Archive for January, 2013

Research Proposal

When I first learned of this semester’s theme of youth, I was overwhelmed because there are so many topics of research one could pursue that include the theme.  Originally, I wanted to interview people about their experiences in college and how they believe their experiences from decades ago compare to their perception of the college experience today.  While pondering how to incorporate Williamsburg in this research, I remembered our conversation in class about how some William and Mary students plan to move away after graduation but find their way back.  As a result, I have decided to investigate why some William and Mary alumni make Williamsburg their home.

By conducting interviews with local alumni in addition to looking at the Williamsburg Regional Library’s collection of profiles of Williamsburg residents, I hope to gain a better understanding of what draws William and Mary alumni back to Williamsburg (or what keeps them here) and what particular college experiences were influential in the decision to return to (or stay in) Williamsburg.  Looking at old news articles on town-gown relations may also shed light on what influenced students to remain in Williamsburg after graduation.  I will also monitor local media to see if there are any articles on alumni-specific events as well as articles on current town-gown relations.  Moreover, I believe the William and Mary Alumni Association and its Williamsburg chapter will be very helpful resources.

I look forward to beginning the research process.  My hope is that my final project will provide readers and me with a better understanding of the college experience’s lifelong influence on individuals.  Specifically, I hope this will provide accounts of the strong ties that remain long after graduation between William and Mary alumni, the College and the City of Williamsburg.

Sample questions the paper will address:

What similarities exist between the various individuals who have remained in Williamsburg?

What similarities exist between the various individuals who decided to return to Williamsburg later in life?

What drew alumni to Williamsburg? Are they active in the alumni community?

What were their college experiences like? Similarities? Differences?

What, if anything, about their college experiences influenced them to stay or return to Williamsburg?

What resources are available to alumni who live in Williamsburg?  What types of events and meetings does the local alumni chapter plan?

How do local alumni feel about their relationship to and with the College today?

McLane Preliminary Research Idea

-Focus on marginalized youth in Williamsburg and organizations that aim to address this problem

-most likely look at at-risk youth or youth whose families fall beneath the poverty line

-I am interested in researching this topic of marginalization with Williamsburg’s affluence as a backdrop

____________

-Look at questions such as:

-Which children and youth are marginalized and why?

-How and when did this marginalization begin?

-How do people in society react to people who are marginalized?

-How does marginalization affect quality of life and access to resources?

-What are the other negative effects of marginalization?  Depression?  Turning to crime? Acting out?

-Are there any benefits to marginalization?

-What can this topic of marginalization teach us about Williamsburg as a whole?

_____________

-Identify organizations that aim to increase understanding about or help these marginalized children and teens, as well as adults, in Williamsburg.  How do these organizations address the problem?

-All Together

-Big Brother Big Sister of the Greater Virginia Peninsula

-I have gathered some preliminary information about the two organizations’ mission statements, goals, and programs in the area.  I hope to interview people at both places to gain further insight.

-If possible, I would like to interview a Big Brother with his Little Brother or a Big Sister with her Little Sister to, not only gain information about the program, but also to observe the interaction between the pair.

-After looking at both organizations’ websites, I am interested to discover how the international organization–Big Brother Big Sister–approaches the issue of marginalization and at-risk youth compared to All Together, the locally-grown organization.

______________

Look at Census information and data from UVA’s Weldon Cooper Center in addition to interviewing people who run All Together and Big Brother Big Sister as well as those who participate in these organizations’ activities

 

Spears and Tate Reflections

I found Mia Stratis Spears’ account of the prominent role of the Greek community in Williamsburg both fascinating and surprising. Williamsburg is arguably one of the most “American” towns in the United States because of its history. Spears challenges that notion by placing the small, but influential, Greek community in the forefront of the city’s twentieth-century economic and social development.

