Archive for February, 2012

A Working Bibliography

I planned my project with people in mind to interview, but with a few library tours under my belt (who knew Swem had such a large gerontology section?) it’s become clear that there is a lot of ground other researchers have already covered.  For one, there are a number of resources related to retirement in a more national context.  These resources answer questions such as what are Americans seeking in a place they retire and how retirement has changed in the last few decades, when Williamsburg experienced an influx of retirees and the retirement industry.  In a more local context, the research of Paula HuYoung a few years ago provides several oral histories that will give me ideas about questions to ask in my own interviews and what other retirees have said before.  Other local sources that have interviewed retirees often state reasons retirees came to Williamsburg from out of town.  While I have several oral histories at least to perform later, I have gathered a number of background sources to put retirement in context and shape my interviews.

Beck, Donald. Interviewed by Paula HuYoung, 24 April 2010.*

Beck, Susie. Interviewed by Paula HuYoung, 24 April 2010.*

Coomer, Jim. Interviewed by Paula HuYoung, 14 April 2010.*

Edwards, Jack. Interviewed by Paula HuYoung, 26 April 2010.*

Gilleard, Chris and Higgs, Paul.  Contexts of Ageing.

This book examines aging and retirement in Britain and America, with special attention to how these have changed in the last few decades.  Since the introduction and growth of retirement communities in Williamsburg is part of the change in the last few decades, this book should put Williamsburg in a (inter)national context.  Specifically, Gilleard and Higgs provide some information about retirees settling away from where they have lived and worked at vacation-like destinations.  This is especially relevant to the tourist society in Williamsburg.

Hess, Nancy. Interviewed by Paula HuYoung, 21 April 2010.*

Oliver, Caroline.  Retirement Migration: Paradoxes of Ageing.  New York: Taylor & Francis Group, 2007.

Although written by a British woman with a focus on British expatriates retiring in southern Spain, this book offers some insight to retirees who have moved away from their homes.  Oliver discusses how and why retirees would choose to retire elsewhere and how they build community in these places.  While Williamsburg is not the Mediterranean ‘paradise’ that southern Spain is, I hope the book will give me some help in terms of a ‘displaced’ retirement community.

Sharoff, Robert.  “Retirees Find Housing at the Alma Maters.”  New York Times 23 September 2007.         Online Accessed           9 February 2012.

Although a brief article, it discusses the more recent trend of retiring in college towns and the retirement homes rising up around them.  It describes motivations for retiring in a college town as wanting to enjoy college amenities and the educated population in the area.

Stafford, Philip.  Elderburbia: Ageing with a Sense of Place in America.  USA: ABC-CLIO, 2009.

This book looks into 21st century retirement in suburban communities.  The earlier chapters include an overview about migration in retirement, covering such topics as where retirees are likely to go and why.  While not mentioning Williamsburg specifically, it puts the area in a national context where retirees are capable of moving somewhere new and living in active retirement.

Wilson, Gail.  Understanding Old Age.  London: SAGE Publications, 2000.

The book offers a global perspective on aging, retirement, and migration in old age.  It discusses how people move and create communities in old age, and how socioeconomic status affects this.  For example, an elderly couple seeking asylum will probably fare differently than an affluent American couple retiring to a ‘sunset community.’

*Collectively, the interviews recorded by Paula HuYoung for her project in April 2010 offer some starting points for my own interviews.  They give some examples of the experiences of retirees in Williamsburg, how they live actively (or not) in retirement, what brought them to Williamsburg, and the institutions that shape their experiences in the town.

Preliminary Bibliography

Since my project focuses mainly on the socioeconomic factors around retirement the bulk of my research revolves around how data about retirement is organized.  The following books feature articles about any topic you could imagine under the umbrellas of economics and retirement. I have not chosen specific articles yet as many overlap in their information.

Orbach, Harold L. ., Clark Tibbitts, and Wilma Thompson Donahue. Aging and the Economy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1963. Print.

Palmore, Erdman Ballagh. Retirement: Causes and Consequences. New York: Springer Pub., 1985. Print.

Steiner, Peter O., and Robert Dorfman. The Economic Status of the Aged. Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California, 1957. Print.

Streib, Gordon F., and Clement J. Schneider. Retirement in American Society. Itaca [usw.: Cornell Univ. Pr., 1971. Print.

Wise, David A., ed. Perspectives on the Economics of Aging. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2004. Print.

