Tuesday, June 23, 2009


This place was utterly surreal. I loved it. The concept is that the buildings in this area of Williamsburg, Virginia, which was the original capital of the colonies, were in general disrepair up till the early 20th century and a resident, Dr. WAR Goodwin, wanted to restore his local church. He got JD Rockefeller JR interested and BOOM. ...

Re-creation and restoration started on November 27, 1926Arthur Shurcliff as the chief landscape architect and Perry, Shaw & Hepburn as architects. Concerned that prices might rise if their intentions were known, Rockefeller and Goodwin kept their plans a secret, quietly buying up properties. Of course, that much property suddenly changing hands was noticeable, and after eighteen months of increasingly nervous rumors, Goodwin and Rockefeller finally revealed their plans at two town meetings on June 11 and 12, 1928.

Most townspeople seem to have been contented to sell their property and expressed enthusiasm about the plan, but a few had qualms. Major S. D. Freeman said, "We will reap dollars, but will we own our town? Will you not be in the position of a butterfly pinned to a card in a glass cabinet, or like a mummy unearthed in the tomb of Tutankhamun?" wikipedia

So 88 of the 500 buildings are original, and the locations are original, and the area is entirely shut down to non-colonial era phenomenon, actors fill the streets, from British soldiers to Thomas Jefferson, who studied law here.

Like actually here.

I spoke to several of the actors and they were hilarious and friendly and full of information. My two favorite pieces being: There were no trees at all then because the town's designer said that "bears and indians" hid in them, imagining the place tree-less was a trip, AND that some of the actors actually live in these buildings but they have to keep their post-17th century devices (light, computer, etc) completely out of sight. Imagine that lifestyle.

Two of the younger actors (who were big fans of Always Sunny in Philadelphia and that episode about colonial Philly) told me that there were no adult themes explored.

Overall, the Disney facade didn't detract from the historical emanations and in fact made the experience feel like an profundity scavenger hunt. Recommended!


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