Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Colonial Williamsburg in April, Day 5

Our fifth day was a long and busy one that began with an attempt to squeeze into a garden tour at 9 AM.  When it was clear that the tour didn't have room for us, we consoled ourselves with a tour of the Thomas Everard House.

Although simply furnished, I thought this upstairs bedroom looked very comfortable and relaxing.  I like the way the natural light from the dormer window facing west provides the room with a soft glow.

I've been impressed with the woodwork on this staircase each time I've toured this house, but I don't think I had ever noticed the disparity in the balusters before.  Nonetheless, I still like this staircase.

I've shown a picture of Everard's office in a previous post, but this shot shows the other side of the room including a cool desk, beautiful drop-leaf table in the middle of the room, and allegedly a microscope inside the pyramid-shaped box by the window.

We had to go outside the house to see this, but someone (perhaps H.B. Smith?) scratched this ship in the glass of one the parlor window panes in 1873.  Actually, this is reproduction of the 1873 work, as the original was destroyed several years ago when a painter's ladder slipped and crashed through the window.  Remember that when you think you've done something unforgivable.

Three lovely ladies on a bench in a Palace courtyard.

The tranquil canal to the west of the Palace: one of our favorite spots to find solitude.

Things were not so tranquil in the Palace kitchen, but only because there's always food to prepare.

Although the tulips were fading by the end of our trip, the gardens were still beautiful with a variety of other flowers.

At lunch time our group split up again and I was fortunate enough to be joined by these three pleasant young ladies at Nawab Indian Cuisine for their hard-to-beat buffet.

This attractive little gate caught my eye along Duke of Gloucester Street.  I like the symmetry and the way the peaked shape mimics the peaked roof of the shed behind it.  So many fun architectural features, so little time.

We were honored to find Mark Hutter in the Millinery/Tailor Shop today, and as always, he educated us on several topics.  When asked about his current projects, he produced the bolt of purple fabric laying in front of him in the image above and proceeded to tell us about the 1740s suit they are planning to make from the fabric.  One of the few extant garments known to have been worn in Williamsburg in the 18th century was a man's suit crafted in three pieces (coat, waistcoat, and breeches) from a silk very similar to the bolt pictured.  Acting on behalf of Colonial Williamsburg, Mr. Hutter commissioned a European fabric mill to match the 18th century fabric.  The match is not perfect, as some fine details were omitted due to budget constraints, but I'm told most people would be hard pressed to tell the difference (since I haven't seen the original garments, I can't comment on this claim).

The original suit was worn by the owner and was later updated to 1770s fashion for use by the son.  Naturally, Mr. Hutter only has access to the modified garments, but can tell from their construction what the 1740s garment probably looked like.  His intention is to create two coats, both in the 1740s style, and then modify one of them to reflect the current state of the garment in the 1770s style.  In the image above Mr. Hutter was describing characteristics of the fabric pattern that made this fabric an interesting combination of two styles, and he had just finished describing the construction differences between 1740s and 1770s men's coats.  We were all very impressed.

Later, at the Cabinetmaker Shop, Elizabeth joined a long line of keyboard players that have practiced their form on this reproduction harpsichord.

This obligatory image shows a quaint garden we've enjoyed seeing here in different seasons.

Finally, after dinner at Aroma's (another favorite here), we made our way to the Palace for a candlelight concert featuring violins, viola, viola da gamba, flute, and harpsichord.  As always, the candlelit atmosphere suited the classical music well as the Governor's Musick ensemble played works composed by Carl Friedrich Abel, Joseph Haydn, Johann Christian Bach, and Leopold Mozart (Wolfgang's dad).  We always enjoy these concerts so much I have to wonder: would we attend frequently if we lived in Williamsburg?  There's only one way to find out!  It's good to be on vacation!

On day two I mentioned that we watched the filming of a live webcast on the streets of CW, and it appears that the webcast is now archived online, so we can all watch it at our leisure.  Go to http://connect.history.org/archived-webcasts and click on the link for "American Ideas: The Gale from the North."

Friday, April 20, 2012

Colonial Williamsburg in April, Day 4

Our fourth day at Colonial Williamsburg included visits to two silversmiths, and two attempts at dancing, among other things.

Pictured above is the James Geddy House at the corner of the Palace Green and Duke of Gloucester Street.  This is one of several dozen original structures in town, and includes Geddy's house on the left, his shop in the middle, and another shop area on the right that was rented to another merchant.