In order to look at the wealth increase in Williamsburg caused by the increase of retirees, I have to look at the increase in the elderly population as well as the revenue gained from property tax. Originally I was going to focus on income but since retirees may or may not have an income that is reported, property tax seemed the best option.

City of Williamsburg. 1953-2006 Williamsburg Comprehensive Plan. Print

Finding information on retirement and the American Dream may be difficult and probably needs to be based in interviews of Williamsburg residents about their expectations. However, I found a few articles that may help.

United States. Committee on Labor and Human Resources. Subcommittee on Aging. Is Working America Preparing for Retirement? Print.

Young, Cheri A., and Kathleen P. Brewer. “Marketing Continuing Care Retirement Communities: A Model of Residents’ Perceptions of Quality.” Journal of Hospitality and Leisure Marketing 9 (2001): 133-150. Web

Since this is a preliminary bibliography, I do expect to add more to this as I work. I think my research is lacking good information specifically about Williamsburg’s retirement communities and will be my next focus.

C Scott’s Preliminary Bibliography

I have been thinking considerably about how to focus my research project.  I am actually excited about the process of gathering and winnowing out information.  I contacted the Senior Services Coalition of Greater Williamsburg this morning and hope they’ll prove to be a goldmine of information as well as an excellent source for potential interviewees in the area.  In my preliminary research I have looked at national, state and local levels for what is currently happening in the older adult community regarding resources, events, legislation, housing, long term care insurance and communitiy organizations that support “aging-in”.  I am concentrating on “boomers”, but I also want information about their relatives and family caretakers and health professionals who are currently involved in retirement “in place” at home or are planning for it. I am trying to get to the quality of the experiences over time since WWII.  I hope I’ll hear back soon from my contacts at the Senior Services Coalition of Greater Williamsburg!

AARP. “What is Universal Design?” 30 September 2009. Print. 7 February 2012.

This article discusses the creation of stylish living spaces that are serviceable to everyone “regardless of age, size, or ability” to make it easier for residents to live in as their needs change.  The writer advocates for features being built-in in the pre-construction phase of new homes with an eye toward meeting the needs of elderly occupants at some point in time.

Bernstein, Donald and Marshall Ottenfeld and Carl Witte. “Active adult communities: A development of hypotheses regarding consumer attitudes and preferences.” 1 July 2011. Print. 7 February 2012.

This research article looks at the impending need for housing for aging baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 as well as taste preferences for adult community living on a continuum of care spectrum.

Comfort Keepers, Inc. “Comfort Keepers In-home Senior Care Assessment Guide.” n/a. Print. 7 February 2012.

This online promotional brochure provides information about Comfort Care services and a detailed checklist for assessing the needs of senior adults when determining what level of care might be required for them to stay in their homes with the aid of a paid assistant.  It also provides tips and support information for family caretakers.

McMorris, Bill. “McDonnell’s Reform Measures Have Little Impact.” 29 November 2011. 2012. 7 February 2012.

This article reports on Virginia Statehouse News and in it is extensive information about “the merger of the Department of Aging, Department of Rehabilitative Services and adult protection programs operating under the Department of Social Services as an example of increased accessibility”.  A similar merger of state agencies proposed by the Reform Commission is being considered as a way to possibly increase the budget share of elderly services by drawing attention to the unified requirement for funding of consolidated services.

Medquest Communications. “American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA).” 1 December 1999. Print. 7 February 2012.

This article provides background on the development of the AAHSA and its mission “to provide wide-ranging service for its members in addition to ongoing advocacy, information and education” about aging services for the not-for-profit nursing home industry beginning in the 1960s as well as the establishment of Leadership Council of Aging Organizations in the 1970s.  In the 1980s the organization focused on protecting and acquiring rights for the elderly.  In the 1990s the AAHSA expanded its focus to include all elder care living choices and full continuum of care issues and concerns.

Peninsula Agency on Aging and Christopher Newport University. The 30th Annual Community Forum on Aging: Pearls of Wisdom-Perils of Aging. 6 March 2012. Print. 6 February 2012.

This brochure highlights an upcoming workshop event sponsored by the Peninsula Agency on Aging that will be presenting topics of interest to senior adults, caregivers and elder care related professionals.  It includes a registration form and attendance cost information.

Peninsula Agency on Aging. Peninsula Agency on Aging Home Page. n/a. Website. 7 February 2012.

