the governors mansion in williamsburg

Day 51 – Virginia’s James River Plantations

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Day 51 of a Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

Williamsburg

Scout, Petey and I had a busy day today.  We left the Walmart parking lot and arrived in Colonial Williamsburg only a short time later around 10 o’clock.  I got so lucky!  I followed the brown signs to the historic district, passed a few parking lots and ended up parking right next to the visitor’s center next to Williamsburg’s historic center. 

We took a 1.2 mile walk down Duke of Gloucester Street and back.  The street was lined with sites where “artists” (for lack of a better word) dressed in colonial wear and demonstrated a variety of colonial practices such as wig making, blacksmithing, and tailoring, to name a few.

The Capitol Building and the Governor’s Palace

The old Capitol building stood at the end of the street and the Governor’s Palace could be found  at the end of the palace green which stretched two blocks.  I didn’t tour any of the shops or buildings as I had visited Williamsburg as a 6th grader for our class history trip.  It was interesting to note what stuck out in my mind as a 12 year old as compared to now. 

I tried finding a cache nearby the Capitol.  I know it was in a tree, but it was hard to peer in the branches stealthily with several tourists and colonial folk around.  Not to mention sifting around an area near a government building could bring rise to much more suspicion.

Sherwood Forest Plantation

After our walk through Williamsburg, we wound northwest along Colonial Parkway through forests of fall foliage to several different plantations along the James River.  Our first stop was at Sherwood Forest Plantation, home of John Tyler, the 10th President of the United States.  Some structures on the property include the big house, the servant’s house, the milk house, the smoke house, the tobacco barn and a few others.  Many of them date back to 1680 and have remained in constant use. 

The big house is one of the longest frame houses in America. The grounds (3,500 acres in total) include a variety of gardens, swamp and marsh lands, forests and even a pet cemetery.  I met a lady here from Del Mar that had lost her sim card from her camera.  On it, were all of her pictures from the previous day as well as some photos from France…BUMMER!  I helped her look for a while, but didn’t see it.  Losing my pictures is my worst nightmare!!

Berkeley Plantation

After our visit, we drove up the James River to the Berkeley Plantation, the site of the first Thanksgiving in America.  Thanksgiving was held by Captain Woodliffe and his 38 settlers after their ship Margaret landed here on December 4, 1619.  The site is also home to the first whisky distillery in America (1621).  Furthermore, the plantation was once owned by Benjamin Harrison, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and was the birthplace of President William Henry Harrison. 

During part of its history, the Union troops occupied the home and composed taps.  Additionally, it withstood a variety of wars as evidenced by a cannonball that can be found in the outer wall of one of the buildings. The plantation fell into disrepair after three years of failed tobacco crops. Some 45 years after the Civil War, the property was purchased for timber land in auction by a once young Scottish drummer boy who occupied the home with the Union Troops.  The house has since remained in the same family.

Shirley Plantation

From the Berkeley Plantation we continued up the James River for a brief visit to the Shirley Plantation, known for its perfectly portioned Queen Anne house, before heading to Richmond. 

Shirley Plantation on the James River

Richmond, Virginia

In Richmond, I visited a variety of historic buildings.  While many were destroyed, others survived.  I began at the train station that looked like a mansion inside.  It was extraordinary. Just next to and below it were the remnants of slave holding facilities as the old slave trading district was across the street.

A few other buildings of note are the oldest residential structure in Richmond which houses the works of Edgar Allen Poe and the Old City Hall, now a courts building.  The Old City Hall looks like a palace both inside and out.  Additionally, a nearby statue counted as a virtual cache, so I have logged on more state to my geocaching list, Virginia!

Charlottesville, Virginia

There were several Walmart parking lots to choose from for camping in Richmond.  As a result, I selected a Walmart in a smaller city, Charlottesville.  It was closer to the beginning of my next scenic drive as well. In Charlottesville, I treated myself to dinner at The Outback Steakhouse. 

I think my waitress, Laura, felt bad that I was sitting alone and waiting on food, so she sat down and started talking.  It was so great.  She is Canadian, but has her green card and is waitressing to put herself through school.  She wants to be a dermatologist and has lots of years to go.  What a delight she was!  I hope it all works out for her.  Who knew dinner at The Outback Steakhouse after visiting the James River Plantations would be such a pleasant way to end the day!  ETB

Laura at Outback Steakhouse

Map of My Road Trip Across the USA

For a summary about my road trip across the USA, click HERE. For the interactive map, see the below link.

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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