This article appears on the AOL Travel Website, however, the author’s photos have been substituted here.
Colonial Williamsburg is the quintessential living history museum. The site includes 301 acres with 88 original buildings, 500 reconstructed houses, shops, public buildings, working craftsmen and costumed interpreters. The popular tourist area, close to Richmond and Norfolk, is known as the Historic Triangle of Virginia, which also includes Jamestown and Yorktown. Take the following true-false quiz and see if you are one of the Williamsburg mythbusters.
1. The College of William & Mary, founded in 1693, is the second oldest college in the United States.
TRUE. Harvard was the first school of higher learning founded in 1636. Classes at the College of William & Mary began in temporary quarters in 1694, until the Wren Building was constructed. The Wren Building, which is the oldest college building in the country, has been returned to its original design by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The College of William and Mary was named in honor of the reigning English monarchs of the time, and was a key factor in establishing Williamsburg as capital of Virginia in 1698.
2. The popular fictional American Girl character, Felicity Merriman, hails from Colonial Williamsburg, and her story is set in the year 1774.
TRUE. Original American Girl doll founder, Pleasant Roland, wanted to find an appropriate Christmas present for her nieces. She disliked the high fashion Barbie-type dolls; hence, didn’t want to buy a baby doll. While in Williamsburg, she came up with the concept of American Girl dolls and formed The Pleasant Company. Ms. Pleasant followed her own American dream, selling off her company to Mattel in1998 for $700 million. And that’s not a Williamsburg urban legend.
3. Patrick Henry made his “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” speech in the Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg.
FALSE. Patrick Henry made his impassioned cry against the English in the House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775, in St. John’s Church in Richmond. Henry was calling for military action against the approaching British army. The urban myth claims that the crowd jumped up and shouted “To Arms! To Arms!” after the speech.
Historians have begun to question the authenticity of Henry’s alleged words, because they were unrecorded until 18 years after his death, but we will never know.
4. Virginia has had three capital cities: Jamestown, Williamsburg and Richmond.
TRUE. Jamestown was the first English settlement in the U.S., and also the first capital of Virginia. The capital moved to Williamsburg from 1698 to 1780, making it the political, social, and cultural hub in Virginia. It then moved on to Richmond at the urging of Thomas Jefferson, who feared the Williamsburg location was vulnerable to a British attack. During the Civil War, Richmond became the capital of the Confederacy and remains the capital of Virginia today.
5. Virginia was named for England’s “Virgin Queen,” Elizabeth I.
TRUE. Virginia was named for England’s famous unwed queen, Elizabeth I. Interestingly, Queen Elizabeth II has visited Colonial Williamsburg twice. Her original trip in 1957 celebrated the 350th anniversary of England’s first settlement in the New World at Jamestown. Her most recent visit in May 2007 occurred during the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown Settlement.
6. The establishment and reconstruction of the colonial capital of Williamsburg was the dream of an Episcopalian priest.
TRUE. In 1907 Reverend W.A.R. Goodwin, the pastor of Williamsburg’s Bruton Parish Church, worked to save the original structure. Shortly thereafter, he moved away, but returned to the city in 1923. After seeing the deterioration of the other colonial-era buildings, he dreamed of saving them.
Goodwin looked for support and financing from a number of sources and finally inked a plan with philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Their combined efforts created Colonial Williamsburg, with detailed plans for the accurate restoration of much of the city.
FALSE. Although the food served in these Williamsburg restaurants can be traced back to similar fare served to colonists, Williamsburg mythbusters know that the ingredients and preparation take place in modern kitchens. The servers, however, are dressed in period clothing and the dishes, flatware and goblets are authentic reproductions of 18th century items.
109 East Duke of Gloucester St
Williamsburg, Virginia 23185
King’s Arms Tavern
416 East Duke of Gloucester St
Williamsburg, Virginia 23185
422 East Duke of Gloucester St
Williamsburg, Virginia 23185
8. Colonial Williamsburg has been criticized for becoming almost a theme park of reenactments.
TRUE. Foundation president, Colin Campbell has said, “Presenting American history in a place that is both a tourist attraction and an education landmark leads to inevitable strains between entertainment and authenticity.”
Sadly, Williamsburg mythbusters, even the Foundation’s 1996 publication conceded that “Colonial Williamsburg bears the burden of criticism that the restored town appears too neat and clean, too ‘spick-and-span’, and too manicured to be believable.”