This private non-profit website contains a wealth of information about consolidated services and programs geared toward the needs of the “older Virginian” in Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Poquoson, and James City and York counties.  It serves as a clearing-house for information, services co-ordination, planning and leadership on aging issues.

Ramnarace, Cynthia. “Aging in Your Own Space.” 17 January 2011. Print. 7 February 2012.

This article from AARP’s Bulletin online give tips on remodeling existing spaces to allow for independent living in place at home.  The emphasis is on creating a remodeled space that is welcoming, stylish and functional to avoid resembling a nursing home like sterility.  Questions are provided to help assess needs based changes and to shift one’s perspective about how rooms can be repurposed for a changing lifestyle.

Rondinelli, Diana. The Savvy Senior Online-55+ Communities on the Peninsula. n/a n/a n/a. Article. 7 February 2012.

This realtor provided online community newsletter is geared to “active adults” who live in active living communities or independently in their own homes.  This particular article looks at “Choosing a GREAT Senior Lifestyle” and discusses several continuous care communities that provide maintenance free living options to the adults 55 years and older.

Senior Services Coalition of Greater Williamsburg. Senior Services Coalition of Greater Williamsburg, Promoting Independence of Seniors – Housing. August 2011. 7 February 2012.

This is from the group’s website.  It specifically looks at making neighborhoods more “Age-Friendly” by offering information and workshops in partnership with the Housing Committee of the Community Action Plan On Aging.  It is primarily focused on assisting seniors with remaining in their homes as long as possible, but also looks at housing issues that are particular to seniors.  Members are active with the planning commissions in the Greater Williamsburg area which includes the counties of James City and York.  Successful N2N neighborhoods local and non-local include: Kingspoint, Colonial Heritage, Ford’s Colony, Beacon Hill Village and At Home Chesapeake.

—. “Senior Servies Coalition Meeting Minutes.” 28 April 2011. Print. 7 February 2012.

This is a collection of meeting minutes from between October 2008 and April 2011.  This senior services support agency has been very active in the Greater Williamsburg area.  I expect to find a tremendous amount of information here useful to my research.

Singer, Natasha. “In a Graying Population, Business Opportunity.” 5 February 2011. Print. 7 February 2012.

This article discusses the economic opportunities that the increasing “graying population” presents for businesses.  The author experienced wearing an empathy suit designed to simulate the day-to-day physical challenges faced by aging individuals experiencing deteriorating body systems.  The suit is used by companies interested in designing and manufacturing “age-friendly” products that will maintain or improve the quality of life for older people.  The intention is to support and maintain the health and independence of aging baby boomers.  Through the use of technology presently “catastrophic” home alone situations like falling down might be successfully avoided or better health maintained over all from interaction with “intelligent designs” around the home.

Stark, Susan L and Emily K Somerville and John C Morris. “In-home occupational performance evaluation (I-HOPE).” 1 July 2010. Print. 2012 7 February.

This report provides an outlook for caring for an aging population of over 70 million people in the United States by 2030.  It raises the question of how to assess the consequences of incompatibilities between a person’s abilities and his/her environment.  The two assessments presently used, The Housing Enabler and the Safety Assessment of Function and the Environment for Rehabilitation (SAFER) do not accurately measure for independence in activities of daily living (ADL) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) tasks in quantifiable outcomes for person-environment fits.  The report explains the three step assessment protocols they developed to identify ability in situ of a given environment using a vision based system of photographic cards as part of the preparatory process for the individual.  The remainder of the report details the methods used, provides data and outcomes.  The purpose of the research was to develop a new way to measure older adults’ environment fit to ultimately increase the chances for older adults to “age in place.”

The Housing Committee of the Community Action Plan on Aging. “Making your Neighborhood Age-Friendly: Creating a Neighbor to Neighbor Program In your Community – A How to Manual.” n/a. 2012. 7 February 2012.

This “how-to” manual resulted from a national trend called the “village movement” that focuses on “changing the way people think about their neighborhoods.”  Since the early 2000s AARP and others have determined that people wanted more options for remaining at home to age than their parents had.  Providing these options would require the involvement of entire communities as well as increased access to social and health resources.  This N2N information booklet provides a step-by-step guide to for creating a Neighbor to Neighbor Program in the local community of Greater Williamsburg.  Several successful case studies are provided on Kingspoint, Colonial Heritage, Ford’s Colony and others.

