A Walking Tour of Williamsburg, Virginia (Look Up, America!)


There is no better way to see America than on foot. And there is no better way to appreciate what you are looking at than with a walking tour. Whether you are preparing for a road trip or just out to look at your own town in a new way, a downloadable walking tour from walkthetown.com is ready to explore when you are.

Each walking tour describes historical and architectural landmarks and provides pictures to help out when those pesky street addresses are missing. Every tour also includes a quick primer on identifying architectural styles seen on American streets.

Today nearly every schoolchildren knows the town of Williamsburg. That that is the case is due not so much to the great history that happened here but to the vision of one man – William Archer Rutherfoord Goodwin.

To be sure, Williamsburg, which served as capital of Virginia from 1699 to 1780, saw its share of notable events, most significantly the fiery rhetoric in the Virginia Capitol by Patrick Henry and brush-ups during the Revolutionary War and Civil War. But after the capital shuffled off to Richmond in 1780 the town led a mostly somnambulant existence for a century and a half.

William Goodwin, then 33 years of age, arrived in Williamsburg in 1903 to become pastor of the Bruton Parish Church. Goodwin was struck by the number of still-standing 18th century buildings in his new community and was inspired to restore his church in time for the 300th anniversary of the establishment of the Episcopal Church in America at Jamestown in 1907.
And then Goodwin left to minister to a church in Rochester, New York.

He returned to Bruton Parish in 1923 and was dismayed at the changes that had occurred to Williamsburg in his absence – the deterioration and loss of the antique buildings was rampant. In his mind Dr. Goodwin hatched a scheme not just to save and restore a building here and there but to bring its 18th century appearance back to Williamsburg. He found perhaps the best ally in the country to pull off such an audacious plan – John D. Rockefeller, Jr., son of the founder of Standard Oil. With the Rockefeller money they founded Colonial Williamsburg and created a 301-acre Historic Area. Some 459 buildings were torn down, 91 of the Colonial period rebuilt, 67 restored and a new shopping center in Colonial style was provided.

Today, Colonial Williamsburg is Virginia’s largest tourist attraction and we will begin right at its center, on a green space that was framed by catalpa trees where Americans first enjoyed stage plays, an area whose restoration was targeted as one of Colonial Williamsburg’s first restorations…