Historic Home Tours: Uncovering Williamsburg’s Architectural Treasures

Like nearly everything in Williamsburg, many of our homes tell centuries of stories, their construction dating back to colonial times. Within the walls of these three houses—one a short drive away and two within walking distance of our bed & breakfast—Williamsburg, Virginia, showcases its unique and fascinating history, as told through classic architecture, authentic decoration, and interpretive tours.

peyton randolph house near our bed & breakfast Williamsburg VA

Peyton Randolph House – Early Colonial Williamsburg Comes to Life

Stroll 10 minutes from our downtown location into the heart of Colonial Williamsburg for a tour of the Peyton Randolph House, one of the most iconic and well-preserved properties within the 300-acre historic area. A classic farm-style house dating back to 1715, the architecture is Georgian, recognizable for its rectangular shape, symmetrical design, and evenly-spaced window placement. The exterior is immediately eye-catching with its deep crimson painted wood and multiple brick chimneys, a faithful remnant of Williamsburg homes' appearance three centuries ago.

Take one of the guided tours, offered every 15 minutes and included with a Colonial Williamsburg general admission ticket, during which you will step into a colonial-era ambiance as you move from room to room. The parlor rooms and bed chambers look and feel as they would have when Peyton and his wife Elizabeth owned the home from 1745-75 –  . Admire the ornate furniture and oil paintings of Peyton and other luminaries of the time, and the original pine-wood flooring, and walnut paneling throughout the home. You’ll also walk through the other buildings on the property, where 27 enslaved people lived and worked, tending to the kitchen, laundry, stable, and home duties while Peyton spent his days serving in the Continental Congress. The tour provides historical background about the Randolph’s and their servants, highlighting how they  servants persevered and built community among themselves, maintaining faith that their freedom would one day come.

Several decades after Peyton’s death, the Randolph House’s historical standing continued to deepen, serving as a hospital for wounded Civil War soldiers during and after the Battle of Williamsburg –  ,when fierce fighting occurred during the early part of the 1862 Virginia Peninsula Campaign.

george wythe house near our bed & breakfast Williamsburg VA

Walking Into the World of George Wythe – A Williamsburg Legend and Landmark Home

Continue your Colonial Williamsburg home tour by heading from the Randolph House just a block over to the George Wythe House, one of several historical landmarks along the Palace Green. The Wythe House has the same overall Georgian structure and style but trades out the Randolph House’s wood exterior for stately brick. Colonial Williamsburg  admission is required to enter the house, which is open 9 am - 1 pm Monday - Wednesday and 9 am - 5 pm Thursday - Sunday. Although it is a self-guided site, historical interpreters within the house can answer your questions about the massive home, which has four rooms on each floor. The home's backyard also has brick walkways leading along manicured gardens, sure to be extra gorgeous during spring and summer.

Everything from the horsehair-upholstered chairs and dining room china to the polished wooden desks and heirloom fireplaces is accurate to the mid-18th century when George Wythe occupied the home. Wythe was one of the most influential figures leading up to the American Revolution, serving in the House of Burgesses, Continental Congress, and Constitutional Convention, and perhaps most famously, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He left his imprint on Williamsburg in many ways, mentoring Thomas Jefferson and becoming the first law professor ever at the College of William and Mary. Although Wythe did have 10-20 enslaved people at this home, his feelings about slavery evolved, leading him to emancipate them by the late 1780s and include them in his will.

In another historical footnote, the Wythe House played an important role as the temporary headquarters for George Washington and French General Rochambeau before they set out for the decisive Battle of Yorktown in the fall of 1781, officially ending the Revolutionary War.

berkeley plantation harrison home near our bed & breakfast Williamsburg VA

Berkeley – A Historic Home and Sprawling Gardens on the Banks of the James River

Take a day trip 30 miles west from Williamsburg to the historic Berkeley Plantation, one of Virginia's most historic homes, built in 1726. Like the Wythe House, Berkeley is Georgian and made from brick, but it’s even more palatial – with three floors rather than two, plus a basement. Benjamin Harrison V, the original habitant, was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and two of his descendants (William and another Benjamin) would become Presidents after growing up on the beautiful Berkeley grounds. With admission, you can join one of the guided tours, offered seven times a day between 10 am and 4 pm., or you are free to wander the grounds. Much like at Colonial Williamsburg, costumed interpreters will embody the home’s history, explaining the antiques, rare silver, extensive artwork, and furnishings within the twelve main rooms and basement, a space now converted into a museum.

Set aside time to stroll through the 10 acres of lovely gardens between the house and the James River – a serene and picturesque place to spend an afternoon amidst the vibrant blooms of early spring. Berkeley also participates in the statewide Virginia Historic Garden Week during the last week of April, offering special garden-focused tours on their impressive property.

Stay with us and explore the storied homes of Williamsburg, where architectural beauty meets historical pedigree!

 

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