It’s all in the details/Close-by yet far away

It’s All in the Details
On a printed map I picked up at the Barnes and Noble bookstore, the City of Williamsburg is demarcated as a yellow high-lighted area near the center. There does not seem to be much of a pattern for the boundary lines of the City. The shape is irregular and major roads do not necessarily follow the city line. An enlargement of Colonial Williamsburg is provided on the other side, though here the area is outlined in dashed blue lines. This area not only encompasses the living history museum of Colonial Williamsburg but also the College of William and Mary (up to the edge of Lake Matoaka) and extends to the East a little past 2nd St.

Though “WILLIAMSBURG” is clearly marked with red text and a yellow high-light, the map (as a folded entity) is titled as a “Williamsburg visitor map” and the larger map as “Williamsburg, VA and Vicinity.” The limits of this are Carter’s Grove in the Southeast corner, Yarmouth Creek in the Northwest, Colonial National Historic Park (Surry side) in the Southwest and the York River running along Camp Peary in the Northeast. These locations, though reasonably close to Williamsburg proper, are certainly not within the city limits, thus defining a larger Williamsburg locale outside of the immediate city lines. Though the City of Williamsburg is a clear focus of the map, symbols both in and out of this marked region note points of interest for visitors. There are symbols for the many golf courses (ten total on the map), marinas, schools and shopping locations. Historic locations are labeled and the tourist audience is targeted as various reception centers and information locations are marked with a symbol and label on the map.
One striking feature of the map is the color-coding used to differentiate areas. At first one is drawn to focus on the colors and notice the large number of “Park, Forest, Recreation or Wildlife” areas as well as the “Military, Federal, State or County Property” sections. However, one can also focus on the non-colored sections of the map, made up mostly of residential streets and a large amount of white space. This white space, so obvious it is easily ignored, is undeveloped land and points a finger to the expanding and sprawling residential developments surrounding Williamsburg proper. Almost immediately surrounding the high-light of the City of Williamsburg are developments such as Kingsmill and Ford’s Colony. One peculiar and interesting marking on the map is a symbol that shows areas of “swamp.” This was something I did not expect to be represented on the map, though I do think of Williamsburg as a swamp location.
The other map examined can be found online with Google’s “Map” function. This is a very different type of map as an area can be magnified with a click, or the location of representation can be changed completely by “dragging” the map with the computer mouse. I zoomed into a reasonable scale that seemed to encompass the same general area as the printed map I used. Waller Mill Park and the Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport mark the North and South ends while Williamsburg National Golf Course and the Queens Lake area the West and East directions respectively. What is so unique about this type of map on the internet is that locations seldom seem geographically bounded and very quickly one can find themselves in another state all together, thus drawing attention to the connectedness of locations within a nation.
Although the map lacks symbols to mark specific locations and general points of interest, some of these are represented as high-lighted areas. The City of Williamsburg is shadowed in a light-gray while other points of interest are a darker shade. These locations include Williamsburg Memorial Park, the College of William and Mary, and the Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport. Golf courses and a few parks (Quarterpath, Waller Mill, and Kiwanas Municipal) are high-lighted in green. All roads are shown, though names are not given until a specific area is zoomed in on further. Major and connecting roads are denoted by a yellow color, with Route-199 and Highway 64 being in orange. As with the printed map, the most obvious, though at-first neglected, attribute is the white space which shows undeveloped areas. The map could not readily be used by a tourist or somebody interested in more than the information given above. Street names are easily accessible by zooming in further, though points of interest are still not present and the activities and commodities Williamsburg has to offer are not high-lighted or noted, not even Colonial Williamsburg is specifically labeled.

Close-By Yet Far Away
I went to an area labeled with a sign as Highland Park Community. It runs off of North Henry Street shortly after crossing the train tracks. After descending slightly, on the left-hand side of the street is a house being built and on the right-hand side is Highland Park Community Park (labeled as being part of the City of Williamsburg). I accessed this neighborhood by bicycle and as I biked further up North Henry Street I passed a number of simple houses. Overwhelmingly, the houses in the neighborhood are one-story and appear small compared to those of the neighborhoods surrounding the William and Mary campus. A notable exception to this is the Katherine Circle area of Highland Park which, as noted on the sign, is “A Redevelopment Project.” This area was comprised of two-story town-house like buildings with a fair amount of room between each one. There were many available spaces in the parking lot. There was no ornamentation on the buildings or surrounding them.
Highland Park is comprised of five inter-connecting streets. Many of the yards surrounding the houses were not fenced and were very plain with few bushes and almost no flower beds. Some of the yards had a fair number of objects in them including toys and cars. Some porches had plastic chairs cluttered on them. There was smoke coming from some chimneys, signaling a fire inside. One striking house was set back and rather aloof from the other houses with a large, cluttered yard of dirt and mud leading up to a similarly colored house. There was a dog roaming in the front yard and the smell of a fire reached out into the street. In the yard of a different house a small dog yapped as I biked by and I made a note not to go by it again. However, just a few houses later two large German Shepherds began to bark and I immediately felt uncomfortable and turned around to leave the neighborhood. While in the neighborhood I saw a total of three individuals, all of whom appeared to be African-American.
This visit was made early one morning and the empty yards, deserted streets, and bleak coloring of the neighborhood made me feel slightly uneasy. For a while I could not quite figure out was seemed amiss until I realized that there were few fences between the close yards. There were a few houses that appeared updated and as though they had more comforts and amenities inside. These served only to provide a stark contrast to the other houses of the Community.


The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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