By golly, I admit I’m not a country girl. Can’t name the Country Music Singer of the Year, don’t follow NASCAR and camping makes me itch. You won’t be able to kiss my grits because I don’t eat any, or fried okra or hush puppies. Nonetheless, I had a dang good time in Sevierville, birth place of Dolly Parton, and home of the Smoky Mountains .
I recently flew to Knoxville, Tennessee, and then drove to the foothills of the Smokies. I found Sevierville to be a right nice place, even if the name sounds a bit harsh. This is a town where you can go hog wild visiting all the attractions.
But the mountains are what called to me. I fell in love with the “Land of Blue Smoke,” as the Cherokee called their native homeland. What appears as wispy smoke from a fire rises out of the peaks and valleys. The enormous amount of water in the area and the respiration of the trees causes this mystical natural phenomenon.
The Smokies are also famous for bears and, of course, I was hoping to see one. Alas, I did not, that being my only disappointment.
I thought I’d give you a little history on the park and add a few interesting facts at the end. Future blogs will explore the attractions, activities and restaurants in the Sevierville and Pigeon Forge area.
A Brief History of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Smokies were formed 200-300 million years ago. That makes them very, very old!
Sometime not that far back, Native Americans, the Cherokee, settled in South. However, between 1838 and 1839, the government rounded them up and forced all the Cherokee from their homes. In total 17,000 were sent to a reservation, what’s now Oklahoma, but sadly, many died along the way. That saga is known as the Trail of Tears.
After the Cherokee left, the logging companies moved in and began cutting the forests. Concerned US citizens wanted to protect the natural beauty but the government was not allowed to buy land for national park use. Private money had to be raised to purchase the acreage.
In the late 1920s, the Tennessee and North Carolina Legislatures appropriated $2 million each for land purchases. Additional funds were raised by individuals, groups, and even school children who pledged their pennies. By 1928, a total of $5 million had been collected. Trouble was the cost of the land had now doubled. The Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial Fund came to the rescue. They donated an additional $5 million, stipulating that the park remain free and open to the public.
Rural mountain families or hillbillies, as they were often called, had also built cabins in the Smokies and did not want to leave. Eventually, they too, were forced out. Many remained in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area but struggled to eke out a meager existence.
Between 1933 and 1942 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), an agency created during the Depression to provide work and wages for the unemployed, built a number of the currently used rails, campgrounds, beautiful stone bridges and buildings.
The park was dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt in October, 1934. This year makes the 75th anniversary, as good a reason as any to visit.
The Smokies and Sevierville welcome all with Southern hospitality. You’ll find the landscape rises in scenic splendor and the people are down-home friendly. I heartily recommend you mosey on over.
Now in case you don’t know much about the wildlife or offerings in Great National Smoky Mountains (I sure didn’t before I went), I’m leaving you with the bear facts:
The Great Smoky Mountains are among the oldest mountains in the world, formed perhaps 200-300 million years ago
Entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is free. The park is one of the only major national parks that does not charge an entrance fee.
There are over 800 miles of maintained hiking trails.
1,500 bears live in the park. This equals a population density of approximately two bears per square mile.
In the Smokies, the average annual rainfall varies from approximately 55 inches in the valleys to over 85 inches on some peaks-more than anywhere else in the country except the Pacific Northwest. Waterfalls can be found on nearly every stream and river in the park
Elevations range from 800 feet to 6,643 feet.
Temperatures differ about 20 degrees F from base to summit.
Auto touring is the most popular way to see the park There are 384 miles of road to choose from in the Smokies.
Seventy eight historic structures, including grist mills, churches, schools, barns, and the homes of early settlers, preserve Southern Appalachian mountain heritage in the park.
Fishing, biking and horseback riding are permitted in certain areas only.
Biological diversity is the hallmark of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. No other area of equal size matches the park’s amazing variety of plants, animals, and invertebrates. Did you know?
Over 10,000 species have been discovered in the National Park; Scientists believe there are over 90,000 more to be discovered
100 species of native trees (more than any other North American national park)
1,400 flowering plant species
4,000+ non-flowering plants
200+ species of birds
66 types of mammals
50 native fish species
39 varieties of reptiles
43 species of amphibians
And here’s the kicker, the Great Smokies have lungless salamanders and fireflies that synchronize their flashing lights. Pretty daggum amazing.