The B&Bs of Williamsburg: Project Proposal

My general research topic thus far focuses on the impact of the Bed & Breakfasts and how these businesses continue to shape and affect other the Williamsburg community as a whole. In my current observations and research, I have noticed that the owners of B&Bs seem to support each other in a close community of their own and have a wide network of interaction with other communities throughout Williamsburg (residential neighborhoods, local government, etc.) The hospitality industry, especially pertinent to the business of B&Bs, also presents great opportunities for me to see how this specific group of businesses continues to contribute to an overall “image” of Williamsburg for tourists and other temporary visitors to this “space.” I am interested to research the extent of the B&B community’s impact on shaping conceptions of space and place in the city and how these “contributions” have impacted non-locals/tourist conceptions of Williamsburg.

With my research, I would like to focus on the industry of hospitality and B&Bs through the lens of sociology and culture, rather than conducting my work solely from a business standpoint. My main research question continues to revolve around how the presence of B&Bs reinforces the larger cultural heritage of Williamsburg and influence tourist perspectives of this space/place. Historically, B&Bs have maintained a strong presence in Williamsburg and continue working with local authorities to address regulation issues that occur because of space-related conflicts. From this, I’d like to examine the spatial relationships that major players currently work to maintain or establish, specifically in regards to the B&B owners, the residential community in their surrounding areas, and the City Planning Commission.

My data sources will be heavily reliant on legal records from the City Planning Commission and their working processes with B&Bs. Regulations have been revised, written, overturned as a means to work flexibly with these businesses and the Planning Office keeps extensive historical records on these changes that should be valuable in providing context for my research. The oral histories I’d like to collect would involve a number of local B&B owners and Planning Commission officials who work directly with these businesses. If possible, it might also be valuable for me to gather oral histories of previous guests or friends of owners, in order to observe the extent of B&Bs influencing the space and overall presence of Williamsburg. I have also consulted secondary sources such as anthropological journals on tourism and hospitality, but I anticipate having to collect more specific secondary sources that focus on Bed & Breakfasts, in general. Zoning maps and other primary source documents such as postcards, brochures and other B&B related literature would also be helpful in providing context for my research.

The subjects I anticipate interviewing are relatively older in age, ranging from 40 yrs – 60 yrs old. Owners and officials are both male and female and I would most likely be interviewing 3-4 B&B owners, 1-2 local officials, and if possible, at least 1-2 tourist/visitors. I would obtain informed consent through the established protocol of deed of gift and noting any and all restrictions they might place on the distribution of my research. From a commercial standpoint, my research may pose a reputation risk to some of these businesses, if they are concerned with the way their business is “portrayed” or presented in my report. I would try and navigate this risk by keeping a strong focus on the specifics of my research question(s), so that the individual’s relationship to Williamsburg via their B&B remains the focus, not necessarily the business’s “reputation.” If confidentiality is an issue, I am open to negotiating whatever terms interviewees may have for certain client names/identities, as long as the vital information necessary to understanding my research is not sacrificed. Because the results of my research will be made public following its completion, I also intend to share my report with any and all interested subjects via email or hard copy.

Some of the challenges I anticipate are mostly concerned with obtaining oral histories from past or current visitors at B&Bs. Privacy, distance, and time constraints are main factors in why this could be potentially problematic, but if B&B owners are relatively close with repeat/regular visitors to their business or keep in touch with past clients, it may be easier to at least speak with these individuals via phone. Owners may also keep this information confidential, in which case it may be impossible to contact any clients without the proper channels of communication or consent from the B&B businesses.

I think my research study is applicable to understanding cultural conceptions of Williamsburg from the lens of a specific industry that has first hand experience with individuals who visit these businesses in order to experience this place of Williamsburg, VA: tourists. Williamsburg appears to be highly “branded” because of the many cultural tourism opportunities available in the area, and it would be valuable to see how the industry of Bed and Breakfasts works to shape or add to this “brand.” It would also be interesting to see how commercial and residential landscapes work in tandem with each other to define the space of Williamsburg, as we currently understand it.


Work Cited

Boelt Family Papers, 1948-1975. N.d. MS. College of William & Mary, Williamsburg.

Casey, Carlton. Carlton Casey Papers, 1894-1999.N.d. MS. College of William & Mary, Williamsburg.

“Colonial Williamsburg VA Lodging at The Cedars: A Romantic Williamsburg Bed and Breakfast.” Colonial Williamsburg VA Lodging at The Cedars: A Romantic Williamsburg Bed and Breakfast. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2014.

“City of Williamsburg: Planning.” City of Williamsburg. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2014. <>.

Evans Tourist Home Guest Book (Williamsburg, Va.), 1949-1955. N.d. MS. College of

Ierley, Merritt. Surveys and Responses Sent to Curators of Historic Houses in Conjunction with Merritt Ierley’s Book The Comforts of Home: The American House and the Evolution of Modern Convenience. N.d. MS. College of William & Mary, Williamsburg.

Kale, Wilford. “BED AND BREAKFAST CURB HELD UP AGAIN.” Richmond Times-Dispatch 9 Jun. 1989, One Star, Area/State: B-4. NewsBank. Web. 7 Feb. 2014.

Kaufman, Tammie J. Bed and Breakfasts in Virginia: Identification and Success Factors [abstract]. Blacksburg, Va.: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1994.

United States Bed & Breakfast Inns Industry Report. Woolwich: Barnes Reports.

YUN, DONGKOO , SEAN HENNESSEY, ROBERTA MACDONALD, and MELISSA MACEACHERN. “A Study of Cultural Tourism.” The Case of Visitors to Prince Edward Island. The Tourism Research Centre and School of Business Administration , n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2014. <>.


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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