Visit the Secret Filming Sites for ‘Turn: Washington’s Spies’

Greater Williamsburg serves as a stand-in for scenes in the TV period drama. Here’s an insider guide to those spots.

The Governor's Palace at Colonial Williamsburg
College of William & Mary
Turn Season 4 in Yorktown
Turn Season 4 in Yorktown
Turn Season 4 in Yorktown
Turn Season 4 in Yorktown

Deception has been a foundation of spy tradecraft for centuries. During the Revolution, Major Benjamin Tallmadge, Abraham Woodhull and the rest of the Culper Ring — America's first spies — were masters of deceit, whether they were gathering intelligence in New York or devising a way to transmit a report to Gen. George Washington.

So it's hardly surprising that the creators of Turn: Washington’s Spies, starting its final season on AMC this month, turned to a bit of deception of their own. Throughout the series, locations in Colonial Williamsburg, the College of William & Mary and Yorktown have posed as things they are not — as Benjamin Franklin’s home, King George's throne room and the streets of Philadelphia.  

A courier fresh from the past has delivered to us via a dead letter drop, the trail of those locations on paper with invisible ink. Like Tallmadge, Woodhull and Anna Strong on the show, we've learned the craft of revealing those secrets (hint: it involves something called sympathetic stain). We're sharing them here for the first time.

COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG

The Governor's Palace 

In the spy game, it's all about appearing to be what you're not. 

Starting in Colonial Williamsburg seems appropriate for your spy turn on the Turn Tour. Slip quietly along the path to the outside of the Governor's Palace, which doubles as the home of Peggy Shippen's family in Philadelphia. Shippen, of course, helps turn Benedict Arnold toward betrayal.  

Go inside and, in the Turn world, you are inside the Royal Palace in London, with The Palace appearing as an anteroom outside King George III's throne room in the premiere of the second season.

The Magazine

Slip away from those trailing you and across the street where, in the second season, the ruthless Capt. John Graves Simcoe is shown exiting The Magazine to join his fellow Redcoats as they march through the city of Philadelphia.

The Wythe House

Benjamin Franklin lived with his common-law wife, Deborah, in a simple home known as Franklin Court on Philadelphia's Market Street. In season two of Turn, the Wythe House on the Palace Green plays the part of his home. 

Market Square, Botetourt and Duke of Gloucester Streets

Where do you go when you want to shoot colonial street scenes? Williamsburg, of course. In season three, these three iconic Williamsburg streets are featured as exteriors of colonial Philadelphia. In one scene, Peggy Shippen watches boys play a game at Market Square by the Courthouse and calls them over, asking them to take a letter inside.

The Capitol

Once again, the producers use deception. The Capitol plays the role of Philadelphia's Penn Mansion, the home Benedict Arnold purchased for himself and his bride, Peggy Shippen.

COLLEGE OF WILLIAM & MARY

Wren Building

For the opening scene of season two, the Great Hall of the Wren Building at the College of William & Mary appeared as King George III's throne room. But if you look closely, you'll see differences. Producers added a few flourishes with computer graphics, adding a chandelier, tapestries and other embellishments. But the hall’s window's wood paneling and grand doors are unmistakable.

YORKTOWN

Nelson House

During filming for the final season, the crew set up on Nelson Street in and around Nelson House in Yorktown to film.  What will those locales portray on your small screen? You'll have to tune in to find out. We know how to keep a secret.

Visit other sites related to the American Revolution on the Alexander Hamilton trail or check out the role played by ordinary people at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.  And plan your visit to Greater Williamsburg today.

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