Tuesday, August 29, 2017

George Wythe House, Colonial Williamsburg, VA

After visiting the Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg, we walked down the street to another stately home.

George Wythe was an attorney and a teacher at the College of William and Mary, where he taught Thomas Jefferson. Naturally, Wythe lived in Williamsburg and had an elaborate house with lots of support buildings. We first went to the back of the house, where a small formal garden was surrounded by several out buildings.

Back of the George Wythe House

The outbuilding for the cooper

Several of the buildings were used for storage and servants quarters and occasionally other activities. One building is now a cooperage, where people work on wood to make barrels and other containers. We parents talked to them about apprenticing our older son in the profession. The cooper said it was a fairly secure job, because they are always in need. Typically farmers and merchants would not make their own items since the equipment and the skills required were expensive and time-consuming. Apprenticeships started in the early teens, so our son has some time still.

Cooper at work

More cooper work

A chart of varying sizes for beer, ale, and wine containers

The Coopers' Guild

 Another building housed the laundry. The lady told us a bit about her work. Wythe was something of a scientist and so the docents here showed us some interesting items, including whale vertebrae, a shark's tooth, and various sea shells.

Table with laundress and sea bones

Another fellow came and did a science experiment, putting a lit candle in a pan of water. Then he topped it with a glass. The flame eventually died from lack of oxygen, then the water level rose due to the change in air pressure inside the glass.

Colonial science

In a back room was servants' living area, including a table set for a meal. The table has some fancy but broken crockery. If a fancy mug's handle breaks off, Wythe wouldn't keep it in the main house for guests. Since the objects were still useful, they'd be handed down for the servants' use. The chair also looks like a hand-me-down.

Crockery and an improvised table

Servants' bed

The docent invited us to try out the bed. The kids readily agreed.

Resting from a long morning touristing

Outside we saw some chickens.


Finally we went to the main house for a self-guided tour.

Entering through the back door

We saw one of the bedrooms set up for a fancier rest than back in the servants' quarters. We were not allowed to try the bed.


Writing desk

The dining room's set up was convincing enough to make my son wonder if the food was real. The table does look inviting but not actually edible.

Dining room

The front room for entertaining guests is not so big as the Governor's Palace but is still respectable.

Room to entertain guests

More from Williamsburg coming soon!

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