The Capitol, Williamsburg

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  • Committee room
    Committee room
    by grandmaR
  • Capitol at dusk from Campbell's tavern
    Capitol at dusk from Campbell's tavern
    by grandmaR
  • Mace on the table - House of Burgess
    Mace on the table - House of Burgess
    by grandmaR
  • grandmaR's Profile Photo

    Capitol in 1962

    by grandmaR Updated Jan 6, 2014

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    House of Delegates
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    The original capitol of Virginia was, of course, Jamestown. After fire destroyed that building three times, the Burgesses moved the colony government to Middle Plantation (i.e. Williamsburg). The building is a two story H-shaped structure connected by an arcade.

    What is there today is more or less the same as the one that was finished in 1705, but the original building was built without fireplaces (and candles and pipes were barred) to reduce the threat of fire. The photos here were taken in the spring of 1962

    Because of damp, chimneys were added and the building burned down in 1747. It was rebuilt, and many historic events took place in this second building - this is where Patrick Henry delivered his "Caesar-Brutus" speech against the Stamp Act on May 29, 1765. But the capitol was moved to Richmond in 1780 and after that the bricks were sold and some of it burned.

    When it was rebuilt, it was decided that the first building was more interesting architecturally than the second one.

    A ticket is required - Colonial Williamsburg tickets grant access to all sites of the Revolutionary City (including 35 exhibition sites like the capitol, 22 sites practicing more than 30 18th-century trades, and more than 100 gardens), museums, and regular events, and use of shuttle buses. You can get a single day or multi-day pass and it is less expensive to buy them on-line.

    Schedule of Operation:

    Hours effective through
    March 16, 2014
    Closed Jan. 20–31 for maintenance
    Mon.: 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
    Tues.: 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
    Wed.: 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
    Thurs.: 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m
    Fri.: 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
    Sat.: 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
    Sun.: 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

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  • Yaqui's Profile Photo

    The Capitol

    by Yaqui Written Jul 26, 2012

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    From 1699 to 1780, Williamsburg was the political center of Virginia, where laws and justice were made and administered on behalf of all colonial Virginians. The legislature first met at Williamsburg on April 21, 1704, when the Capitol on Duke of Gloucester Street was still under construction. The building was last used as a capitol on December 24, 1779, when the General Assembly adjourned to reconvene May 1 at the new capital in Richmond, Va. Today, visitors tour the Capitol to learn about government in colonial Virginia and the colony's contribution to the American Revolution. Once a year, a naturalization ceremony is held at the Capitol, during which a new group of immigrants becomes Americans, continuing a process begun in the building nearly 300 years earlier.

    The west wing of the Capitol housed the General Courtroom on the first floor. The General Court, the highest court of the colony, convened in April and October to hear both civil and criminal cases. The governor and the 12 members of the Council served as the justices of the General Court. After 1710, criminal cases were heard at sessions in June and December.

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  • Tom_Fields's Profile Photo

    Williamsburg Capitol

    by Tom_Fields Written May 20, 2007

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    The Capitol
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    This beautifully restored building is a faithful replica of the old capitol. Here, tour guides show visitors around the structure, and discuss the way the old colonial city was governed. It was very enlightening.

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  • upesnlwc's Profile Photo

    The Capitol

    by upesnlwc Written Jan 19, 2006

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    Feel the awesome sense of momentous events that occurred here as you visit this colonial seat of government on the edge of England's empire. The fundamental liberties that Americans cherish today were debated here and ended in the creation of a new government founded on ideas that endure today.

    Come hear Patrick Henry reenact his Give me "Liberty of Give me Death" speech. If this exhibit doesn't make you proud then I don't know what will.

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  • chewy3326's Profile Photo

    The Capitol

    by chewy3326 Written Dec 20, 2005

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    The Capitol

    The Capitol is one of the more important buildings in the complex. You need a Governor's Key Pass to get in for the tour, though. The tour takes you through the colonial capitol of Virginia, leading you through the state court, the chambers for the houses and parties, and the actual assembly area. The state court, the first room you enter, is where felonies by citizens and any crimes committed by slaves were tried. If you were convicted, you would be branded; if you ever committed a second offense, the penalty was death. From there, the tour heads upstairs, where (I think) the different houses (or parties, I can't remember) had their own chambers. The last room you enter is the assembly area (or something alonog those lines) where I believe Patrick Henry said "GIve me liberty or give me death" in his famous speech.

