In 1607 the first permanent English settlement was established in Virginia. The settlement was named ‘James Towne’ to honour King James I. In 1632 a further settlement was established known as ‘Middle Plantation’ later renamed Williamsburg. In 1691 Yorktown was founded as a shipping and receiving port for North America through the Act of Ports. In 1699 the capital of Virginia was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg.
The settlements remained under British control until 1781 when the siege of Yorktown by American and French troops during the War of Independence resulted in the surrender of British Forces under the command of General Cornwallis and the birth of the American Nation.
These three former towns for many years were neglected despite calls by 19th century preservationists. By 1920s the dilapidated condition of Williamsburg was seen by some as a grave injustice to its historical role in the founding and growth of America. Eticed by the lobbying of W A R Goodwin, rector of Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, philanthropist John D Rockefeller Jr .decided to finance the restoration of Virginia’s colonial capital to its former glory.
A national historic park was proposed and eventually established incorporating the sites of Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown. Linking the three was the development of a Colonial Parkway which was completed in 1957.
Colonial Williamsburg is the restored capital of colonial Virginia and is the largest outdoor living history museum in America. The restored historic area spans 301 acres. Among the 88 original buildings and more than 500 meticulously reconstructed architectural gems are colonial homes, government buildings, trade shops and taverns.
One of the main structures of Williamsburg us the Governors Palace. The residence of seven royal governors and the first two elected governors of Virginia- Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson- is shown as the home of Lord Dunmore, the last British governor of the Virginia colony. It was the focus of the city’s fashionable society and finest entertainment.
The other substantive building is the Capitol. The first colony to speak for American independence did it with the unanimous voices of the gentlemen who gathered in the tall brick Capitol. One of colonial America’s most important buildings this is where the General Assembly debated and framed legislation and where courts dispensed justice.