Kicking Off VA 250 Inside Williamsburg's Reconstructed Capitol is History in Itself

Kicking Off VA 250 Inside Williamsburg's Reconstructed Capitol is History in Itself

Mar 20, 2024

Last week at Virginia's current Capitol, this week in the Colonial Capitol.

Last week we attended Lafayette Day in Virginia's State Capitol and this week, we watched Colonial Williamsburg's (CWs) Nation Builders and actor interpreters take re-enactment to a new level. By my count, less than 200 people will have had the opportunity to see it from the inside as of now.

I thought the opportunity to be the first people to hear music from Jefferson's collection performed in a couple hundred years was special (and it is, you can read about it here), but let's be honest, this was the ultimate immersion in history.

If this blog serves as my "journal," I have to record my experiences as well as educational content - so I am.

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Original Speaker's Chair from Williamsburg, Virginia's Colonial Capitol Building

The original Speaker's chair at CW's Capitol Building.

March 19, 2024: Rehearsal in progress.

The day Lord Dunmore suddenly dissolved the House of Burgesses.

If you saw my recent post about the final breakfast between Colonel Washington and Virginia's last Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, you gained some context of what happened in May of 1774.

Read the post here.

Yesterday's performance is part of the VA 250 preparation for celebrating American independence in 2026. It was a rehearsal session that took place on the streets of Williamsburg, ending at the Raleigh Tavern, where the burgesses met after being dissolved.

I've seen Kurt Smith as Jefferson performing on the Charlton Stage in CW, with the Capitol reconstruction in the background. He often says about being so close to where the 1776 Virginia vote for independency took place: "does that not give you gooseflesh?"

King George III and Queen Charlotte's portraits at the Capitol Building in Colonial Williamsburg

Portraits of King George III, Queen Charlotte in the House.

Being in the House of Burgesses, sitting amongst the actor historians as they discussed how to respond to Parliament closing the port of Boston, gave me gooseflesh.

Here is what we experienced:

  • We literally sat in the burgesses seats.
  • Washington arrived after having breakfast with Dunmore and was asked about the Governor's mood, what he said.
  • Richard Henry Lee passionately (he was shouting) shared his desire for more action supporting the people of the Massachusetts Bay colony.
  • Patrick Henry supporting Lee, Washington attempting to bring reason to it all while John Randolph and Edmund Pendleton arguing against upsetting Parliament.
  • Speaker Randolph overseeing the House and leading the Burgesses out of the building at the request of Governor Dunmore.

We were IN IT. In a building built onto the foundation of where the original sat. Then we followed them out to the street, saw the reactions of the citizens (one walked up and spoke directly to us as if whispering on the street to fellow citizens), followed them further on to the Raleigh Tavern and experienced the conversations had as they walked in.

It all ended with words from Colonel Washington about the future and I cannot emphasize enough for any history buffs to plan your trip to CW in 2026 and any time leading up to it. I'm personally looking forward to more events like yesterday's!

Today, we see the actual performance on the street, not the rehearsal. It's open to the public!

Shock of Electricity event celebrating VA 250 on the steps of the Raleigh Tavern

Daniel Cross as Col. Washington on Raleigh Tavern porch.

Shout-out to CW's actor historians.

And yes, they are as much historians who research primary source documents as well as they are actors.

I need to make a specific shout-out here to CW Nation Builders Kurt Smith (Thomas Jefferson), Daniel Cross (Colonel Washington), and Katharine Pittman (Martha Washington). Speaking with Kurt yesterday confirmed it: these three are responsible for the content.

Almost every line spoken inside the House of Burgesses were actual quotes. We got to literally hear what Speaker Peyton Randolph, his brother John the Attorney General, Richard Henry Lee, and Patrick Henry said.

And we witnessed the heartfelt words of Jefferson and Washington. We heard a conversation between Jefferson and his mentor George Wythe. Listened in on conversations between Washington and his wife Martha, who he lovingly called "Patsy" in one of them.

And we got to experience Lord Dunmore on the balcony of the Capitol, look down onto Duke of Gloucester Street and address the people of Williamsburg as he dissolved the House.

These are the words of history, brought to life in the ACTUAL place they happened. Seriously: this experience was history itself.

RELATED: Read my post about primary sources by clicking here.

Shock of Electricity VA 250 performance in front of Colonial Williamsburg's Capitol Building

Performance rehearsal on Duke of Gloucester St.

2024 is a hell of a year for history buffs!

So take advantage of it.

Learn more and immerse yourself in it as you find events and opportunities.
If you cannot be there, watch them online- there are opportunities to participate in online events live on platforms like Facebook as well as watching replays on YouTube.

  • The 200th anniversary of Lafayette's 1824 tour. (more info here)
  • VA 250 in full effect. (link to the main site here)

Before you leave, words from history.

Two excerpts from a letter written by Washington, showing how he was unaware at breakfast (because the action was "sudden") and sharing further information about the dissolution of the House of Burgesses by Dunmore. Read the letter in full, with citations, by clicking here.

From George Washington to George William Fairfax, 10–15 June 1774

To George William Fairfax

Wmsburg June 10[–15]th 1774

Dear Sir,

In my way to this place I met with your Letter of the 10th of Jany at Dumfries—In consequence...

(excerpt 1)

Our Assembly met at this place the 4th Ulto according to Proragation, and was dissolvd the 26th for entering into a resolve of which the Inclosd is a Copy, and which the Govr thought reflected too much upon his Majesty, & the British Parliamt to pass over unnoticed 5 —this Dissolution was as sudden as unexpected 6

(excerpt 2)

As the case stands the assembly sat the 22 day’s 9 for nothing—not a Bill being ⟨passed the Council being adjournd⟩ from the rising of the Court to the day of the Dissolution & came either to advise, or ⟨in opposition to⟩ the measure. The day after this Event the Members convend themselves at the Raleigh Tavern & enterd into the Inclosd Association which being followed two days after by an Express from Boston accompanied by the Sentiments of some Meetings in our Sister Colonies to the Northwd the proceedings mentiond in the Inclos’d Papers were had thereupon & a general meeting requested of all the late Representatives in this City on the first of August when it is hopd, & expected that some vigorous measures will be effectually 10 adopted to obtain that justice which is denied to our Petitions & Remonstrances; 11

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There is a huge practical disclaimer to the content on this blog, which is my way of sharing my excitement and basically journaling online.

1) I am not a historian nor an expert. I will let you know I’m relaying the information as I understand and interpret it. The employees of Colonial Williamsburg base their presentations, work, and responses on historical documents and mainly primary sources.

2) I will update for accuracy as history is constant learning. If you have a question about accuracy, please ask me! I will get the answer from the best source I can find.

3) Photo credit to me, Daphne Reznik, for all photos in this post! All photos are personal photos taken in public access locations or with specific permission.