The Glasshouse

One of my favorite places to visit in the Historic Jamestowne part of the settlement is the Glasshouse.

Back in 1607 when Jamestowne was first established, the Glasshouse was one of the first attempts to start an industry in the New World. Everything they needed: fuel, sand, etc. was there in abundance. They just needed people who knew how to actually make the glass.

In 1608 another ship arrived and this one had eight German and Polish craftsman who knew how to make the glass and the Glasshouse was in business. But the Glasshouse was not successful, though it struggled alone for a few years.

Again in 1622, a Glasshouse was established, this time with Italian artisans. But again it failed.

Then in 1948, the furnaces were rediscovered. A new facility was constructed from the excavated ruins. Now, once again, glass is blown in Jamestowne by modern artists who make glass as they did almost 400 years ago.

Watching glassblowing has always, always fascinated me … as it did this time.


Jamestown Settlement

Jamestown has two separate areas for visitors to enjoy.

One area is where the settlement was actually located with ruins of various buildings in a parklike area.

The second area is a settlement reproduction with replicated buildings, villagers in period customs, authentic activities such as cooking over an open fire, working on a ship and building a canoe … all making the English colony come to life.

If you’re traveling with kids, I definitely recommend the village. You can wander through the buildings, talking to the “village people,” go on the boats and if you’re lucky (like I was), be taught how to make a knot that the sailors used.

The settlement site has a lot of room to run, and is in a beautiful location right on the shore of the James River. Older kids might enjoy the history aspect of it – but I think younger kids would enjoy the village more.

And this is the truth. If I would get these posts up sooner than four months after I’ve been somewhere – I would do a much better job remembering details.

Here are some pictures of the village.

The church
One of the houses.
Looking out at the village.
The ship.
Another ship picture
And another
Learning to tie a knot which I could do while he was teaching me, but could not replicate it for you now.
Another part of the village.
Building a canoe – which was interesting to watch.
Another canoe building pic.


Shields Tavern

I have been to Williamsburg several times, but have never had the opportunity to eat in one of the taverns/restaurants on Duke of Gloucester Street. This time we decided to do it.

Shields Tavern was opened in 1705 and given the name Marot’s Ordinary. John Marot was the owner. Not only was there a place to eat, but also dry goods and a garden room. Often travelers stopped there to socialize.

Seventeen hundred and five is a long time ago. The building has gone through several renovations, but it is still on the same site and still serving food … an historical aesthetic.

We parked and walked down the street (you can’t drive on it), just as dusk was settling over the town. We were led downstairs to the basement which was lit by candlelight including a lantern at our table. Our server was in custom and very pleasant. I ordered the ale-potted beef (a delicious beef stew) because it sounded very colonial to me.

Expensive, so not a place I would go to every week, but for a once-in-a-lifetime treat, not bad. I mean, I’ve been to Williamsburg at least six times and this was the only time I got to eat on Gloucester Street. Hey! That has a nice ring to it, I could write some poetry.)

A very old tavern – opened in 1705


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View from our table.
View at our table.
My ale potted-beef


Assateague Light

The next morninth-1g we headed out in the cloudiness to Assateague Island and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge – to see some horses. But first we topped at the Assateague Light – a 142 foot tall lighthouse on Assateague.  The lighthouse was built in 1867 and is still in use. Hidden in some trees, we walked down a wooded path and then – there it was. The lighthouse was featured on the 2003-2004 Federal Duck Stamp – as pictured here. Although the day was dreary, we were able to go to the top and get some pictures of the island.

The Shirley Plantation

From Berkeley, we went down the road to the Shirley Plantation (another in the group of homes called the James River Plantations). The land was first settled back in 1613 and was used for growing tobacco.Then in 1638, some of the land was given to Edward Hill. Over time, Edward acquired more land and then eventually passed it to Edward Hill II During the Bacon Rebellion in 1676,  he sided with Governor Berkley so the rebels invaded his home. In 1700, Edward III took over and he had another son, (you guessed it) Edward IV. Unfortunately he died, so Shirley Plantation was given to his daughter Elizabeth who married James Carter. (Isn’t this all fascinating?)