She begins her article, entitled “Perseverance, Preservation, and Prosperity: The Greek Community of Williamsburg,” by describing the first Greek immigrants as disciplined and determined. Two of the most notable early Greek immigrants to Williamsburg were Angelo and Nick Costas. Together, they set the tone for Greek prosperity in Williamsburg through the development of restaurants and other social hubs that were student-friendly. With the development of the historical part of Colonial Williamsburg, the Greek leaders in the town expanded their hospitality to tourists.

Spears also highlights the Greek community’s dedication to the city’s permanent residences, as well as its students and tourists. Through financial donations to community institutions such as hospitals and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, wealthy Greek residents asserted their commitment to Williamsburg. One individual, George Genakos contributed politically as a member of the City Council. Yet, despite these declarations of allegiance to Williamsburg, the Greek community continued to identify with their cultural roots. They accomplished this through participation in the local chapter of the American Hellenic Education Progressive Association, AHEPA.

The Greek community positively contributed to town-gown relations through the development of inexpensive eateries for William and Mary students. Many of these are still around today – including the College Delly.

Thaddeus W. Tate, Jr.’s article on town-gown relations between Williamsburg and William and Mary begins with the royal charter in 1693, well before the arrival of Greek immigrants. In general, Tate tells a fairly positive story of the interactions between the College and the town. He describes the relationship as generally harmonious, which I believe has become less true due to the influence of Colonial Williamsburg as a profitable tourist destination. In my view, William and Mary’s town-gown relations have evolved to a town-gown-Foundation model. In my observance of local politics, the residents often side with the “tame and quiet” CW Foundation rather than the “rowdy and progressive” university. This creates a unique relationship that I do not believe any other colleges face.

While reading this piece, I compared the town-gown relations of William and Mary and Williamsburg to other universities and their host city. At UVA, for example, I have heard and witnessed that the city of Charlottesville relies on the university for a source of jobs, cultural enlightenment, and consumers (in the form of students). That is not the case in Williamsburg because of the tourist population, which, I would assume, is generally more economically profitable.

Tate’s account of town-gown relations takes readers through a turbulent past of financial uncertainty, multiple wars, and debates on the role of education in the town. What I did not realize is that the William and Mary I know today – a medium-sized university with approximately 6,000 undergraduates and 2,000 graduate students – is nothing like the William and Mary of years past. In fact, Tate often describes the College as a tiny liberal arts college with small faculties – often in the single digits – and around 100 to 125 students. It was not until after World War II that William and Mary emerged as a larger institution with familiar traditions such as the Yule Log and Charter Day ceremonies. More students in graduate and undergraduate programs meant more classrooms, dormitories, and student centers. Tate states that as a result of the new, larger university, town-gown relations changed. He specifically points to traffic and parking concerns as well as the value greater community engagement on behalf of the students. However, he asserts, until the end of the article, that the relationship between William and Mary and Williamsburg should always be mutually beneficial. This class is a perfect example of that mentality. We, as students at the College, have the time, resources, and incentives to produce an archive that is useful for the city.

 

Assignment 2 – Five Forks Cafe

If you drive down Jamestown Road, then take a left on 199, and a right on John Tyler Highway (Route 5), you’ll stumble upon one of the countless strip malls in the Williamsburg area. I had never ventured out there before because I do not have a car on Williamsburg. I decided to take the aforementioned route to this particular place because I was in search of a Williamsburg legend that I had heard about, but never experienced: Five Forks Café.

The location of the restaurant is relatively small and requires a car to travel there. It is just ten minutes off of campus, but it feels like it takes much longer to get there. As my friends and I drove down Jamestown Road, I felt the comforting presence of the College releasing its grasp. We passed identical intersections that brought together wide, paved roads from all over the city.

Upon arriving to the junction between John Tyler Highway and Ironbound Road, we faced our first hurdle: parking. Apparently we were not the only Williamsburg residents whose first thoughts were, “Let’s go to Five Forks” when we woke up that morning. Upon parking about fifty feet away from the building, we encountered an intimidating line.