Thrift, Sam. “Triangle Leaders Consider Planning Together for Future Growth.” 10 January 2012. 2012. 7 February 2012.

This article highlights the discussion and issues raised at a joint Board of Supervisors meeting for James City County, York County and the Williamsburg City Council in January of this year.  They discussed the co-ordination of the next five year comprehensive plans regarding land use, transportation, and other issues that cross the “sometimes arbitrary jurisdictional boundaries” of the Historic Triangle.  Joint public forums will be held to discuss issues of mutual interest.  “”Smart growth” will be focused on attracting people to move to and stay in the Triangle while maintaining the character of the community.”  York County District Supervisor Walt Zaremba reminded the group “to also prepare for the expected increase in the area’s elderly population” as it remains a highly desirable retirement location.

Yong, Li and Gail A Jensen. “The Impact of Private Long-term Care Insurance on the Use of Long-term care.” 22 March 2011. Report. 7 February 2012.

This extensive research paper analyzes the effects of privately purchased long-term care insurance (LTCI) on the three types of long-term care services: nursing home care, paid home care, and informal care received from family and friends.  Concern over the increased demand for care by boomers with increased life expectancy will likely increase the call for LTCI as an alternative to public funding by policymakers.  There is already increased momentum in promotion of LTCI as part of care utilization.  It discusses the choices currently faced by older adults including whether or not to purchase LTCI.  I am interested in further examination of this extensive research to determine how LTCI might impact or be impacting the “aging in” choices of my future interviewees.


Preliminary Bibliography

My research will be focused on trying to define an “independent” life within a retirement community. As of right now, my research consists of only looking at their websites, mission statements, direction of activities, continuing care and accessibility for senior citizens. I plan to start at Williamsburg Landing to do an initial interview and learn more about the community there.

I am choosing Williamsburg Landing for the wealth of information both online and in the Williamsburg Public Library on the area. I plan to meet with a managing director and the activities director to see how I can become a participant observer within the independent living community, and gather oral histories from members.


The following list is partially from my initial research from this past week at Williamsburg Regional Library and from reading from WDP writer Paula HuYoung’s impressive work on the evolution of retirement in Williamsburg (Spring 2010).


Working Bibliography:
An American Definition of Independent Living.

This is the first link I list, mainly because this is the background of my research. I am focusing on not only what it means to be living within an “independent living community” in Williamsburg but also putting that idea on a national context.

Graham, Ellen. “Colonial Williamsburg Is a Hot Retirement Spot.” The Wall Street Journal Online. Web. 2 Mar. 2010. Web.

“Money Magazine: Best Places to Retire 2006: Williamsburg, VA Snapshot.” Business, Financial, Personal Finance News – 2006. Web. 2 Mar. 2010. Web.

McHugh, Kevin, and Elizabeth Larson-Keagy. “These White Walls: The Dialect of Retirement Communities.” Journal of Aging Studies 19.2 (2005): 241-56. Web.

Williamsburg Landing. Williamsburg Landing: A Continuing Care Retirement Community/2010 Fee Schedule. Williamsburg: Williamsburg Landing, 2011. Print.

“Williamsburg Landing – What Is a CCRC?” Continuing Care Retirement Community – Williamsburg Landing: Independent and Assisted Living Community in Virginia. Web. 06 May 2010. Web.

Young, Cheri A., and Kathleen P. Brewer. “Marketing Continuing Care Retirement Communities: A Model of Residents’ Perceptions of Quality.” Journal of Hospitality and Leisure Marketing 9 (2001): 133-150. Web.

The above articles are from HuYoung’s bibliography and briefly looking over them online I feel they will be assets to my research.

Williamsburg Landing. “Williamsburg Landing: 1985-2005.” The Tatler: News from Williamsburg Landing. Vol. 20. No. 8. Sept. 2005. Print.

I started reading this on the first day of research and found it very informative – the impact and involvement of community members seemed extensive. It makes me excited to be able to talk with people living at the Landing.


Colonial Williamsburg Restoration

I chose to read and reflect on the two articles dealing with the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg and its historical development .   I  chose this topic because I want to know more about where I live and walk every day—and I was not disappointed.  Knowing that Rockefeller essentially saved “the town from destruction”, and the amazing minds and talents that went into transforming what is now CW and DOG St. into what President Roosevelt labeled “the most historic avenue in all America” , adds meaningful context, while increasing my appreciation for where I have lived the last 3.5 years.