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  • VeronicaG's Profile Photo

    VISIT THE CAPITOL AT CHRISTMAS

    by VeronicaG Updated Nov 8, 2005

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    The Capitol at Christmas

    Christmas at Williamsburg is a festive event. It's a very busy time of year for the colonial town. While you are here enjoying the season, be sure to see the Capitol.

    The Capitol is one of Williamsburg's most important sites. It is where Virginia's General Assembly met from 1704-1780. The royal governor, as the King's representative, traditionally opened the Assembly.

    The Capitol was the meeting place for the House of Burgesses and where the General Court tried its cases. It was here where the Virginia Declaration of Rights was passed. George Washington's fellow Burgesses celebrated his success in the French and Indian War within these walls and the Stamp Act was criticized by fiery Patrick Henry.

    Eventually the colonists grew to reject the politics of England, embracing the idea of self-government. When peaceful means did not generate change, the colonists turned to revolution.

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  • deecat's Profile Photo

    The Capitol Has an Interesting History....

    by deecat Updated May 28, 2005

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    The Capitol

    It's great to tour the Capitol & learn about government in colonial Virginia. There are evening programs that feature political & social events that actually happened in the building during the 18th century.

    The 1705-1747 Capitol was reconstructed by the Colonial Williamsburg & refurnished using 18th-century documents as a guide. It was dedicated in 1934, & since that time, the legislators have reassembled for a day every other year in the Capitol here at Colonial Williamsburg!
    Henry Cary (a contractor) supervised the building of the Capitol.

    It was a two-story H-shaped structure; two buildings & an arcade. The building today is a representation of that 1st building. Within the walls of the Palace was a stable, a kitchen, & the gardens. Today, all of these still exist.

    At first, there were no fireplaces allowed to prevent fires, & candles & pipes were also barred. Thus, the building was cold & damp. Because of all the complaints, chimneys were added for fireplaces, & wouldn't you know it, the place burned down! It was rebuilt.

    In this second building, Patrick Henry delivered his "Caesar-Brutus speech" against the Stamp Act. It was last used as a capitol in 1779 because Richmond became the new capital.

    The building was then used as a military hospital, grammar school, & a female academy. Sadly, the west wing was sold for its bricks & demolished; the east side burned.

    Thank goodness it was reconstructed! Not only was it reconstructed but so were the beautiful gardens. There were 900 feet of green to the gates of the Governor's Palace. Its purpose was to focus the eye on the executive authority in Virginia. It's certainly a source of city pride, & it stands today as it was in the 18th century.

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  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo

    The first American Capitol

    by matcrazy1 Updated Dec 27, 2004

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    THE  CAPITOL - SOUTHERN  FACADE

    The building, on my picture, was topped by tall tower and stood at the eastern end of the main avenue of Colonial Williamsburg. It is the first American structure to which the word Capitol was applied.

    We had to wait in a line approx. 20 min. to get inside and join the guided tour. Warning: basic Colonial Sampler Ticket ($33.00) does NOT include the guided tour both to the Capitol and to the Governor's Palace, you must buy the Governor's Key-to-the-city Pass ($45.00). While Urszula and Nat were standing in a line I was walking around on green lawn (capitol grounds) and admired architecture hmm... more of beautiful surrounding colonial houses than of the capitol itself.

    The tower of the Capitol was hidden behind scaffoldings due to renovation works (in October 2004). The two-storey brick edifice, covered by gable roof with dormers, didn't look arcitecturally very attractive to me. Maybe it would if I didn't see very beautiful colonial houses and mansions before. Well, the best were the interiors and fascinating history hidden behind the capitol walls and explained by our tour guide. Stay tuned and let me explain what the English word "capitol" means.

    CAPITOL
    English word Capitol derives from the Capitoline Hill (Capitolinus Mons) in Rome, seat of the government of the Roman Republic. Capitol refers to a building that houses the administration of certain governments. In the USA it's home of the legislative branch of the United States government (U.S. Capitol) or certain state government (State Capitol). In colonial times, before the USA was born in 1776, the capitol was a seat of the House of Burgesses - the first elected legislative assembly in the New World.