The house is not remarkable by today's standards, but I imagine it was pretty impressive in its surroundings 250 years ago.  I enjoy looking at features like the built-in china cabinet above and imagining how many generations of residents used that space over the home's life.

Some of the items available in Mr. Geddy's shop are displayed in the front window, although they are not for sale here since the building is simply used for tours today.  Nonetheless, the polished silver was dazzling!

The Geddy property also includes a foundry behind the house where craftsmen still fashion all sorts of items from bronze, brass, pewter, and silver, including firearm parts.  Tim seems happy to have found this specimen, but unfortunately, he couldn't take it with him.

Also in the foundry building was this rifling broach.  A barrel is clamped in place on the left, and you can barely see the cutting teeth to the left of the barrel.

Our day also included English country dance instruction in the Apollo Room at the Raleigh Tavern.  You can see a few members of our group in the group above, although the dance didn't go quite as smoothly as the instructor desired.  Consequently, we tried the dance again in the evening (see below).

Our families had dissimilar lunch desires, so the Madeiras visited The Trellis in Merchant Square while we dined in the courtyard behind the King's Arms Tavern in the historic district.  We can't speak for the Madeiras, but our food was tasty and plentiful, and the surroundings were pleasantly relaxing.  I'd definitely eat there again.

Our day also included a visit to the other silversmith on the east end of town, the Golden Ball, which was a reconstruction of a jewelry and silversmith shop run by James Craig in the 18th century.  One half of the building was a retail area that offered jewelry and other items for sale, including the wine label above that seemed appropriate for our friends.

A workshop occupied the other half of the building where one could observe craftsmen (and women) working with pewter and silver.  I believe the apprentice above was fashioning pewter into shapes that would serve as a pattern for casting several additional pieces in another metal.

This dining table was found in the Peyton Randolph House, which we visited in the afternoon.  The blue-on-white serving pieces may have been the most valuable items on this table as they were recovered several years ago from an 18th century shipwreck that contained thousands of pieces in excellent condition.  The curators at CW acquired about 66 pieces since the pattern matched dish fragments found on the property.  Interesting to consider that the Randolph family were evidently unsuccessful in preserving their serving dishes, while a sunken ship protected these others for over two hundred years.

Finally, here's our attempt at the dance some of us were trying to learn at the Raleigh Tavern today.  Feel free to watch it on YouTube for a larger view or choose full screen if you're so inclined.  Judge for yourself, but I think we did a pretty good job!  It's good to be on vacation!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Colonial Williamsburg in April, Day 3

Our day three this year was the Lord's Day, so we found ourselves again at Bruton Parish, which has become a bit of a tradition.

A new treat this Sunday was the Tarpley Ringers bell choir which played the prelude before this service.  Like before, it was a privilege to take part in the centuries-old tradition of services at this parish.

I took this shot of the rear of the Palace as Tim and I enjoyed the shade on an unseasonably warm afternoon.

In the Palace scullery we found a few of the cooks busy brewing the wort for what will become a mum beer,  in the style of Brunswick Mum.  One of the cooks likened it to a modern Belgian Wit beer.   Ingredients included barley, wheat, oats, cardamom, grains of paradise, long pepper, and other spices I can't remember.  Regular readers of this blog will also recognize the Kent Golding hops in the assembly of ingredients on the table.

Even the graveyard surrounding Bruton Parish provided cool spots to sit and avoid the heat, although it looks like Elizabeth has found her perch on top of a tombstone.

The weavers were as entertaining as ever this afternoon, spinning tales both true and fanciful.

The apprentice had just dyed this wool this afternoon, and ended up with these cooler red colors when she was trying to achieve warmer, more orange reds.  She informed us that, unfortunately, it's more difficult to achieve these colors with the ingredients she was using, so when she tries to produce these colors in the future, she'll probably end up with the orange she was trying to achieve today!


"I'm not kidding!  Look at that squirrel!"

Sorry this image is out of focus, but this little subject didn't sit still very long.  Yes, this is what the girls were all gazing at.

 We first met this guitarist in 2009 at the St. George Tucker House where he was playing his Marie Antoinette reproduction guitar.  "Marie" doesn't make many outdoor appearances, so today he was playing "Tony" which is a reproduction of two Stradivari guitars.

While this building appears to be very plain and simple, it has a form and style that we don't see very often back in Illinois.  Maybe it's the brick walls, or the external chimney on one end, or the little dormers, or the full-length porch, or the arched doorway, or maybe it's just all those things thrown into one little building.

Another "four girls on a bench" shot, only this time Elizabeth is standing in for Karen.

