I first set foot in Williamsburg 46 years ago and have
returned there often, just to walk around or photograph. There is no other place in the USA where preservation
has tried to keep the place as it once looked to Jefferson, Washington,
Lafayette and other contemporaries. Or captured the spirit of the age so well. I
believe it is a bit idealized since everything is so perfectly kept. Perhaps the aroma of the manure of the horses
carrying the tourists around, brings back a touch of reality as to how the olden
days really were.
Williamsburg is both a college and a tourist town. You can tell the college kids because they will
be jogging, riding bicycles or working as interpreters for Colonial
Williamsburg…not all of them…just the young ones. The Gen-X tourists are all
pushing baby strollers or yelling at kids.
Those of the golden age, chasing the tour leader, just walking around looking
at maps, or waiting in line to get into one of the Taverns. And then the photographers; always in the way
messing up my images.
Every year Colonial Williamsburg decorates for Christmas. Competitions for awards enhance the originality
and variety of the wreaths, not two are alike even if placed in the windows and
doors of the same building. In the 1970’s
I used to go there and photograph the doors and made Christmas Cards with them…it
was fun. This alone is worth a visit and
the best time is the week before Christmas when visitors are not numerous and
parking spaces can be found.
There also window decorations
just as elaborate as those in the doors.
I should mention that these wreaths are all made with “organic
materials” but do not know if they are from GMO certified farms. Yes, the fruits, grasses and greens are real. Lots of expense and work has gone into fabricating
The enactors do add a special
touch to the place. They are all dressed
in the attires of the 17th-18th centuries and speak in
the slang of the time (wonder how they know how people sounded back them). They just don’t talk but work as if they were
really back in history…they will discuss issues related to the period but if
you ask about events that occurred after their historical period, they would say
they have no knowledge of such subjects.
It is worthwhile spending sometime visiting them, they are patient,
courteous and really knowledgeable about the time period they represent.
Time to move on, this is a “must
visit place” thanks to the vision of John D, Rockefeller Jr and his wife
Aldrich, whose interest and support preserved this historical town. If you are short of time, an hour walk up and
down the Duke of Gloucester Street will provide most of that is worth seen.
There is so much to New York City that a lifetime can be
spend there and never get to know the city.
Taking a walk in the cemeteries revealed historical personalities that I
never knew were sleeping in this city.
What a surprise of encountering the burial place of John James Audubon,
who had done more for the promotion of wildlife through his paintings than any
other conservationist. Yet, he killed
lots of birds and then brought them back to live in the canvases that he
painted. Curiously the bird carved above
him in the monument is a vulture, what revenge.
I found him in the Church of the Intercession at 155th Street
This Church was originally part of Trinity Church in Lower
Manhattan and when they ran out of burial space there, they opened the Trinity
Cemetery and Mausoleum across Broadway and bound at the opposite end by the
Hudson River. Here some of the
socialites from the Big Apple are buried such as the Astors, Gallatins and
others. There are modern square
mausoleums where the late comers are buried; real estate is expensive here too.
One could spend hours looking at the names and then searching Wikipedia so
figure out who they were.
Nearby is the Jumel Terrace Historic District where a wooden
row of houses are located in Sylvan Terrace.
These were built in the late 1890’s and went through a time of neglect
but were renovated recently. House # 18 (in
one of the images) was sold in 2003 for $10 and is now for sale for about
$1,000,000. Nearby is the Norris-Jume
Mansion that was used by George Washington as its headquarters in 1776 during
the American Revolution; I was not able to visit it because is undergoing
renovation. What is peculiar about this
Mansion is that the white walls are made of square timbers but look as made of
Moving down to Brooklyn one encounters the living; this is
an area undergoing gentrification although it has a way to go. Most buildings are still from late XIX
century vintage with a few new ones such as the Thaddeus School for gifted
students. I walked up Stuyvesant Avenue
to catch the train at the Myrtle Subway Station. In the way there I ran into the first graffiti
at the Liberty Tax business where the creature appears to be eating the
trash. Going up the stairs to the
elevated platform was surprised to see the colored glass window in perfect
conditions; appreciate the vandals that appreciate art and did not destroy
it. While in the platform I took a few
shots of the city landscape.
Boarded the subway and got off the subway in the Bowery
where I found a flood of people, since it was Black Friday, the streets were
congested and most incredibly, it took inquiring at 7 restaurants until I found
a Brazilian one that had a table in the back…here I downed crafted beers and a Brazilian
sausage sandwich. I continued roaming
the streets capturing the impromptu works of arts and weathered posters that
caught my eye. I wonder how that bicycle is still there or the flowers all not
It got dark and about to lose the light, just time for a few
shots; it is time to go home. New York
offers great photo opportunities, no wonder B&H, the paradise of
photographers is here. My motto about
this city is: “If you do not find it
here, it is not made”.