James and Elizabeth built the current home and called it the “Great House.”  Interestingly, eleven generations of the family have lived in the home and it is now the oldest active plantation in Virginia. Shirley Plantation is also one of the oldest family-owned businesses in North America. In fact, you can only tour the bottom floor because the top floor is still lived in by the Hill Carter family.

One of their claims to fame is that one of the daughters – Ann Hill Carter married Light Horse Harry Lee in the parlor of the mansion. The couple were the parents of General Robert E. Lee.

Remember what I said about tour guides? The girl at Shirley Plantation was our very favorite. Easy to listen to and informative. Among other facts, we learned that young brides would scratch their initials in the window glass with their engagement rings.

Not a Presidential home – but enjoyable with beautiful grounds.

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Belle Grove Plantation – Historic and Elegant

DSC02706This story starts more than a year ago (and the blog post should’ve been written four months ago) – in the fall of 2012. A friend and I had driven out to Virginia for an AMC (Awana Ministry Conference) and had stopped at several historical places on the way … such as Monticello and Appomattox. When I got home, I blogged about our trip (as usual). I noticed that one lady in particular often liked my historical Virginia posts.

And so I went on her blog to see what she was all about. That’s when I first came in contact with Michelle Darnell and learned how she and her husband were renovating Belle Grove Plantation – the birthplace of James Madison. The plantation (in Port Conway, Virginia) was at one timed owned by the Conways – the family of James Madison’s mother, Nelly. (Nelly and James Madison Sr. didn’t live at Belle Grove, but she came back to her mother’s house to have her baby.) Although the current home was not built at the time of Madison’s birth, it is believed that the small house he was born in was on the same spot as the current home and it is officially recognized as James Madison’s birthplace. (The original house burned down and the current house was built in 1791.)

Then I learned that Belle Grove has another claim to fame – John Wilkes Booth and his companion, David Herold, escaped down to the Port Conway area and crossed the Rappahannoch River nearby. The detectives followed Booth’s trail to the river and some of them stopped (for a couple hours or so) at Belle Grove for food. One detective who had some serious wounds, spent the night in the front hallway.

This was all fascinating – and I would regularly check her blog to see how the renovations were coming along. With my “hobby” of visiting presidential sites – actually staying at the only one you can possibly stay at – would be very cool.

However – I figured it would be a long time before I got back to Virginia.

But then I got invited to another conference in Virginia in the fall of 2013 and this conference was very close to Belle Grove.

I emailed Michelle. The Belle Grove Bed and Breakfast would be open by then. I made reservations.

My friend Sue was with me and we arrived at Belle Grove on a cloudy afternoon. We drove down a long driveway to the circular drive. Michelle was out front, sweeping the steps and immediately came over to welcome us. The B&B had only been open for a few weeks … and we were the only guests there that night. (I don’t think that will happen too often.) She gave us a tour of the house (it’s huge) and then showed us to our rooms.

My room had a bedroom, a hallway with a couch (straight from the set of the Lincoln movie) and a black and white bathroom with a claw-foot tub.

DSC_0086Sue and I were hungry so we got back in the car and headed across the river to a place Michelle recommended – but first we also did the John Wilkes Booth “tour” – seeing a house in town where he had stopped and also the marker on the highway at the place where he was caught (which is now in the median strip).

We went back to the house and sat out on the second floor balcony for awhile, watching the lightning flash above the river … but then the rain started blowing on us, so we went in.

We went to our separate rooms. I sat on the bed, the sconces on the wall giving a warm glow to the room as I listened to the rain splattering on the windows. I could imagine it being 1800 and sitting there and writing a letter to a friend or family member on another plantation. Or maybe it’s 1865 and I’m writing in my journal about the events of the day …

The next morning we woke to a delicious breakfast of baked plums and lemon blueberry pancakes. As we ate, we chatted with Michelle …

We took a final walk around the grounds and checked out the summer kitchen – still very much like it was back in the day.  The Darnells hope to make a museum about life at Belle Grove.

