Governor's Palace, Williamsburg

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  • governor's palace
    governor's palace
    by doug48
  • Inlaid chest on table in upper middle room
    Inlaid chest on table in upper middle...
    by grandmaR
  • Governor's Palace through the gates
    Governor's Palace through the gates
    by grandmaR
  • deecat's Profile Photo

    Governor's Palace

    by deecat Updated May 28, 2005

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Unicorn guard at entrance to Governor's Palace

    The Governor's Palace is such a sensational place that it deserves lots more mention here.

    It took 16 years of construction before it was officially complete. As the third great public building of Williamsburg after the Wren Building of the College of William & Mary & the Capitol, it was only built because of the insistence of Governor Nott who persuaded Virginia General Assembly to authorize its construction.

    After Nott died, Governor Spotswood replaced him & really pushed for the Palace to be completed. Spotswood got "caught up" in decorating the Palace & the gardens & the accused by The House of Burgesses of spending too much money, so he stopped his lavish ways.

    It's not as lavish as the great European palaces, but it is, by far, the most lavish place in Colonial Williamsburg. It has three floors & each floor has over 3,000 square feet.

    The beautiful gate is guarded by a stone unicorn on one side (see my photo) & a stone lion on the other. There are two "advance buildings with gabled roofs that run perpendicular to the main structure. A magnificent formal garden is found beyond the house.

    Also beyond the advance buildings are the laundry, stable, kitchen, scullery, carriage house, & an octagonal bathhouse!

    It took 25 servants & slaves to take care of this property. These people included maids, cooks, footmen, butlers, laborers, gardeners, & laundresses. Among the nine governors who lived in the original palace were Patrick Henry & Thomas Jefferson.

    Many elegant & festive galas & gatherings were held at the Palace, but once the government moved to Richmond, Virginia, the Palace was no more. It did serve as a hospital, but fire destroyed it in 1781.

    This ruined site was given to the College of William & Mary . They built 2 school buildings. Then in 1928 Colonial Williamsburg purchased the property, and archaeological investigation began. They reconstructed the Palace, & you should know that the wheelwright works in the Palace's eastern service yard.

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    GOVERNOR'S PALACE

    by JudyinPA Updated Jan 16, 2004

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    The Palace

    The name Governor's Palace came from the colonists who felt they paid so much money in taxes to keep the Palace in operation it deserved the name. The first governor was Dunsmore, who moved away when the threat of the Revolutionary War came to Williamsburg.

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    governor's palace

    by doug48 Written Apr 25, 2011

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    governor's palace

    the governor's palace is a georgian style mansion that is thought be be inspired by nether lypiate manor in gloucester england. the palace was built in 1722 as a residence for virginia's colonial governors. alexander spotswood, thomas jefferson, and patrick henry once lived here. the governor's palace was destroyed by fire in 1781 and was reconstructed in 1934. the governor's palace is one of the most interesting buildings in colonial williamsburg.

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    Governor's Palace

    by Yaqui Updated Jul 26, 2012

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    Governor Edward Nott persuaded the General Assembly to authorize its construction with an act passed October 23, 1705, and building began the following summer. The act directed contractor Henry Cary to erect a two-story brick house that measured inside 54 feet long and 48 feet wide, had sash windows, a cellar, one vault, a kitchen, and a stable. It was to be erected on 63 acres on the city's north side, purchased from Henry Tyler, and whatever adjacent town lots might be needed. Cary laid foundations 61 feet long and 54 ½ feet wide in the summer of 1706. Appropriation of the £3,000 needed to get started was withheld until June 22 of the following year.

    Work proceeded, but soon the money was gone. Cary asked for and got another £400 on April 28, 1708. But the house stood unfinished in 1710, when he was discharged for accounting irregularities and replaced by John Tyler.

    Alexander Spotswood arrived that year to replace the deceased Nott. The new chief executive pushed for the Palace's completion, and on December 9 the legislature provided another £1,560, with £635 more to be spent on outbuildings, gardens, ornaments, furniture, and a four-foot wall around it all.

    Beyond the house was a formal garden in which guests could stand on the mound of earth that covered the icehouse to look into a large, naturalistic park that stretched away to the north. The stable, carriage house, kitchen, scullery, laundry, and an octagonal bathhouse were arranged in service yards beside the advance buildings.

    Three surviving inventories of personal property attest to the elaborate furnishings of a household that required approximately 25 servants and slaves to tend. Depending upon their duties, some of these servants and slaves lived and worked in the outbuildings, while some lived and worked in the main house. There were stewards, personal servants, butlers, footmen, cooks, laundresses, gardeners, maids, grooms, and laborers. Some governors brought white servants with them and supplemented this core work force with servants and slaves purchased or hired in Virginia. The governor maintained his office in the complex, and his clerk or clerks worked here as well.

