Are you thinking about moving to Williamsburg? As an independent city of the Commonwealth of Virginia, it’s population was estimated to be 14,691 in 2014. Williamsburg is rich in history and culture, and if you’re thinking about moving here, you’ve come to the right place!
Located on the Virginia Peninsula, Williamsburg is in the northern part of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. It is bordered by James City County and York County.
Williamsburg was founded in 1632 as Middle Plantation, a fortified settlement on high ground between the James and Yorkrivers. The city served as the capital of the Colony of Virginia from 1699 to 1780 and was the center of political events in Virginia leading to the American Revolution. The College of William & Mary, established in 1693, is the second-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and the only one of the nine colonial colleges located in the South; its alumni include three U.S. presidents as well as many other important figures in the nation’s early history.
The city’s tourism-based economy is driven by Colonial Williamsburg, the restored Historic Area of the city. Along with nearby Jamestown and Yorktown, Williamsburg forms part of the Historic Triangle, which attracts more than four million tourists each year. Modern Williamsburg is also a college town, inhabited in large part by William & Mary students and staff.
Prior to the arrival of the English colonists at Jamestown in the Colony of Virginia in 1607, the area which became Williamsburg was within the territory of the Powhatan Confederacy. By the 1630s, English settlements had grown to dominate the lower (eastern) portion of the Virginia Peninsula, and the Powhatan tribes had abandoned their nearby villages. Between 1630 and 1633, after the war that followed the Indian Massacre of 1622, the English colonists constructed a defensive palisade across the peninsula and a settlement named Middle Plantation as a primary guard station along the palisade.
Jamestown was the original capital of Virginia Colony, but was burned down during the events of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. As soon as Governor William Berkeley regained control, temporary headquarters for the government to function were established about 12 miles (19 km) away on the high ground at Middle Plantation, while the Statehouse at Jamestown was rebuilt. The members of the House of Burgesses discovered that the ‘temporary’ location was both safer and more pleasant environmentally than Jamestown, which was humid and plagued with mosquitoes.
A school of higher education had long been an aspiration of the colonists. An early attempt at Henricus failed after the Indian Massacre of 1622. The location at the outskirts of the developed part of the colony had left it more vulnerable to the attack. In the 1690s, the colonists tried again to establish a school. They commissioned Reverend James Blair, who spent several years in England lobbying, and finally obtained a royal charter for the desired new school. It was to be named the College of William & Mary in honor of the monarchs of the time. When Reverend Blair returned to Virginia, the new school was founded in a safe place, Middle Plantation in 1693. Classes began in temporary quarters in 1694, and the College Building, a precursor to the Wren Building, was soon under construction.
Williamsburg has many restaurants to explore! Read on for our top seven favorite picks.
- A Chef’s Kitchen – Priding themselves on multi-course meals paired with excellent wines, proprietors John and Wanda Gonzalez founded A Chef’s Kitchen to teach people about food while being entertained.
- Fat Canary – Named after a reference in the Colonial Era playwright John Lyly’s poem, the Fat Canary references wine, which used to be referred to as Canary because ships would stop in the Canary Islands for provisions, wine being called “Canary”. Interesting…
- Le Yaca French Restaurant – One of two restaurant locations (Williamsburg and Virginia Beach), Le Yaca offers different menus for them both. One thing locals agree on is that we like and recommend them equally.
- Waypoint Seafood and Grill – Led by Chef Hans Schadler, and celebrating locally grown farm to table and locally caught regional seafood, the Waypoint Seafood and Grill is a local favorite.
- Shorty’s Diner – A family owned and operated by Gil and Bonnie, Shorty’s Diner uses family recipes. They even have Sweet Side that offers ice cream, malts, sno-balls from 3-9PM.
- Southern Pancake and Waffle House – If you’re looking for an all American breakfast or lunch, this is the place to go!
- Seafare of Williamsburg – Established in 1976 by family, the Seafare of Williamsburg has been a longstanding tradition in Williamsburg. Their philosophy is to serve seafood so fresh, you don’t need to disguise it.