While in line, I had the opportunity to examine the building. It is unassuming, simple, and it stands alone. The walls are half brick and half tinted windows. The room is flat, white, and proudly displays the words “Five Forks Café” in a retro, silver font that reminded me of an airstream.

After we sat down our compact, wooden booth, I looked at the crowd. What I came to find is that this space is an intersection between the College and the permanent residents of Williamsburg. However, it seemed as if all of the people I knew and recognized were on one side of the restaurant – to the left – as compared to the Williamsburg residents who sat on the right.

I did not feel uncomfortable or unsafe, but I did feel out of place. As I sat with one of my friends who is an international student, I asked him, “Doesn’t this make you feel like you’re in America?” Five Forks Café is the type of setting where political commercials for conservative, America-loving candidates are filmed. I imagine Norman Rockwell would love to paint this place. No non-sense American patriarchs would prefer to dine here – and so would Ron Swanson from the television show Parks and Recreation. These characteristics are generally what I saw in the crowd and the employees: homegrown,

Unfortunately, that is not how I would characterize myself. My exchange with the waitress regarding my breakfast order emphasizes the distinction nicely.

“And what will you have, my dear?”

“Can I please have two poached eggs with whole wheat toast and fruit?”

“We don’t poach eggs here, honey.”

“Oh, okay. Then can I please have … um… can you please come back to me?”

“Sure.”

One minute passed.

“Okay, can I please have two eggs over medium. I’d like them not too runny, but runny enough.”

“And you still want the toast and the fruit? Any hash browns? They’re really good.”

“Um, okay. I’ll have whole wheat toast and hash browns, please.”

“Great.”

Just like that, the waitress changed my original, pretentious and healthy order to something more classic. Classic yet unhealthy.

Despite their mild manipulation, the women who worked at Five Forks were fantastic. It appeared as if most of them had worked there for over fifteen years. There was a sense of comradery around them when they would chitchat between serving tables. At the table next to me, I heard the waitress joke with a student about her hangover. While I watched the women pace back and forth to the kitchen with huge plates of primarily egg dishes, I felt as if I was watching a bunch of mothers feeding their large, hungry families.

When my food arrived, I devoured it quickly. Somehow, even though it was one of the plainest breakfasts I had ever eaten, it was one of the most delicious. My friends and I exchanged pieces of pancakes for hash browns and omelets for grits in order to fully experience Five Fork’s offerings. When the waitress returned to pick up our clean plates, she asked me:

“Now wasn’t that better than poached eggs?”

“Yes,” I said. “Thank you for the recommendation.”

She dropped off the check, which was handwritten in unintelligible handwriting, and instructed us to pay by the door. We sat for a bit to discuss our incredibly satisfying meal and then trudged over to the cash register to pay for our breakfast.

As we headed back to Williamsburg, I felt the realities of schoolwork, tests, and social obligations creeping back into my head. Although escaping the grip of the College can be daunting at first, it is actually very rewarding. I am sure many students who have ventured off campus can identify with this. Reminding yourself that there is a real world past the two roads that confine our campus is reassuring.

 

Taylor and Brown & DeSamper Response

Thomas Taylor’s “The Restoration of Williamsburg” mainly discusses the earliest restoration projects in Williamsburg, arguing that preservation to some extent was active in Williamsburg long before the radical whole town restoration by Goodwin and Rockefeller. The historic city had valued its still standing colonial structures despite allowing many to disappear and be neglected. The AVPA had been repairing and praising the historic powder magazine since 1896. The article then goes into the two year secret buy out of Williamsburg historic locations by Rockefeller as to hold off real estate speculation. Next the expansive and expensive restoration is described in detail. Hundreds of workers, scholars, and architects were needed for the effort. The article does not comment much upon the Depression of the 1930s but hints at the townspeople’s nervousness that Rockefeller might not finish the job because of monetary constraints. The article states that unemployment was thwarted by the continuing construction projects, but does provide great detail on the status of the city of Williamsburg apart from the reconstruction during this difficult time period.

