A.Hiponia Preliminary Research Ideas

There are two subjects of immediate interest that come to mind when thinking about potential research topics. My initial idea was about one of the numerous bed and breakfast businesses around the perimeter of the WM campus. I’ve always passed by or seen certain houses in the residential areas around the school and wondered about the history of the house itself, the owners who run the business, and what kinds of people actually stay at the B&Bs. I know that many of the houses in these neighborhoods are very old and have been remodeled, expanded, etc. It would be interesting to find out more about the different generations of such a business (or businesses) and perhaps in the process, I’d be able to learn about what specific effects they had on the surrounding neighborhoods. Additionally, the commercial aspect of the Bed & Breakfast business continues to hold a very quaint, intimate charm that is often associated with older, affluent guests who might prefer the “homeliness” of a country home in a place like Williamsburg. I wonder just how successful or profitable such an industry in this area can continue to be, considering the continuous expansion of new developments, nearby hotels, and other luxury resorts. Are there challenges that these types of businesses face today in comparison to their historical past? How have they managed to remain in operation? I’m sure many of the houses in these areas, including these Bed & Breakfast businesses, have equally interesting stories that would be worthwhile to document through the class.

The second topic I had in mind actually came to me by coincidence, thanks to conversations with my friends living in an old house on Scotland St. Although their house had been handed down through members of their sorority throughout the years, their landlord, Oscar Blayton, has remained the same. It turns out that Blayton was actually the first black male to graduate with an undergraduate degree from William & Mary. He continues to rent out the Scotland St. house to students, but I’m curious about his ties to other spaces in the Williamsburg community, especially in regards to residential areas. Thanks to a quick Google search, I found a Daily Press article from 2004 where a reporter interviewed Blayton about the attempt to revive the Braxton Court neighborhood, a predominantly African-American community, and the resentment towards college students in “taking over” the area. Throughout the article, Blayton is illustrated as a very outspoken advocate of the neighborhood, since he apparently spent his childhood in the Braxton Court area, and clearly seems to hold very strong attachments to this very personal space. Perhaps Blayton among many other landlords in the area deal with similar issues of restoration/revival, considering the growing amount of expansion by WM to accommodate student housing, parking, etc.

Overall, I think I find the residential communities outside of campus to be most intriguing to me, just because of the local history embedded in the houses and the people who lived or continue to live there. Maybe there is a bit of a contrast between a polished B&B and older (and as I’ve often seen, sometimes problematic) family homes in the local neighborhoods, but I think either subject might be interesting to continue to explore in depth for the duration of the semester.

2 Responses to “A.Hiponia Preliminary Research Ideas”

  1. 1 mal2013 February 2, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    The Special Collections Research Center has some information related to Oscar Blayton and possibly other members of the Blayton family. Braxton Court has been a perennial topic of interest to WDP students. The archive, available through the Swem SCRC website, contains several oral histories with former and current residents of the area.

  2. 2 Kate Previti February 3, 2014 at 9:59 am

    On the topic of B&B’s, it might be useful to look at WDP interviews with Billy and Sharon Scruggs who are both Williamsburg natives, but more importantly own/manage the Fife and Drum Inn. Billy has also been very involved with the tourism and chamber alliance (and might even have been the head of it in recent years) so there should be some information of relevance in those interviews.

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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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