Williamsburg, Virginia, is full of history at every turn! You can hardly drive a mile without seeing a historical marker telling you about an event that took place or a building that once stood there. Then there are the picturesque sights you see as you are driving around the area. It was hard not to pull over every few minutes while driving down the scenic Colonial Parkway that connects the three historic cities of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown.
When I arrived in Williamsburg, I stopped at the first "antiques" sign I came across. It belonged to the Williamsburg Antique Mall, and I found a STUNNING aqua pictorial flask from the 1850s hidden away on a top shelf. The flask had the bust of George Washington and Gen. Zachary Taylor embossed on it. Pictorial flasks are one of my favorite things to dig and collect. I always stop in antique stores to see if there are any hiding somewhere. I quickly took the flask to the checkout and headed back to my truck to make my way to the next stop, Historic Jamestowne.
When I arrived, I was greeted by Director of Archeology, David Givens. David and I talked at length about Jamestown Rediscovery’s most recent finds and how they’ve gone about restoring and preserving them. David also walked me through some of their current excavation sites. What I loved about Historic Jamestowne was that anyone could get up close to watch the archeologists and ask them questions to get a better understanding of how the process works.
After David and I finished walking around Historic Jamestowne, he took me to their vault, where they clean, restore, and keep artifacts that are not on display in the museum. As someone who loves finding bottles in privies and homestead dumps, I was immediately drawn to the ceramic Bartmann Jugs! Bartmann Jugs are a form of salt-glazed stoneware made in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. The most distinctive feature of the jug was the bearded face placed around the neck of the jug.
I departed Jamestown Island as the sun was going down and headed back down the Colonial Parkway. Do yourself a favor and drive along the parkway as the sun is setting…You’ll thank me later.
The following morning, I set out to visit the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. There I would meet with Luke Pecoraro, director of curatorial services. Luke showed me around the different exhibits showcasing what the daily life of a soldier or family living in 18th-century America would look like. He even taught me how museums work with collectors, families, and other institutions to source items for their collections. Luke then showed me some of the newly acquired artifacts locked away in their vault, like a flintlock musket and tools used to load cannons.
The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown has a Continental Army encampment that you can walk through to see what it was like to be a soldier in George Washington’s army. You can also watch reenactors fire cannons, mortars, and flintlock muskets!
I continued my tour of Yorktown with a stop at the Watermen’s Museum to talk to the legendary underwater explorer, John Broadwater. John worked as the chief underwater archaeologist on James Cameron’s “Ghost of the Abyss” and oversaw the salvage operation on the U.S.S. Monitor, a Civil War-era ironclad ship. I spent a great deal of time talking to John and his team about their current recovery projects in the York River and the logistics of a salvage operation from start to finish.
After saying goodbye to John, I headed over to Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters for lunch. Now Mobjack Bay is no ordinary coffee shop. Its owner, Celeste Gucanac, opened the coffee shop inside the Cole Digges House, which is inside Yorktown National Park. Celeste, who is also a huge history lover and collects antique bottles, worked with the National Park Service to obtain permits to open Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters within the historic walls. This allows visitors to walk through and see the historic landmark in its entirety and enjoy a delicious bite to eat while taking in the area's history. Be sure to ask Celeste about Mobjack Bay’s upstairs guest…
Then, I headed to Freedom Park, home to one of America’s earliest Free Black Settlements from 1803-1850. You can visit three historically accurate replica cabins that are furnished with household items from that time period. Here you can have a picnic with some friends, check out the wildlife, and even ride your mountain bike on the park’s vast network of trails.
Back at my hotel, Kingsmill Resort & Spa, I toured the grounds to see the preserved remnants from the Kingsmill plantation that once occupied the site. Here you can tee off right next to the original office and kitchen built in the mid-1700s.
Once I was recharged, I headed back out for dinner at La Piazza followed by a haunted tour with Colonial Ghost. It was fascinating to learn about all the dark events that took place within Colonial Williamsburg and the mysterious apparitions that are still reported.
As I was driving home the following day, I couldn’t stop thinking about the various ways Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown have made history fun and accessible to everyone. The region has perfected the living museum model, and I hope other historic cities can be preserved in the same manner.