Brown & DeSamper’s article “A Household Name: Colonial Williamsburg in the Second Half of the Twentieth Century” picks up where Taylor’s article leaves off. The article discusses the changes in popularity as well as content of Colonial Williamsburg after World War II. They argue that Colonial Williamsburg retained its popularity because it changed with the times from praising solely great American political and revolutionary figures to telling the lives of common Williamsburg residents during the 18th century. The article mentions the acceptance of African American interpreters and workers at Colonial Williamsburg but does not go into detail about the tensions, racisms, and civil rights issues of the time. The article also mentions the addition of girls into the fife and drum corps but does not comment on why or how this change occurred. Mainly, Brown & DeSamper focus on the rising popularity of Colonial Williamsburg both to millions of visitors in the years around the bicentenial and international political and royal figures. The growth of Colonial Williamsburg in terms of the size of the historic area and amount of buildings is addressed in detail but business decisions such as entrance fees are not discussed.

Taylor, Brown and DeSamper Reading Reflections

The reading assignments from this week, particularly the articles I was assigned to read, fit perfectly with the assignment also due: to explore a place I have never been before.  Thomas H. Taylor, Jr.’s “The Restoration of Williamsburg” and Peter A.G. Brown’s and Hugh DeSamper’s  “A Household Name: Colonial Williamsburg in the Second Half of the Twentieth Century” gave me the opportunity to learn about the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg.  As a second semester senior, it is almost embarrassing that I am just starting to learn the details of the restoration.

Thomas H. Taylor, Jr. describes the process of restoring the colonial area and creating the institution known as “Colonial Williamsburg”: the union of the Williamsburg Holding Corporation which was responsible for business, and Colonial Williamsburg Inc., the educational branch of the institution.   While most people familiar with Williamsburg know John D. Rockefeller funded the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg and did have an integral role in restoring Colonial Williamsburg with painstaking detail, the names of other important people who made the restoration possible are not as widely known. One, arguably the most influential, was Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin who oversaw the daily operations.  He was responsible for acquiring “not only property for restoration, but also the blocks between the college and the palace green in order to create a commercial zone” (Taylor 182).  This was fascinating to me.  Throughout the article, I was continually struck by the shrewd business moves behind every decision.  The planners bought parcels of land surrounding the foundation of the old Capital they planned to rebuild to ensure no other structures would block its views.  They also purchased land to eventually build an Inn.  Every decision seemed to relate back to how to bring the most visitors and capitalize on the newly found tourism industry, while also providing the most realistic portrayal of life in Colonial Williamsburg (they did extensive research: excavating sites, going through old court records and family paperwork, and they even had someone research what shades of paint to use on the buildings’ interiors). Most of the originial restorations were completed by 1935.  “Fifty-nine structures had been restored, ninety-one others reconstructed, twenty-nine new shops in two business blocks at the west end of Duke of Gloucester Street, and four hundred fifty-eight structures removed” (Taylor 188). The number of building restored or reconstructed during that amount of time is truly amazing.

The article was truly enlightening.  While we all know Rockefeller made the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg possible, this article highlights the importance of looking at history in-depth and paying attention to the contributions of people who may not be well-known or receive any credit.  The article tells readers a lesser known fact about the restoration: it was a community effort that was made possible by many locals who worked tirelessly to make this historically significant place available to the public.

