7 (Patriotic) Reasons to Thank Williamsburg this Fourth of July
The Greater Williamsburg area and the historic events that happened here played a seminal role in the birth of our nation. Here are 7 reasons why we should be grateful.
As you honor the birth of the radical idea that all men (and women) are created equal and endowed with the unalienable right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” give a nod of thanks to Greater Williamsburg this Fourth of July.
Here are seven reasons why.
1. Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in North America. One hundred and four settlers, who had set sail in December 1606 from London, arrived on May 14, 1607. They endured while others failed elsewhere on the continent. You can visit Jamestown Settlement where extensive gallery exhibits and film explore Jamestown's beginnings. Outdoors, explore re-creations of a Powhatan Indian village and a 1610-1614 fort, and board a replica of one of the three ships that sailed from England to Virginia in 1607. And you can walk in the footsteps of Pocahontas and John Smith at the original settlement site at Historic Jamestowne and watch archaeologists continue to excavate James Fort. Orientation tours are offered daily at both venues.
2. Williamsburg was where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Mason, and others first practiced the ideals that led to the founding of the nation. Starting in 1699, Williamsburg became the capital of Virginia, England's largest, wealthiest, and most populous colony in the Americas — and an intellectual center. You can walk the streets of Colonial Williamsburg in the footsteps of these Founding Fathers.
3. One of the first challenges to the British monarchy was issued in the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg. In 1765 Patrick Henry pressed for the passage of a series of resolves against the Stamp Act, which taxed newspapers, customs documents, licenses, college diplomas, and most legal documents. "If this be treason," he said during the debate, "make the most of it." You can tour the reconstructed Capitol building in Colonial Williamsburg, where the House of Burgesses met from 1705 to 1779, when the capital of Virginia was relocated to Richmond.
4. The College of William & Mary, second oldest in the nation, educated some the nation’s Founding Fathers. On Feb. 8, 1693, King William III and Queen Mary II of England signed the charter for a "perpetual College of Divinity, Philosophy, Languages, and other good Arts and Sciences" in the Virginia Colony. A young George Washington earned his surveyor's license there. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler earned degrees there. You can take a campus tour or visit on your own.
5. Yorktown was the final major battle of the American Revolution. After six years of war with Britain, General George Washington, with help from the French, besieged General Charles Lord Cornwallis’s army at Yorktown. Cornwallis was outnumbered two-to-one. The battle began on Oct. 9, 1781, and ended with a request for surrender on Oct. 17. A Visitor Center offers an orientation film and museum exhibits, including the field tents used by General Washington during the battle. You can join a Park Ranger for a guided walking tour of the battlefield and 18th-century town. And you can drive through the battlefield on your own and see the numerous fortifications and cannons; the Moore House, scene of surrender negotiations; and Surrender Field, among other sites.
6. Williamsburg has one of the nation’s oldest African-American houses of worship, the historic First Baptist Church. It traces its secret establishment by enslaved and free worshipers back to 1776. You can attend services at the church today.
7. Colonial Williamsburg tells the story of the nation’s origins in an unparalleled way. In 1926 the Rev. Dr. William A.R. Goodwin, rector of the city’s Bruton Parish Church, pointed out to philanthropist John D. Rockefeller that Williamsburg was the only early American city capable of restoration. Today, Colonial Williamsburg is the world’s largest living history museum, encompassing 300 acres and nearly 600 buildings, including 88 restored original 18th-century structures. You can join one of more than 20 guided and self-guided tours offered daily. Enter the homes of Williamsburg’s 18th-century residents, get a firsthand perspective from a curator, or see the city by carriage. Explore world-class art museums, shop for authentic 18th-century reproductions, and enjoy a Colonial-inspired meal in a historic tavern or a modern menu at a contemporary restaurant or café.
Learn more about visiting Greater Williamsburg and plan your trip today!