So, if you happen to be in Port Conway (Port Royal) Virginia – I highly recommend you stop by. Even if you don’t stay overnight, you can take a tour of this beautiful home.

With much sadness we had to leave … but what a once-in-a-lifetime experience … and to think I discovered Belle Grove because of my blog.


I have noticed this about me. I have an incredible attention span when it comes to certain activities (and this was true when I was a kid, too).  I like to watch horse shows. I like to sit on the pier and watch fishing boats come in.

And I like to watch glassmaking.

Jamestown is a good place to do that (the glassmaking part).

Glassmaking was a prosperous business in England, so the officials of the London Company figured glassmaking would also be a prosperous occupation in the new world. The company made sure glassmaking experts were among the settlers – in fact 8 of the 70 were glassmakers.

In 1608, just one year after the colonists arrived, a glass factory was in operation – the very first factory in the country.  The factory was in the woods, about a mile from town and at first seemed to be the answer to the colonists prospering. Although there is indication that the factory was in operation for at least six months, the details then disappear. But twelve years later, another glass factory was started – this time with expert Italian glass workers. Captain William Norton was behind this one and he wrote to the London Company with permission to “sett upp a Glasse furnace and make all manner of Beads & Glasse.”

But the Italians and the Englishmen didn’t get along too well. Then the glasshouse blew down, then there was war, then the Italians got sick. So that didn’t work too well, either.

However, the glass house does produce glass today. Archaeological excavations found the foundation of the furnace and fragments of green glass. The glasshouse today is near the original site on Glasshouse Point and is in operation for visitors to watch glass being made and formed.

I remember watching the glassmaking last time we were there – and have a green piece of glasswork (stamped with the Jamestowne logo) sitting on my shelve from that visit. It was no less fascinating this time.

KID FACTOR: I think a lot of kids – both little kids and teens would find this fascinating, but I know a lot of kids unfortunately get “bored” with anything. I would have kids watch at least one piece of glass being made (from beginning to end). Not only is it interesting, it’s educational. Then maybe buy then an inexpensive souvenir from the glass shop.





Seems sad to be writing about Jamestown on this Sunday when they are being drenched with Hurricane Sandy. In fact, this is the notice on their website.
CLOSURE ALERT: Due to the anticipated storm, Historic Jamestowne will be closed to the public on Sunday, 10/28, and Monday, 10/29. The Dale House Café will close at 2 pm on Saturday, 10/27 and will remain closed through Monday. Historic Jamestowne will reopen once storm damage assessments and cleanup have been completed. The Colonial Parkway will remain open, however motorists should be aware that downed trees may ultimately make the scenic byway impassable.

The Historic Triangle Shuttle and Jamestown Area Shuttle will not operate on Sunday or Monday.

The Colonial Parkway is a beautiful road, umbrella-ed by oaks, maples and other tall, leafy trees … hopefully not too many of them will be damaged.

Again, the day we were there – just a few weeks ago, the weather was beautiful. We enjoyed  lunch right on the site at the Dale House Cafe which had sort of cutesy Jamestown names like Old Dominion, John Rolfe stew,  Lady Nelson Quiche, etc. I think I had the roast turkey/cranberry sandwich (Oops! I mean the U.S. Grant), I don’t remember for sure.

What I do remember is sitting out on the patio, watching the boats go down the James River.

The view from our table …


Even though the first five people we talked to were clueless about the sand sculptures, we were determined.

Finally someone directed us to the end of the board walk where we found a huge tent AND a lot of people.

The “master” sand sculptures were protected inside the tent and it did cost us a few dollars to enter, but worth it to see something unique.

Sculptors from 10 countries were represented and the prize money is the largest awarded for this type of competition in the US, but I have no idea what that amount is.

The lighting was challenging – the sides of the tent were open and rain was falling intermittently so everything was overcast – and since I knew I would not be saving any of these pictures other than for the blog – I just went with it.

I wanted you to have a look at the unbelievably intricate work.

So have a look.