Brown and DeSamper’s chapter gives readers a detailed understanding of how the restoration continued while also improving the local economy. Though Colonial Williamsburg’s restoration was completed before World War II, the article discusses the continued “advancements” in restoring Colonial Williamsburg to how it was hundreds of years earlier.  These advancements which (counter-intuitively) bring Colonial Williamsburg back to its roots include adding the voices “of the common man – the tradesmen, women and children, and black slaves, and hundreds of thousands came to see, bear, and engage in an exciting story of our country’s beginning” (Brown et al 217).  Moreover, Colonial Williamsburg advanced the quality of their reenactors’ and tour guides’ presentations by bringing in lecturers from a variety of subjects to make sure the representatives of Colonial Williamsburg gave accurate information to visitors.  By emphasizing the importance of historical accuracy in its representations of Colonial life (whether in presentations, building restorations, or the interior design of a building) Colonial Williamsburg drew millions of people each year to experience what President Roosevelt called years before “the most historic avenue in all America” (Brown et al 222). The continued improvements to Colonial Williamsburg resulted in the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s endeavor to raise millions from the public in order to preserve the historic town.  It seems as though it was easier to raise money once more and more foreign dignitaries and U.S. Presidents visited Williamsburg and thus brought greater attention to the historic area.

Often neglected when discussing Williamsburg is just how much of an impact the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg made on the local economy. As more people began to visit, more hotels and attractions including Busch Gardens and Water Country USA were built. Visitors were so impressed with Williamsburg that some never left.  They retired here resulting in the construction of many residential and retirement communities. This brought a lot of money to the area as well as a growing population.  It is hard to believe that less than a century these major developments, historical buildings in Colonial Williamsburg faced a bleak future while places of development today were nothing more but cornfields.  Though I have always appreciated living near Colonial Williamsburg and going to school in such a historically significant town (and college), the readings made me even more proud to have called Williamsburg home for the last four years.

Confession Cowardice- A Visit to St. Olaf Catholic Church

I am a practicing Catholic, and, as such, I find going to Confession a much needed part of my faith life. A lot of people might find this odd. Confessing your sins to a priest probably does not seem to be the most fun pastime. However, I find it really relieving and cathartic. The only hitch for me is that I genuinely loathe going to Confession with a priest that I know.

The Catholic Campus Ministry here at William and Mary has its own chaplain; however, he is also a priest at the larger St. Bede Parish on Ironbound Road. I know our chaplain well because I am on the executive board for CCM, so I dislike going to the Confession services held at our campus chapel. So I had been going to St. Bede’s Confession time instead of the campus one for awhile. Except now our campus chaplain helps at those Confessions as well. There are two rooms and you do not know if you will get him or the other priest at St. Bede. A few months ago I had the unpleasant experience of getting the room with the priest I knew. Even with the screen blocking my face, I knew he would recognize my voice, so I made my voice lower and more hoarse to disguise it.

So where am I going with this generally silly anecdote about my irrational Confession fears? Well, I decided that I needed to find somewhere else to say my Confession. So I looked up the nearest Catholic Church besides St. Bede in the Williamsburg area. It is called St. Olaf and is technically in Norge, but it is just up Richmond Road a couple miles past Williamsburg Pottery, so it still seems like Williamsburg to me.

I decided that going to Confession at St. Olaf on Saturday would be my experience of a “new place” in Williamsburg. I pulled out my IPhone and mapped how to get there. It was very simple. The church is exactly eight miles down Richmond Road from campus. So I got in my car and started driving. I had never been that far down Richmond Road to begin with, so I started getting a little nervous because I began to not recognize things. But once I saw the sign for the church I calmed down and knew it would be fine. To get to St. Olaf you turn right off Richmond Road and turn right again down a little side street. There is a Farm Fresh and a Starbucks and some houses in the immediate vicinity of the church. It is not in a “sketchy” part of town or anything, so I felt completely safe. It looked like any small church that you would find near a shopping center anywhere in the United States. Thus, its generic-ness was actually comforting.