    Part of the butler’s duties consisted of sorting out these many visitors and determining where they should wait and whom they should see. In the words of one modern writer, the Palace visitor traveled a "carefully orchestrated procession of spaces moving toward and culminating in the presence" of the king's immediate representative in Virginia. Down Palace green, through the ornamental iron gates, across the forecourt, up the stone steps, into the hall with its display of muskets and the royal coat of arms, up the stairs, and into the governor's upper middle room, the fortunate and important visitor arrived at the chamber of power. Those of lesser status remained downstairs or outside.

    Governors who lived in the original palace included:

    Alexander Spotswood
    Hugh Drysdale
    William Gooch
    Robert Dinwiddie
    Francis Fauquier
    Norborne Berkeley, Baron de Botetourt
    John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore
    Patrick Henry
    Thomas Jefferson

    Each governor made improvements and repairs, but after Gooch left in 1749, the colony's Council concluded the building was in "ruinous condition" and ordered renovations. The bill for these renovations came to just over £1,259. When Dinwiddie arrived in 1751, the work was still under way and the colony had to buy a house next door – today's Robert Carter House – from Dr. Kenneth McKenzie so the governor would have someplace to stay.

    General Charles Lee of the Continental army made the Palace his headquarters until it became a hospital. Then Virginia's government ordered the structure renovated for Governor Patrick Henry. Henry was allowed to add new furnishings until the value of the Palace appointments and repairs reached £1,000.

    Thomas Jefferson succeeded Henry in office and residence. In 1779 he drew a floor plan of the Palace, perhaps with a view to remodeling. The government, however, moved the next year to Richmond, and nothing came of the plans.

    The Palace served again as a hospital in the fall of 1781, this time for American soldiers wounded in the Battle of Yorktown. Some 156 of them, and two women, are buried in the garden.

    On December 22, 1781, a fire that may have begun in the basement destroyed the building.

    The government sold the bricks – which were being stolen – and the advance buildings in 1782. When Dunmore's grandson Sir Charles Augustus Murray visited in 1835, he wrote, "The centre of the palace where the governor resided has long since fallen down, and even the traces of its ruins are no more to be seen." In 1862, Union soldiers pulled down the advance buildings so officers at Fort Magruder east of town might have bricks to build chimneys for their huts.

    The site passed to the College of William and Mary after the war. Two school buildings stood on the Palace grounds, just in front of the buried foundations, when Colonial Williamsburg purchased the property in 1928. Archaeological investigation began at 8 a.m., June 30, 1930. Nearly two years of work uncovered the original footings, the cellars, debris from the fire, and a section of original wall.

    The artifacts, Jefferson's drawings, General Assembly records, and a copperplate engraving discovered in England's Bodleian Library in 1929 were employed in faithful reconstruction of the original buildings. They opened as an exhibition on April 23, 1934.

    From the 1930s until 1980 the reconstructed Palace was elegantly furnished with fine British and American antiques arranged in what is now recognized as the Colonial Revival style. Subsequent research confirmed that the rooms, though handsome, bore little resemble to their 18th-century counterparts. In 1981, the detailed 1770 estate inventory of Governor Botetourt's furnishings enabled curators to replicate the interior decor of the 18th-century with precision.

    Further revisions were made to the furnishings in 2006, when Botetourt’s bachelor household gave way to a new arrangement reflecting the presence of Governor Dunmore, who resided at the Palace with his wife and six of their seven children. The new installation included Lady Dunmore’s large dressing room, sleeping space for the Dunmore children, and a highly accurate replication of the arms arrangement in the front hall.

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  • bugalugs's Profile Photo

    Governors Palace

    by bugalugs Updated Jan 17, 2004

    3.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Governor's Palace

    The Governor's Palace was built in 1722. It took 16 years to build. Apparently this was because the money ran out during building work. When finished it had 3 floors, wine cellars, balconies, an ice house, stables and carriages and horses.
    A ballroom was added in 1752.

    It was here that the last ruling British governor Lord Dunmore fled in 1775 when British rule collapsed.

    Later that year the whole building was destroyed by fire.

    Thomas Jefferson was the last governor here until 1780 when the government moved to the new capital of Richmond.

    In 1781 it became a hospital for american soldiers wounded in the Yorktown battle. Over 150 are buried in the gardens.

    The existing building was completed in 1934.

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  • steph4867's Profile Photo

    Governor's Palace

    by steph4867 Written Mar 14, 2003

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    Governor's Palace

    This meticulous reconstruction is of the Georgian mansion that was the residence and official headquarters of royal governors from 1714 until Lord Dunmore fled before dawn in the face of armed resistance in 1775, thus ending British rule in Virginia. As at other Williamsburg sites, where authentic period pieces were not available, reproductions have been crafted to exacting standards by artisans schooled in 18th-century methods. The final five years of British rule is the period portrayed. Though the sumptuous surroundings, nobly proportioned halls and rooms, 10 acres of formal gardens and greens, and vast wine cellars all evoke splendor, the king's representative was by that time little more than a functionary of great prestige but limited power. He was more apt to behave like a diplomat in a foreign land than an autocratic colonial ruler.