Williamsburg as Capital
Four years later, in 1698, the rebuilt Statehouse in Jamestown burned down again, this time accidentally. The government again relocated ‘temporarily’ to Middle Plantation, and in addition to the better climate now also enjoyed use of the College’s facilities. The College students made a presentation to the House of Burgesses, and it was agreed in 1699 that the colonial capital should be permanently moved to Middle Plantation. A village was laid out and Middle Plantation was renamed Williamsburg in honor of King William III of England, befitting the town’s newly elevated status.
Following its designation as the Capital of the Colony, immediate provision was made for construction of a capitol building and for plotting out the new city according to the survey of Theodorick Bland. His design utilized the extant sites of the College and the almost-new brick Bruton Parish Church as focal points, and placed the new Capitol building opposite the College, with Duke of Gloucester Street connecting them.
Alexander Spotswood, who arrived in Virginia as lieutenant governor in 1710, had several ravines filled and streets leveled, and assisted in erecting additional College buildings, a church, and a magazine for the storage of arms. In 1722, the town of Williamsburg was granted a royal charter as a city (now believed to be the oldest charter in the United States).
Middle Plantation was included in James City Shire when it was established in 1634, as the Colony reached a total population of approximately 5,000. (James City and the other shires in Virginia changed their names a few years later; James City Shire then became known as James City County). However, the middle ground ridge line was essentially the dividing line with Charles River Shire, which was renamed York County after King Charles I fell out of favor with the citizens of England. As Middle Plantation and later Williamsburg developed, the boundaries were adjusted slightly. For most of the colonial period, the border between the two counties ran down the center of Duke of Gloucester Street. During this time, and for almost 100 years after the formation of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States, despite practical complications, the town remained divided between the two counties.
Williamsburg was the site of the first attempted canal in the United States. In 1771, Lord Dunmore, who would turn out to be Virginia’s last Royal Governor, announced plans to connect Archer’s Creek, which leads to the James River with Queen’s Creek, leading to the York River. It would have formed a water route across the Virginia Peninsula, but was not completed. Remains of this canal are visible at the rear of the grounds behind the Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg.
The first purpose-built psychiatric hospital in the United States was founded in the city in the 1770s: ‘Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds’. Known in modern times as Eastern State Hospital, it was established by Act of the Virginia colonial legislature on June 4, 1770. The Act to ‘Make Provision for the Support and Maintenance of Ideots, Lunaticks, and other Persons of unsound Minds’ authorized the House of Burgesses to appoint a fifteen-man Court Of Directors to oversee the future hospital’s operations and admissions. In 1771, contractor Benjamin Powell constructed a two-story building on Francis Street near the College, capable of housing twenty-four patients. The design of the grounds included ‘yards for patients to walk and take the Air in’ as well as provisions for a fence to keep the patients out of the nearby town.
The Gunpowder Incident began in April 1775 as a dispute between Governor Dunmore and Virginia colonists over gunpowder stored in the Williamsburg magazine. Dunmore, fearing rebellion, ordered royal marines to seize gunpowder from the magazine. Virginia militia led by Patrick Henry responded to the ‘theft’ and marched on Williamsburg. A standoff ensued, with Dunmore threatening to destroy the city if attacked by the militia. The dispute was resolved when payment for the powder was arranged. This was an important precursor in the run-up to the American Revolution.
Following the Declaration of Independence from Britain, the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1776. During the War, the capital of Virginia was moved again, in 1780, this time to Richmond at the urging of then-Governor Thomas Jefferson, who feared Williamsburg’s location made it vulnerable to a British attack. However, during the Revolutionary War Williamsburg retained its status as a venue for many important conventions.
Geography and Climate
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.1 square miles (23.6 km2), of which 8.9 square miles (23.1 km2) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km2) (1.8%) is water.
