentelmen in the 18th century. These ones of the governor's coachman had high (above-knee) legs which were turned down below a knee. Thus the brown color of the internal layer of the boots was seen.
Hmm... currently we say "tough as old boots" which means very strong and not easily weakened. The expression originates since times of fast industralisation era of late 19th century when boots were worn as protective footwear by workers.
The governor's servant who welcomed his wife coming back to the palace, wore fashionable wig and popular in the 18th century hat with three sides cocked.
The wig of the governor's servant was made of distinguished and fashionable gray hair, was short with a longer bunch at the back modestly hidden behind piece of tied-up black silk cloth.
I got to know that wigs had entered into court fashion in both England and France since1650s but just the 18th century became the golden age of male wig wearing. They were most popular at the beginning of the century. Later on, they became cheaper, available for lower classes and... less aristocratic, thus less popular among the snooty upper class although few, more conservative gentelmen, continued to wear wigs in 19th century. The wigs were made of human, horse, goat or yak hair.