    Tours, given continuously through the day, end in the gardens, where you can explore the elaborate geometric parterres, topiary work, bowling green, pleached allées, and a holly maze patterned after the one at Hampton Court. Plan at least 30 minutes to wander the stunning grounds and visit the kitchen and stable yards.

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    Governor's Palace

    by b1bob Updated Feb 14, 2004

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    Governor's Palace front

    The governor's palace is absolutely the highlight of any trip to Colonial Williamsburg. As you enter the palace, there are swords all over the walls and ceiling to symbolise the governor's power. The design of other rooms upstairs and down are just as impressive in the way the original design has been so meticulously reproduced.

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    Governor's Palace

    by chewy3326 Updated Nov 23, 2005

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    Governor's Palace

    Those who have bouth multi-day passes to Colonial Williamsburg will have access to tour the palace. This mansion, near the entrance, is a showpiece of colonial lifestyle and the relative riches of the governor. In the entrance hall/foyer there is a grand display of swords and muskets; walking up the stairs, you'll notice even more weapons. The bedrooms and upstair chambers here are furnished more ornately than most other houses in Williamsburg. It's one of the highlights of Williamsburg.

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  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    Governor's Palace

    by matcrazy1 Updated Dec 16, 2004

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    GOVERNOR'S  PALACE

    We took a shuttle bus from the Visitor Center and got off on the first stop close to this impressive building, on my picture, that is the Governor's Palace. It is together with Capitol absolutely the highlight of any trip to Colonial Williamsburg!

    There are guided tours around its interiors for holders of The Governor's Key-To-The-City Pass ($45.00). If you buy less expensive ($33.00) The Colonial Sampler Ticket you are not allowed to join the guided tour but surely you can see the exterior of the edifice, its kitchen and gardens.

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  • Tom_Fields's Profile Photo

    Governor's Palace

    by Tom_Fields Written May 20, 2007

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    The restored Governor's Palace
    4 more images

    This is one of the must-see places in old Williamsburg. It is very well-restored, with guided tours and some gorgeous gardens. One of the most impressive items here is the foyer, with a vast collection of 17th and 18th century weapons--swords, muskets, and pistols. The ballroom has an authentic harpsicord and a miniature pipe organ. Not to be missed!

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  • grandmaR's Profile Photo

    Governor's Palace in 1962

    by grandmaR Updated Mar 16, 2014

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    Governor's Palace through the gates
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    I've been to the Governor's Palace twice - once in 1962-63 when we lived in Norfolk, and again after my dad died in 1973. These photos are all from 1963 The first photo shows the Palace through the gate which is guarded by a stone unicorn on one side and a stone lion on the other. You need to have a ticket to tour the Governor's Palace and they are cheaper bought on line

    There were seven royal governors and the first two elected governors in Virginia that were around when the capitol was here. Governors who lived in the original palace included:

    Alexander Spotswood
    Hugh Drysdale
    William Gooch
    Robert Dinwiddie
    Francis Fauquier
    Norborne Berkeley, Baron de Botetourt
    John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore
    Patrick Henry
    Thomas Jefferson

    The Palace burned down and the bricks were sold. So when the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation purchased the property in 1928 they had to do two years of digging and research to reconstruct the building. The reconstructed Palace was elegantly furnished with fine British and American antiques arranged in what is now recognized as the Colonial Revival style. Subsequent research confirmed that the rooms, though handsome, bore little resemble to their 18th-century counterparts. The palace was redone in 1981 to reflect a 1770 estate inventory. But my photos are of the old decor - the wallpaper with birds, elaborate silver pieces, inlaid wood and the crewel bed hangings.

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  • b1bob's Profile Photo

    Lobby of the governor's palace.

    by b1bob Written Oct 18, 2002

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    weaponry display on ceiling

    The governor of colonial Virginia was second only to the king in terms of power. The ornately decorated lobby with all the weaponry displayed on the walls and ceiling display that military power at the disposal of the Virginia governor.

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    Governor's Palace

    by acemj Updated Oct 18, 2002

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    The Governor's Palace was the house of Lord Dunmore, the last British governor of the Virginia Colony. The tour of the palace takes about 45 minutes and gives you a good idea of what life would have been like for the elite of the time. For more details, check out VT member b1bob's Williamsburg page.

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  • KennyB's Profile Photo

    Guided Tour - The Governor's Palace

    by KennyB Updated Sep 18, 2005
    The Governor's Gardens
    4 more images

    I highly recommend a guided tour of the Governor's Palace. The line forms at the front of the building, but make reservations and get your tickets well in advance. The flower gardens in Spring time are very beautiful. The photos that I have displayed in this tip are just a small sampling of the historical treasures in this palace.

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  • Governor's Palace

    by grkboiler Written Mar 1, 2004
    Governor's Palace

    Governor's Palace was completed in 1722 and took 16 years to build. It was the home of the colonial governor. The most famous residents were Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson.

    The original building hosted elegant balls and large events. It was destroyed by a fire in 1781 and the advance buildings were torn down in 1862 by Union troops during the Civil War. The building was rebuilt in 1934 as an exhibition to Colonial Williamsburg.

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