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  • rsleisk's Profile Photo

    Williamsburg Capitol

    by rsleisk Updated Nov 8, 2004

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    Re-enactors tell about the history of the building

    The building that stands today is the third Capitol on the site.

    In this building Patrick Henry delivered his Caesar-Brutus speech against the Stamp Act on May 29, 1765. Henry, George Washington, George Mason, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Jefferson, and others played their parts in the legislative wars that ended in revolution.

    The building was last used as a capitol on December 24, 1779, when the General Assembly adjourned to reconvene May 1 at the new capital, Richmond. By turns the building served as an admiralty court, a law school, a military hospital, a grammar school, and a female academy.

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  • b1bob's Profile Photo

    Capitol of the Virginia Colony

    by b1bob Updated Apr 26, 2004

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    colonial capitol building

    The Virginia capitol at Williamsburg administered a territory that is not only present-day Virginia, but it extended all the way to the Mississippi River. The foundation of our present-day democracy was debated here. The lower house is the House of Burgesses (patterned after Britain's House of Commons) and an upper chamber called the House of Lords. As you face into the capitol building from where the tour begins, the House of Burgesses is on the right, the House of Lords is on the left above the Supreme Court (which doubles as a jury room). Representatives for both chambers meet in the hallway adjoining the two houses to confer on bills before being passed on to the king for final approval.

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  • The Capitol

    by grkboiler Written Mar 1, 2004
    The Capitol

    This building in Colonial Williamsburg was the scene of many significant moments in the history leading up to the American Revolution, and was the first building in colonial America that had the word "capitol" applied to it. Patrick Henry delivered his famous speech against the Stamp Act in 1765, and many other historical figures used it to make their voices heard.

    The original building was completed in 1705 and was rebuilt after a fire in 1747. The 2nd capitol was destroyed in 1881, and the present building was built in 1934 as a replica of the original capitol.

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  • bugalugs's Profile Photo

    Capitol Building

    by bugalugs Written Jan 17, 2004

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    Rear of Capitol Building

    George Washington and Thomas Jefferson met here in May 1765 before the revolution. The Capitol after 1779 moved to Richmond.

    This building was then used for other things including a court, law school and a hospital. It again suffered a fire in 1832.

    When Colonial Williamsburg was restored this new building was built on the design of the original one. A ceremony for its opening was held in February 1934.

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  • bugalugs's Profile Photo

    The Capitol Building

    by bugalugs Written Jan 17, 2004

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    Capitol Building

    The Capitol Building was built between 1703-5. It was an important place where legislation and laws were passed.

    No chimneys and fireplaces were built and no candles and pipes were allowed in case of fire. But the building became damp and and so chimneys and fireplaces were added. However in 1749 a fire brought down the whole building except some walls and the foundations. Some wanted the Capitol Building built elsewhere which would be more accessible but a vote was taken and a new building was erected and completed in 1753.

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  • steph4867's Profile Photo

    The Capitol

    by steph4867 Updated Mar 14, 2003

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    The Capitol

    Virginia legislators met in the H-shaped Capitol at the eastern end of Duke of Gloucester Street from 1704 to 1780. America's first representative assembly, it had an upper house, His Majesty's Council of State, of 12 members appointed by the king for life. Members of the lower body, the House of Burgesses, were elected by the freeholders of each county (there were 128 burgesses by 1776). They initiated legislation, and sent it to the Council for action. The House of Burgesses became a training ground for patriots such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, and Patrick Henry. As 1776 approached, the Burgesses passed petitions and resolutions against acts of Parliament: the Stamp Act and the levy on tea--in Henry's immortal words, "taxation without representation," a phrase which became a motto of the Revolution.

    The original Capitol burned down in 1747, was rebuilt in 1753, and succumbed to fire again in 1832. The reconstruction is of the 1704 version, complete with Queen Anne's coat-of-arms adorning the tower and the Great Union flag flying overhead. Tours (about 25 minutes) are given continuously.

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  • acemj's Profile Photo

    Virginia Capitol

    by acemj Updated Oct 19, 2002

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    Today, the state Capitol is in Richmond, but previously the Virginia Capitol was here in Williamsburg. Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, Patrick Henry and many other great American patriots spent time here developing many of the principles of government that we have today.

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