Most enlightening to me was glimpsing how much work and commitment it took to recreate the past. Clearly, Colonial Williamsburg would not be what it is today without visionary people like Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin; not to mention how persuasive he must have been to convince one of the wealthiest people in the America  to ‘save’ the town.  Learning about Goodwin and the sheer devotion he had for CW made me feel almost guilty.  As someone who lives down the street from what was an all consuming life project, I’m amazed at how blind I was to how much work was done (and continues to be done) to a place I spend a lot of time in. Basically, these articles had the effect of increasing my level of gratitude to those like Goodwin (and Rockefeller) who hold history in such high regard. Generations will benefit from their foresight, even if people like me don’t necessarily appreciate it fully.

Of course, trying to figure out how to represent history accurately is not an easy thing to do.  And the efforts to restore Williamsburg to its “original” state bring out some common problems.  As the second article points out,  it took a ton of effort to authenticate the houses and streets of CW because doing so requires interpretations of history that could be interpreted differently.  At the same time, certain aspects  of our history, such as slavery, are almost impossible to represent in a way that is not offensive to modern society.  However, what that means is that CW is no way an accurate portrayal of history because it largely leaves out slaves—the largest percentage of CW’s population during that time frame.  This, in turn, begs the question: are we better off with a distorted version of history that ostensibly allows those that visit to only focus on what makes us feel good about our national identity?

Assignment #2- My Trip to Williamsburg Christian Church

Since I have been a student at William and Mary I have been attending Williamsburg Presbyterian Church.  As I explain to younger students interested in the church, going to WPC gives me a home away from home in Williamsburg.  My home church in Alexandria and WPC are both part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  I am no expert in church politics or theology, but what I have seen of the PC(USA) is fairly consistent.  The worship services in churches I have attended are fairly mainstream and traditional.  There are hymns accompanied by organ or piano, a choir of adults from the church, a pastor in robes delivering a Scripture-based sermon, and other rituals such as prayers, Communion, and an offering.

My church at home is mostly families, with some retirees.  The transient nature of the area brings a lot of families in and out of the church, and there are few families or couples who have attended for more than 20 years.  My family, attending since 1992, is one of the older families around.  Often middle-aged couples leave to retire elsewhere in the country.  WPC, however, is overwhelmingly made up of retirees.  There are some families with children and a spattering of college students, but the majority of the congregation has grown children and is retired.  Both at home and in Williamsburg, the congregation is almost entirely white.  The income levels in my home congregation vary, but in my experience at WPC the income levels are mostly upper-middle class.

My decision to attend WPC occurred even before I moved to campus.  In some questionnaire for the College I had checked my religion as ‘Presbyterian,’ so I received a letter from Westminster Fellowship, or WesFel.  WesFel is a Presbyterian, college fellowship group sponsored by WPC.  Joining WesFel and WPC were automatic for me.  They were extensions of my church life at home.  The other students in WesFel mostly come from PC(USA) churches and have had similar experiences.

So when I thought about getting out of my college bubble, I decided to try a different church.  More importantly, I decided to try a different kind of church that isn’t next to the College.  Several of the churches on Richmond and Jamestown Roads have college groups and appeal to college students in some way.  I chose to get away from this bubble and try Williamsburg Christian Church on John Tyler Lane.  This church isn’t far from William and Mary and I pass it on the way to my friend’s off-campus apartment.  I enlisted another college-aged friend from WPC to come with me and we planned to attend their Sunday morning service.

I looked at the WCC website Saturday to find out what time the service is.  When I poked around I discovered that the church is nondenominational, and I suspected that the service was in a more contemporary style.  The website described that the church did not seek to impose beliefs on its members, but the ‘core beliefs’ section of the site was fairly extensive.  The theology was nondenominational and very focused on the Bible.  In my PC(USA) church experience, congregations are relatively reluctant to talk about controversial or political issues.  When people do bring up issues such as hell, abortion, and Creationism, Presbyterians usually get very uncomfortable and wishy-washy.  I was curious and a little apprehensive about a church with a more literal interpretation of the Bible.

