Hidden History: How Colonial Williamsburg is bringing Raleigh Tavern’s past into the present

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Along the main drag of Colonial Williamsburg, visitors go back to the 1700’s. This summer one of the main attractions is going back too. It is going back to the way it used to be.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” says Garland Wood.

Wood, a historic trades master carpenter, is overseeing porch reconstruction at Raleigh Tavern.

“This is kind of where the story of Colonial Williamsburg begins,” Wood gestures to the tavern.

Raleigh Tavern was the first building at Colonial Williamsburg to open in 1932. Research recently found it originally had a porch.

“It wasn’t just having a good time and drinking and carrying on out here, although that surely happened,” says Jeff Klee, an architectural historian at Colonial Williamsburg. “It was also serious business taking place in this building.”

Klee explains Raleigh Tavern is where the House of Burgesses met after the governor dissolved it, and each legislator would have stepped on the porch and potentially stopped for a while to socialize.

“This is really pretty, pretty exciting to have, you know, one of the original buildings that we’re now bringing up to what it should have been in the first place,” says Carl McColey, the Colonial Williamsburg facilities maintenance director. “It’s something that’s larger than yourself. You’re a part of recreating history.”

Adds Wood, “We’ve become experts at 18th century Tidewater Virginia English construction, so that’s a pretty narrow focus. But what better place than Williamsburg to practice that trade.”

Part of the mission at the historic site it to bring the past into the present.

“This is simply part of an ongoing project that’s been going on for really 90 years and we’re not yet done,” says Klee.

Carpenters are installing the timber frame this summer, and columns will go up as the months go on. They hope to have all the work completed by the end of the year.

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