Saturday October 5, 2013
We are actually back in Charlottesville…..but……
As you can see from the side bar, we are in Charlottesville and have been for a week now. But all it has done is rain. So we have done what we can while here but things like wash and wax Winnona, which we never seem to be able to do on the road are still waiting for sunny skies as are a number of other outdoor items on our list.
Not much to blog about any of this so rather than shrink the Williamsburg days down into the 3 we actually spent there, I’m doing more detail since we had such a really interesting and educational time there. This is the 4th installment of our visit here. If you haven’t seen the others and would like to, they can be accessed from the blog archive near the top of the blog’s right hand column.
Hope you don’t mind spending more time in Williamsburg with us. If not, come back in a week and you can be really bored with reports on doctor appointments. :-)
Our Saturday begins at the Prentis Store.
I want to see where they actually sell the wares of the 18th Century Williamsburg Craftsmen or is that Crafts persons since there are weavers and milliners who are women? Anyway, there are 17 working crafts persons in town. They are the basketmaker, blacksmith, bookbinder, brickmaker, cabinetmaker, carpenter, cooper, Geddy foundry, gunsmith, harness maker/saddler, milliner, printer, shoemaker, silversmith, weaver, wheelwright and wigmaker. We see many, but not all of them, at work. The Prentis store is where you can buy their wares.
Apparently today they are having an auction.
As you can see, everything from rugs, to baskets, to clothing, to shoes, to hats, to trunks, to maps, to table ware and more is available here.
I am very tempted by that cape but in my nomad life the only time I would need it is when I am in a place I should not be and the weather is colder than I would like. Don’t you think David would look fine in a tricornered hat? He says it doesn’t keep the sun off. Such a 21st century attitude. :-)
Two doors down is the home of the Printer and Post Office.
There is the auction bill on this door as well.
Here you can buy prints of pretty much anything.
Along with quills, ink, sealing wax, writing paper and other 18th century writing supplies.
Postal Rates are listed. You can post a letter here.
They still write letters. I need to move here when I’m finished being on the road. I love writing and getting real letters.
David looks at recent copies of the local newspaper The Virginia Gazette printed downstairs.
We think we’ll go down and see what they are printing today.
You can also pick up an arrest warrant, a tobacco crop note or a bill of exchange among many other paper documents.
In a side room they have a display of books printed elsewhere. David picks up a copy Harriet Jacobs’ Slave Narrative for the 18th century price of $3.00.
As we leave the shop, we get distracted from our intention
We intend to go down under the shop to the bindery but when we step out of the printer’s store, there is something going on across the street in front of the Raleigh Tavern.
It seems there is a bit of a family squabble going on here. Alexander Hoy and his wife Barbary have fallen on hard times due to the coming war. No one is hiring his services as a carpenter because money is so scarce.
They have come to town to talk to the owner of the tavern about employment for Alexander and to hopefully pick up some supplies although they have no way to pay. The tavern owner tells Alexander he knows of the high quality of his work and that in a few weeks he may well have work for Alexander.
But what about now Alexander asks those gathered. Doesn’t anyone have any work for me? I have a wife and two daughters.
Among those in the crowd is an army recruiter who promises an enlistment bonus for his wife if Alexander will come with him now.
Barbary begs him not to go. His family needs him. And how will they survive if he does not go he asks.
In the end Barbary goes home alone and Alexander leaves with the recruiter. A very poignant way to tell the story of how some of the soldiers came to be in the revolutionary army not because of any devotion to the new country or the cause of liberty necessarily but for self preservation.
After such a somber affair, I need a sweet pick me up.
We head over to Mr. Charlton’s coffeehouse. Those of you who know me are aware that I am a sister in arms with Paul Dahl about the evil brew coffee. Yuck! It even smells terrible. But I’m in luck with Mr. R. Charlton because he sells more chocolate than coffee this afternoon. And perhaps in the 18th Century as well.
With the rebellion against tea and everything British, our forefathers chose chocolate and coffee as their new beverages of choice. Cocoa and Chocolate were sold almost exclusively as a beverage.
We come inside where the proprietress asks which of us has reserved this private room in the coffee house for this afternoon. Apparently the private rooms were used to conduct private business or hold exclusive gatherings. Someone has reserved it, it’s in the book but it is not one of us. She then says it’s just as well since groups of men have been having some pretty stirring discussions here of late about the political happenings. The Stamp Act protests occurred on this very porch. She describes the scene as George Mercer, a stamp agent just sent from England, was chased down Duke of Gloucester Street by an angry crowd which protested the tax. It was on the porch of R. Charlton's Coffeehouse where Mercer took refuge, protected by no less a person than Governor Fauquier.
Well if we aren’t the ones who have reserved the room then we must be here for coffee or chocolate. Right you are. We move on into the public area and take a table for two by the window as is our custom if we can.
Notice the small single serving chocolate pots on the mantle. Since there are several of us requesting chocolate she pours from a larger pot.
The chocolate is thick and reminds me of Greek Coffee. It is dark chocolate, about the sweetness of semi-sweet baking chips, and there is a strong spicy flavor of chili and cinnamon, primarily. We are told there will be chocolate making in a week-end or two. Sure wish we were going to be here for that. But Prentis will sell you authentic colonial chocolate as a finely grated chocolate drink or in chocolate bites, bars, or sticks.
Because the coffeehouse is located right next to the capital, it is a popular stop for many of the elite of the legislature. Coffeehouses in the 18th century were powerful social catalysts, providing an excellent forum for the exchange of ideas.
And as we sit here just finishing our chocolate, we hear the fife and drum coming down the street. I look out and see people heading for the capitol building.
As we leave to see what is going on, the proprietress is expressing concerns about what will happen with all this unrest. Where has Mr. Charlton gone I hear her ask.
Perhaps it is just a practice for the corps.
They are not in uniform and march on past the capitol which appears to be deserted.
The capitol is a very elegant looking building at the end of Duke of Gloucester Street.
We walk around to the side and soon someone comes to open the gate.
We enter the courtyard and a gentleman comes out to ask if we’d like to tour the building. Absolutely!
He tells us about the workings of capitol and invites us inside.
The first floor of the west side of the building was for the general court and the colony’s secretary. The east side for the House of Burgesses and its clerk. This is the oldest representative assembly in the new world.
Upstairs we visit the committee rooms. Quite a bit of difference between the one for the colonial committees on the left and the one for the Royal Governor’s committees on the right.
Our tour concluded, the chocolate has whetted our appetite and it is nearly lunchtime so while I scout out a good lunch spot, David goes to get our lunch bag. We wonder what this afternoon will bring. We have had no plan in our visit. All we have done really is just wander around town and things are just happening right and left.