Sunday morning, I first struggled with what to wear to WCC.  At home my Dad goes to a church with a contemporary style service and high income levels, and the congregation is pretty well-dressed.  I’ve attended other contemporary services where people were pretty casual, though, so I wasn’t sure what I would encounter.  I compromised and stuck with an outfit I could wear to church either here or at home: an a-line skirt, a solid color shirt, a cardigan, and simple heels.  Smart casual, perhaps.  My friend and I had carefully planned to arrive just in time for the service to start, so we could sneak in without having to make small talk with a well-meaning but overly curious church member. When we arrived at 10:45AM we went straight into the sanctuary and to seats near the back on the end.

The worship space was casual, as were the church members.  Rather than a big sanctuary, the space had a low ceiling and linked, padded chairs instead of pews.  I was maybe a touch overdressed, as there were plenty of people in jeans or casual slacks.  Like in other churches I have attended, the congregation was almost entirely white, but there seemed to be a much greater difference in age than at WPC.  There was a pretty even mix between high schoolers and people in their eighties and nineties, even though there were maybe 60 churchgoers in attendance.

The worship service began with about fifteen minutes of songs led by a worship band comprising two women singing, a man on guitar, and another man on a drum set.  The words to the songs were projected on a screen at the front rather than being in a traditional hymnal.  Around 11AM the music ended and the pastor stepped up, launching into his sermon almost immediately.  He spoke for about half an hour, longer than my usual sermons, and seamlessly incorporated various scripture readings into the lesson.  I had anticipated a harsh, potentially political message, but I was wrong.  The sermon was sincere, well-informed, and passionate.  The pastor talked about leadership within the church and how sometimes it can be misguided or not up to the task, but that Jesus was always watching and cared about each member of his ‘flock.’  After the sermon there was a simple Communion, an offering, and then a quick prayer and song to close out the service, which ended promptly at 11:59AM.  The only thing that really seemed ‘weird’ to me was between the sermon and Communion when a member of the church got up to play an animated video about how the light of Christ is just around the corner even when things seem dark.  The message didn’t quite fit with the sermon, and the style was really out of place.  Nonetheless, I was surprised by how much I liked the experience.

There were certain limitations to what I could learn while I was there.  I purposely avoided talking to people excepting the friend I brought with me.  In my effort not to offend anyone there by revealing that I was more interested in studying them than worshipping with them I just snuck in before the service and back out when it was done.  In a place like a church, an intimate community, not talking to anyone really limited my impression.

In addition to stepping out of my religious bubble, going to Williamsburg Christian Church got me out of my college bubble.  Going to a church downtown keeps me around college students and retirees.  Honestly, we college kids mostly just interact with each other at the church.  This congregation was more intimate and had a broader demographic.  I didn’t exactly ask other people there what their annual income was, but the casual atmosphere is definitively different from the more formal church I attend.  Even though I was out of my element, new, and a little apprehensive, I felt very comfortable.  This was a pleasant surprise in the Williamsburg community.

Reflections on Rowe, Ellis, and Spears

Rowe and Ellis

Rowe’s chapter was about African-American life in Williamsburg from 1865-1945.  In the eighty years’ worth of history Rowe discussed economic, housing, and political conditions from the Reconstruction through the Restoration (which is a ridiculous phrase on paper).  Before the Restoration, as Rowe describes, Williamsburg was an ‘ordinary’ Southern town and conditions for African-Americans aligned with what was happening in the rest of the South, including Jim Crow laws.  Unsurprisingly, most African-Americans found work as laborers or servants for the white population, which they outnumbered at many points.  What interested me was how much the black community invested in education.  Rowe makes it clear that a lot of the money required just to operate grade schools for black children came from the community itself, especially through churches.  The history of Bruton Heights, which a few Google searches revealed is now owned by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, fascinated me.  While it was only around for a couple of decades as a school for African-Americans and community center, it seemed extremely relevant.  Although a lot of the money came from the City and the Rockefeller family, it seemed to be important as a symbol of self-sufficiency in the Jim Crow era.

I especially found the Rockefeller family’s involvement interesting.  Rowe and Ellis both noted that the family, not from Williamsburg, was more progressive than the town and kept facilities in Colonial Williamsburg integrated.  In addition, family land and money went to Bruton Heights, and they supported integration when it came to the community via federal law in later decades.  However, the Restoration and development in Williamsburg around Colonial Williamsburg and the tourism industry contributed to harsher segregation and discrimination in the community.  Rowe notes that the vote to sell City land to become Colonial Williamsburg came from the white community, and that black landowners may not have received proper reimbursement.  While the neighborhoods had been mixed, they became segregated when people moved away from the Restoration.  In addition, the increased prosperity Williamsburg enjoyed in the 20th century mostly went to the white community and to the new, white-dominated communities in the area.  So while Rockefeller tried to help race relations, the changes he introduced produced a more segregated society.