Williamsburg is spread upon a ridge on the Virginia Peninsula between the James and York Rivers. Queen’s Creek and College Creek partly encircle the city. James City County is located to the west and south of Williamsburg, while York County is to the north and east. As with all cities in Virginia, Williamsburg is legally independent of both counties.
The city is located on the I-64 corridor, 45 miles (72 km) southeast of Richmond and approximately 37 miles (60 km) northwest of Norfolk. It is in the northwest corner of Hampton Roads, which is the 37th largest metropolitan area in the United States with a total population of 1,576,370. Within Hampton Roads, the city of Norfolk is recognized as the central business district, while the Virginia Beach seaside resort district and Williamsburg are primarily centers of tourism.
Williamsburg is located in the humid subtropical climate zone, with cool to mild winters, and hot, humid summers. Due to the inland location, winters are slightly cooler and spring days slightly warmer than in Norfolk, though lows average 3.2 °F (1.8 °C) cooler here due to the substantial urban build-up to the southeast. Snowfall averages 5.1 inches (13 cm) per season, and the summer months tend to be slightly wetter. With a period of record dating only back to 1951, extreme temperatures range from −7 °F (−22 °C) on January 21, 1985 to 104 °F (40 °C) on August 22, 1983 and June 26, 1952.
|Climate data for Williamsburg, Virginia (1981–2010 normals)|
|Average high °F (°C)||47.4
|Average low °F (°C)||29.6
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||3.70
|Average snowfall inches (cm)||1.8
|Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||10.2||9.3||10.2||10.2||10.5||9.6||11.8||10.3||8.6||7.8||8.8||10.2||117.6|
|Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||0.6||0.7||0.2||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0.3||2.0|
As of the census of 2010, there were 14,068 people, 3,619 households, and 1,787 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,404.1 people per square mile (542.4/km²). There were 3,880 housing units at an average density of 454.1 per square mile (175.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 74.0% White, 14.0% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 5.7% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander, 2.5% from other races, and 3.5% from two or more races. 6.7% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any race.
There were 3,619 households out of which 16.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.2% were married couples living together, 9.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.6% were non-families. 35.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.4% had someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.07 and the average family size was 2.66.
The age distribution was: 9.6% under the age of 18, 46.0% from 18 to 24, 17.7% from 25 to 44, 15.0% from 45 to 64, and 11.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age was 23 years. For every 100 females there were 81.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,093, and the median income for a family was $52,358. Males had a median income of $28,625 versus $26,840 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,483. 18.3% of the population and 9.3% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 29.7% of those under the age of 18 and 5.5% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
Williamsburg is notable for the fact that a high proportion of city residents derive a significant percentage of their annual income from investment sources, either in addition to or in lieu of income from work. This is because many retirees relocate to Williamsburg, who typically draw income from investments such as 401(k) plans and the like.
The tourist volume of Colonial Williamsburg has attracted many other related businesses to the area. Notable among these was Anheuser-Busch, which established large operations in James City County and York County just outside the city. The company operates a large brewery there. The company also used to operate two theme parks near the brewery, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and Water Country USA; however, both properties were sold to private investors following Anheuser-Busch’s takeover by foreign brewer InBev in 2010. Anheuser-Busch also previously operated a commerce park, McLaw’s Circle, and Kingsmill on the James a gated residential neighborhood that contains a resort of the same name.
Williamsburg contains one outlet mall, Williamsburg Premium Outlets. A second outlet mall, Williamsburg Outlet Mall, closed in December 2013. Williamsburg Pottery Factory also contains outlet stores.
As with most of Virginia (the Northern Virginia/Washington D.C. metro area being the notable exception), Williamsburg is most often associated with the larger American South. People who have grown up in the Hampton Roads area have a unique Tidewater accent which sounds different from a stereotypical Southern accent. Vowels have a longer pronunciation than in a regular southern accent. For example, “house” is pronounced “hoose” in the Tidewater accent. However, due to the strong military presence in the Tidewater Area, the Tidewater accent has been slowly dying out for years.