Confessions are held at St. Olaf from 4:30 to 5:15 PM on Saturday afternoons- right before their Saturday evening mass at 5:30. I got to the church at around 4:45 PM, so those few people that like to get to mass super early were already arriving. This made me a little nervous. I had been hoping there would not be many people around. The church is really small, so I would probably stand out as someone that did not usually go there. Going to mass on campus is really comfortable because most of the people that go to those masses at our small chapel are also students. And even when I had to go to St. Bede on Ironbound Road over the summer, I blended in with the other college students who had stayed in Williamsburg over the summer and were going their for mass as well. St. Olaf does not draw the William and Mary crowd, however. It is out of the way and not connected to William and Mary’s Catholic Campus Ministry. So I immediately thought that I must stick out like a sore thumb in this community.

Luckily, though, my experience at St. Olaf was incredibly pleasant. I walked in the side doors of the church and clearly looked a little confused, so an older lady approached me and asked if I needed anything. I asked where confessions were being heard. The church is so small that she pointed across the small welcoming area to a bench that I could sit on while I waited. There was only one person ahead of me in line. At St. Bede, there would normally be at least 10-15 people ahead of me in both lines that they have there. Needless to say I was pretty surprised at how quick this was probably going to be.

I went to sit down on the bench with the older gentleman that was also in line. After he went in, I just awkwardly sat on the bench in the middle of the welcoming hall as more people started coming in for mass. I have to say, this set-up really is not the best. At least at St. Bede, you are far away from the entrance area when you are waiting to go to Confession, so no one can see you and say in their head, “Oh, that girl has something to confess.” Okay, people probably do not actually think that, but I just imagine they do.

Because I was the only person sitting on the waiting bench after the older gentleman went into the Confession room, and probably because I looked new and out of place, an older woman came and sat down next to me and introduced herself. She asked if I was there for mass and I just said that I was only there for Confession. She said, “Oh, you are brave, I don’t like going to Confession.” Little did she know, that my driving out to St. Olaf to go to Confession was because of how much of a coward I actually am. Nevertheless, I chuckled at her comment and said something like, “I guess so.” She then went on to greet friends of hers that were walking into the church.

I am not going to tell you what I confessed, but I did really like the priest who heard my confession. After I was done, I headed out of the church and went back to campus. All in all, I liked experiencing, even if for a very brief time, another church community besides the one I am used to on campus. I felt very welcomed at St. Olaf, even if I felt a little out of place. It is nice to know that even in a different part of town I can find a church that is welcoming and makes me feel comfortable.

Soaps-N-Suds

I’ve lived in a house on Lafayette Street for the last three years during my time at the College of William and Mary. I get most of my necessities within a mile radius. I get groceries at Bloom/Food Lion, I get gas at Kim’s, I get home improvement items at Ace, I get lunch at China House, and, seasonally, I get Italian ice at Rita’s. I’ve driven, walked, biked, and skateboarded throughout the Lafayette, Richmond, and Monticello street/road area at all times of day and night. This area is my home. Still, I have not visited every shop in this small vicinity and rarely go out of my comfort zone. Thinking about where I should visit for this anthro-geo-historical project, I considered Nawab but was not yet hungry, Supreme Styles but did not need accessories, and City Nails, but I decided against a manicure when I saw Soaps-N-Suds and visualized the large pile of laundry on my bedroom floor. We have a washer and dryer at my house, so I’d never been to the Laundromat. In general, all I really knew about them was that my grandpa owned one when my mother was a young girl. She used to help him by sorting the change. So, I grabbed my dirty clothes, detergent, and some quarters and headed out slightly nervous about this new experience.

First off, I learned that one could not even use quarters at Soaps-N-Suds. I walked in and saw that I had to buy a prepaid laundry card with cash or credit. I buy the card, load my washers, and finally sit down and take a look around. I have 28 minutes to contemplate my surroundings. There are multiple TVs playing Judge Mathis to provide me with entertainment as well as vending and pinball machines. What interests me the most, however, is people-watching. Not trying to seem suspicious of voyeurism, I take a seat and look up at the TVs peeking around at my fellow customers in my periphery. I see the Laundromat attendant, an older African American woman, sweeping in the far right corner, a Hispanic mother with two young children playing, a young Caucasian couple folding clothes together, and a few solo people, two women and one male lounging around. While different demographics of people probably occupy Soaps-N-Suds at different days and different times, I guess that the majority of people that go to the Laundromat are Williamsburg residents that are not college students, mainly older folks, and are likely in a slightly lower than average income level.  I bet a large majority of their clientele lives in the Lawson apartments behind the Monticello Shopping Center of which Soaps-N-Suds is a part. Most college students, I assume, wash their clothes on campus or like me, at their temporary house.