What piqued my interest about this chapter was how much the College contributed to the Greek community, mostly because it’s still true today.  We might not have a Mr. Steve with his big black book giving out mugs at the Leafe on credit, but the delis and other local restaurants like Sal’s are important to the College.  The image of (possibly drunk?) students wandering just off campus in search of food other than the same old stuff at the dining halls is easy to conjure.  I also appreciated learning where the name “Mama Steve” came from, assuming there’s only one!  I think the Greek community in this chapter really tied together the other groups in Williamsburg.  By adding to the hospitality industry in Williamsburg, the Greeks brought together college students, visitors to Colonial Williamsburg, and other hungry folks in town.

Project Proposal

Last weekend my parents came down to see me in a show at the College.  When I mentioned the Williamsburg Documentary Project and how this semester’s theme is retirement, my father asked my mother if she would consider retiring here.  Her response?

“If there’s a kid here.”

This got me thinking about retirees I know who live in the area.  There is a variety—some are from the area and some are not, some have family in the area and some do not, and some are heavily involved in the community and some are not.

For example, there are three women I have met while volunteering with a local Girl Scout troop.  One, the leader of the troop, is in her seventies.  Although not from the area, she moved here in 2008 to be with family.  She owns her own business and still runs it herself, in addition to being heavily involved with her church, a local Relay for Life, and running her granddaughter’s Girl Scout troop. She lives in a modest townhouse.

Another woman in her seventies is from Germany, but her husband’s business brought them to Hampton decades ago.  Their children grew up in Virginia and now live in Northern Virginia.  She and her husband retired to Williamsburg, where she takes Christopher Wren classes and does a lot of charity and cultural work.  I remember her saying that one of the reasons that she and her husband chose Williamsburg was that the grandchildren would enjoy visiting.  Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens, and other tourist attractions make the kinds happy to visit Oma and Opa.  They live in a large home within walking distance of Merchant’s Square.

A third woman is in her sixties and from New York.  I know that she is an artist and enjoys the local art community in addition to volunteering with Girl Scouts, but I do not know her well enough to know why she and her husband retired to Williamsburg.  They live in a gated community.

One last retired couple I will mention is my aunt and uncle.  They retired a few years ago and still live in the house in Maryland where they raised their children, who are now 27 and 30 and live in Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia.  They travel all the time and come to a timeshare in Williamsburg at least once a year, if not two or three times.

When considering where people retire, I cannot get my mother’s priority out of my head.  My sister and I have agreed that she’ll probably choose to live near whichever one of us has grandchildren first.  Some retirees have children or grandchildren in the area, but not all.  Although there are a decent number of jobs for young professionals in the area, but many college students I know agree that we would rather settle elsewhere for at least the next decade or so.  In addition, I know that it might be at least a decade until my generation finds any sort of permanent place to settle.  With a volatile job market I might move several times before I find something permanent.  Many of my friends are staying in academia and have no idea where that will take them in the short or long term.  My parents might not be able to know where my sister and my families will end up for a while.

So what brings non-native retirees to Williamsburg, especially if they do not have children settled permanently in the area?  When I say ‘non-native’ I exclude a fairly broad group of people from the ‘Middle Peninsula,’ or perhaps anywhere between Richmond and Norfolk.  What attracts retirees to a town otherwise dominated by tourism and a college?  If both the tourist amenities and the College are incentives, is one more significant?  Or are retirees more attracted to the gated communities and retirement homes than the ‘rest of the town’?  What made their decision different than that of my aunt and uncle, who enjoy Williamsburg but only to visit?

I am not sure where my research will take me.  I plan to start by interviewing retirees I know that fit the profile—those who both did not live in the Williamsburg area before they retired and also do not have family close by.  If they live in a gated or retirement community I would like to know what drew them to one in Williamsburg rather one in the area where they are from or where their children live if they have any.  From there I hope to find more contacts.  I think that in-person interviews might be my primary source of information at least to start.  I would also like to do more research into when and why the demographics of Williamsburg changed to include a large older, non-working population.

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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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