Back at our lodging in the evening, a rousing game of Chronology kept us all entertained, and in some cases, quite animated!  It's good to be on vacation.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Colonial Williamsburg in April, Day 2

Our second day in the historic district found us meandering through a variety of experiences.

Tim was the only one in our group that hadn't experienced Charlton's Coffeehouse, so we all joined him for the 2012 version of the tour.  As before, we began in the private room which is furnished with the latest wallpaper from England, wall-to-wall woven floor coverings, comfortable furniture, and gilded wall decorations.

The tour then proceeded to the public serving area, but to our surprise (and dismay) we weren't served beverages there.  Our guide then took us through Mr. Charlton's private office area and into the basement kitchen where we were happy to see beverages being served.  The chocolate was served in paper cups instead of china, but it was still delicious.

We were privileged to watch the filming of a live webcast of an episode of CW's Revolutionary City street drama, which was followed by a moderated panel discussion involving two of the actors and two gentlemen responsible for the production of the Revolutionary City series.

The panel took questions from both the online and on-site audiences, and our friend Rachel was honored to address the panel.  This picture was taken just before this camera went live with "a question from a guest on Duke of Gloucester Street."  We were told the webcast will be archived and available for viewing in a few days, so we'll give you a link when we have one.  Rumor has it that Rachel was not the only one of our party caught on camera that day.

Some of our lovely ladies relaxing in the garden outside the Powell House.

Inside the Powell House, Tim and Elizabeth try to best the interpreter at an alphabet game while there appears to be a party erupting in the hallway.  Coincidentally, this is the room where we first met the Madeiras eight years ago.

A series of these engravings adorned the walls of the parlor at the Powell House, contrasting the behavior of the industrious 'prentice and the lazy 'prentice.  This image shows the industrious apprentice at worship and references Psalm 119:97, "O How I love thy Law it is my meditation all the day."  I didn't take pictures of the lazy apprentice engravings as they weren't very edifying.

Lily redid the polonaising on this Robe a la Anglais you've seen on this blog before.  On this day she wore it over her new petticoat and added a couple new accessories.
From the back it should be obvious that the polonaising is now accomplished with internal loops instead of external ones.

This closer view shows Lily's new miniature and nosegay.

All of us except Karen were able to enjoy Death by Chocolate this evening.  I can report that it is still as rich, chocolaty, smooth, moist, and delicious as ever.  Have I mentioned it's good to be on vacation?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Back to Williamsburg in April, Day 1

Since we started visiting Williamsburg in 2004, we've concluded that the best time of year to be here is in April.  The weather is warm, but not oppressive, and most of the world is not on vacation yet.  We're especially glad to be back this April as it has been three years since we've spent a week here in this beautiful season.  Sit back and enjoy the experience with us.

One of our first stops this year was this "prettyish little sort of wilderness" just off Duke of Gloucester Street that has become a favorite garden spot.  As you can tell, we were privileged again to be joined by the Madeira family from Pennsylvania because the experience just isn't the same without them.

I'll leave it to the sharp-eyed horticulturists in our audience to identify the flowers in bloom in this patch.  Fortunately, one doesn't have to identify a flower to enjoy it.

Lily constructed a new Pierrot jacket (1780s) made in a reproduction Indian chintz, and petticoat made from Marseilles fabric that are making their debut on this trip.

 Rear view.

Closer view of the jacket detail (including the cute little covered buttons).

Sleeve detail.

Since we were here last March, these two buildings have sprung up in the Anderson House backyard.  The blacksmith shop has been located here as long as we've been visiting, but the old building was torn down a year ago so archaeologists could explore the site to more accurately represent the buildings that were here in the 18th century.  The white building is the blacksmith shop, while the brown building to the right is the kitchen.  Several more buildings are planned to recreate the Public Armoury that Anderson operated on this site between 1778 and 1780.

One of the cooks in the Anderson kitchen was this gentlemen that we've visited several times in the Palace kitchen across town.  He explained that the fare at this site was typically a one-kettle meal that could efficiently feed the forty workers employed at the armoury.

The blacksmiths seem well adjusted to their new shop.  I have a feeling the white walls and ceiling in this building won't be white very long.

Another good reason to visit in April is that lambing season is usually in full swing.  Here are a few of this year's adorable candidates.

The end of the day found us relaxing in the gardens behind the Palace contemplating how much effort it would take to make our back yard look like this.

Back at our home away from home, Tim and Heather showed their talents preparing a delicious Italian dinner, and yes, that Trader Joe's chocolate ganache cake served as dessert.  It's good to be on vacation!