After my wash loads are finished, I transfer my clothes to the dryers. By this time, I feel very comfortable. I think part of my nervousness coming to Soaps-N-Suds was that I would do something wrong or unconventional in the washing process and have someone look at me weird or have to ask for help. But with my clothes on their way to being dry and warm, I sit a little more relaxed and enjoy the small claims monetary disputes on TV. Though I do not foresee my need to visit Soaps-N-Suds regularly, I feel as though I have a better view of a bustling Williamsburg local spot. I probably would have never seen this part of Williamsburg without this project’s incentive. Hungry after folding my clothes, I head across the street and order the lunch special at China House.

Spears and Tate Local Histories

 

Mia Stratis Spears, in “Perseverance, Preservation, and Prosperity: The Greek Community of Williamsburg,” tells the story of the movement of Greek people to the Williamsburg area, and their overwhelming success. I had no idea that so many establishments were owned by Greek immigrants, dating so far back as the 1920s.        Spears remarks on the dynamic between the Greek population and William and Mary and the city of Williamsburg, and how all prospered from their relationship. The article seems to indicate more direct interaction between students at the College and Greek establishment owners and staff than what I have known. Lacking from my experience, I wonder whether the presence of the community is less overt now, or if I just have been sheltered in my connections. Spears also paints a very rosy picture the international relations and merging of communities—was it really so ideal? I find it hard to imagine that it was easy for Greeks to become a part of American culture, or for the residents of Williamsburg to readily accept a different nationality into their midst.

“Town and Gown Through Three Centuries: William & Mary in the Life of Williamsburg” was written by Thaddeus W. Tate Jr. and describes the history of the College in relation to its town, which was a close one from the origins of both. Tate focuses on the beginning and early years of the school, and (depending on the year of publication) very little attention is paid to any modern understanding of the relationship. I agree with Tate that William and Mary and Williamsburg share a very special bond, in that both feed off the other in many ways. Tourists come to the area for both the College and Colonial Williamsburg, while the students act as patrons to many of events and services offered in town. Each serves the other, though just as in the Spears piece, I would like the author to have presented less of a chronology, and more information that complicated this interaction. What about the late 1960s and early 1970s—did students protest? What are the tensions between the College and town communities? These two articles follow many of the standards (and limitations) that we discussed with local histories.

Pineapples and Perceptions

I struggled to think of a place that would be easy for me to reach in the town of Williamsburg (without a car), not in Colonial Williamsburg, that I had not visited in my four years at William and Mary. What could be left? Then I realized the number of bed and breakfasts that serve Williamsburg, so many of which are right across the street from campus. One of these, the Colonial Capital Bed and Breakfast, is located at Richmond Road and Virginia Avenue, and is where I chose to visit last Sunday afternoon.

Snow crunched under my feet as I tromped up the long sidewalk to the Colonial Capital. A plaque on the door marked that it has been in establishment since 1988. I tried to open the front door (aren’t bed and breakfasts just like hotels but smaller? Can’t I just walk in?) but found it to be locked. I rang the doorbell, and waited nervously for someone to open it. An older gentleman answered the door, and I explained my purpose to him—that I was a student at the College, doing research for a class, and was hoping he might let me look around. He let me in, but looked confused, and asked what I was researching. I explained that it was less of a “what” and more of a “where,” a prompt to go somewhere I had never been and experience a place outside of the William and Mary campus. He laughed at this, but seemed willing to let me look around the bed and breakfast.