Williamsburg is perhaps best known for its tourist and historical points of interest, the centerpiece of which is Colonial Williamsburg, which is essentially a living history museum, depicting the lifestyles and culture of the 18th century colonial period in American history. Major points of interest in this historic district include the Virginia’s first capitol building, the Governor’s Palace, Bruton Parish Church(the oldest continually operating church in the United States), the Peyton Randolph House (home of Peyton Randolph, the first President of Continental Congress and rumored to be haunted) and The College of William & Mary.
Other highlights in the city include The Williamsburg Winery (Virginia’s largest winery), the Williamsburg Botanical Garden, the National Center for State Courts and the Virginia Musical Museum. Also located in Williamsburg are two major theme parks, Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA, as well as Go-Karts Plus action park and 2 miniature golf courses. The 200-acre (0.81 km2) Williamsburg Pottery Factory shopping complex visited by 3 million people annually is located at nearby Lightfoot, Virginia. “Artistic” and ornamental items are sold at the Market Square shops adjacent to the colonial area, and at many stores on Richmond Road. Presidents Park was an educational attraction that displayed outdoor statue heads of all 43 presidents, each one accompanied by a descriptive biographical plaque. However, in 2010, Presidents Park closed due to financial issues.
The public school system is jointly operated by the city of Williamsburg and James City County. The Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools system (known informally as “WJCC”) consists approximately 9,000 students in 15 schools—9 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, and 3 high schools. Within the county’s boundaries, the two established high schools, Lafayette, and Jamestown, are considered above average institutions. A third high school, Warhill, opened in the Lightfoot area in August 2007. The ninth elementary school, JB Blayton, opened in 2010 along with the new middle school to replace James Blair, Lois S. Hornsby Middle School
James River Elementary School, located in the Grove Community in the county’s southeastern end, is a magnet school. It offers the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme, one of only five such schools Virginia to do so.
For the 2001–2002 academic year, the public school system was ranked among the top five school systems in the Commonwealth of Virginia and in the top 15% nationwide by Expansion Management Magazine. There are also two regional Governor’s Schools in the area that serve gifted and talented students.
The city has also been the home to The College of William & Mary since its founding in 1693, making it America’s second oldest college (behind Harvard University). Technically a university, William & Mary was also the first U.S. institution to have a Royal Charter, and the only one to have coat-of-arms from the College of Arms in London. The College campus closely adjoins the Historic District, and the Wren Building of the College at the head of Duke of Gloucester Street was one of the earliest restored by the efforts of Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin and the family of John D. Rockefeller Jr. as they began creating what is now commonly known as Colonial Williamsburg. Over 70% of the students of the College either work part-time or serve as volunteers in the community. Students contribute over 300,000 hours of volunteer service to the Williamsburg community annually.
There are also three community colleges, offering associate degrees and college transfer programs, within a twenty-five mile radius of Williamsburg: Thomas Nelson Community College, Paul D. Camp Community College, and Rappahannock Community College. A branch of Thomas Nelson Community College is located just east of the city limits in James City County.
Waller Mill Reservoir is the main water source for the City of Williamsburg. A 350-acre lake holding 1.5 billion gallons of water, it has been in operation since 1945. The City owns a large percentage of the surrounding watershed. During drought, this source may be supplemented by groundwater from a well at Waller Mill and from raw (untreated) water from Newport News Waterworks under a long-term agreement.
The City provides wastewater services for residents and transports wastewater to the regional Hampton Roads Sanitation District treatment plants.
Information provided by wikipedia.org. This page has been modified from the original.
There are many beautiful and interesting facts about Williamsburg, and our locals are proud to share! If you’re thinking about moving to Williamsburg, A Friendly and Affordable Mover is here to help. Give us a call today to schedule your FREE in-home estimate. Did we mention we have won “Best of Hampton Roads” 13 years running? Mention it when you schedule your appointment and receive $50 off your next move! (some restrictions apply, not valid with any other offer).