I found the bed and breakfast to be an odd hybrid space between the public and the private. My thought prior to entering was that the space I would be able to view (the breakfast half of the bed and breakfast) would be similar to a hotel. I walked around most of the ground floor, and some of it fit my previous idea—a desk displayed pamphlets about the area, and a guest book was prominently displayed, along with a sign marking the establishment as AAA approved. At the same time, I was very aware that I was in a house, not a building constructed for commercial purposes. I explored the large living room, dining room, and a small breakfast nook. They were all laid out as if someone lived there—comfortable pillows on couches, tables waiting to be set for dinner. (There were even some Williamsburg local history books spread out on the coffee table.) It took me a while to realize that this was a home, for the owner of the Colonial Capital. A space that I had always considered as removed from everyday life, as a getaway for travelers, also functions as a very intimate and personal space for those who make it their lives, and not just a weekend away.

At first, my interactions with the owner were a bit awkward. He did not seem to know what to make of a college student wandering through his bed and breakfast, and I imagine I looked silly walking around and looking at the place, without a very clear understanding of what I was looking for. He followed me into the different rooms for a few minutes, which made me very self-conscious, as if I might make trouble. Eventually he seemed assured that I was not going to steal anything, and I explored the downstairs alone. I was not given any direction, but did not feel comfortable entering the kitchen, located toward the back of the house, though I did spot groceries sitting on the counter from the doorway. The owner did not tell me where I could or could not go, but I felt like the kitchen was in the private or management portion of the Colonial Capital, and that venturing there would be an unwelcome visit behind the scenes to the running of the bed and breakfast. I also made the choice not to go upstairs, as that gave the impression of being a space reserved for the resident or paying guests.

The most meaningful experience of my visit came when I asked the owner a question. I had noticed the images of pineapples in and outside the building, from a flag out front to candle holders in the dining room. Prompted by my own curiosity more than anything else, I asked what was significant about pineapples. He explained that they are a symbol of hospitality dating back to the colonial era, when pineapples where a rare product in some areas of the world, and one who shared pineapple was seen as an especially generous soul. The owner of the Colonial Capital, a retired employee of Colonial Williamsburg, said the historical workers would refer to themselves as “working for the big pineapple.” They are the symbol of the hospitality house (across the road), and are among the many symbols used to represent establishments before widespread literacy.

This man came alive telling me the story about pineapples, and I wanted to hear more that he could tell me about the town. (This past summer, I worked for a local newspaper, and spent time interviewing members of my community. At this point in my visit, I felt like I was back on a story assignment, and began a dialogue appropriate to the interaction between reporter and subject, though I did not plan it that way.) He explained that the house was built in 1926, during the reconstruction of Colonial Williamsburg, and was part of a former farm owned by brothers who were active in the town, and even financed part of the wall that runs between campus and Richmond Road. (I have a quest to find the marker on the wall that recognizes the contribution of the Bozarths.) It was a local history lesson from someone who knew an entirely different side of Williamsburg than the one that I experience on a daily basis.

The Colonial Capital has faced harder times with the recession, as the owner said that travel was an aspect of life readily purged to save on funds. I proposed that the bed and breakfast model might appeal to a specific segment of the tourist population, and the owner agreed that he relies on older clients, saying he shared age and retired status with much of his clientele. I am clearly outside of those typical customers, and felt like an outsider, observing a service and space meant for someone very different from me. I felt very young, less of a reporter now and more of a college kid who had never walked into a bed and breakfast before.

My visit to the Colonial Capital Bed and Breakfast taught me well about space and the people who inhabit them. The seemingly very close and familiar, a house on Richmond Road, can feel like a different, strange world. It might be difficult to imagine relating to someone in a foreign environment, but not so hard to find common ground and understanding by simply asking them a question. They can share a great deal about place, history, and definitely hospitality.

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About

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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