Williamsburg is a city located on the Virginia Peninsula in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 11,998. It is the county seat of James City County6, although it is itself an independent city. The Bureau_of_Economic_Analysis combines the city of Williamsburg with James City county for statistical purposes. Williamsburg is well-known for the restored colonial area of the city, Colonial Williamsburg, and for the College of William and Mary which is situated mostly within the city of Williamsburg. The newspaper of record is The Virginia Gazette.
Williamsburg was settled in 1632 and was called Middle Plantation. The College of William and Mary was founded in Middle Plantation in 1693. In 1699 the village was laid out and renamed to Williamsburg in honor of King William III of England. The town was granted a royal charter as a city in 1722.
Jamestown was the original capital of Virginia Colony, and remained as such until its burning in during the events of Bacon's Rebellion in 1676. Temporary quarters were established about 12 miles away on high ground at Middle Plantation, but the rebuilt statehouse in Jamestown burned again in 1698. After that fire, upon suggestion of students of the College of William and Mary, the colonial capital was permanently moved to nearby Middle Plantation again, and the town was renamed Williamsburg.
Williamsburg's local newspaper, the Virginia Gazette, was the first newspaper paper published south of the Potomac River in 1736. The publisher was William Parks.
In 1780, during the American Revolutionary War, the capital was moved again to Richmond at the urging of then-Governor Thomas Jefferson, who was afraid that Williamsburg's location made it vulnerable to a British attack. During the Revolutionary War many important conventions were held in Williamsburg.
With the capitol gone, Williamsburg also lost prominence. Early 19th century transportation was largely by canals and navigable rivers. It was not located along a waterway like many early communities in the United States. Early railroads beginning in the 1830s also did not come its way.
With the exception of some activity during the Peninsula Campaign of the American Civil War (1861-1865), notably the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5, 1862, the arrival of Collis P. Huntington's Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad (with mostly through-coal traffic) in the 1881, and the ongoing activities of the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg became a sleepy and somewhat forgotten town for over 150 years. However, this very lack of rebuilding and expanding literally laid the groundwork for Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin who became Rector of Bruton Parish Church in 1903, and a dream he was to develop for restoration of the colonial capital city.
20th century restoration: Colonial Williamsburg
In the early 20th century, one of the largest historic restorations ever undertaken, championed by the Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin of Williamsburg's Bruton Parish Church. Initially, Dr. Goodwin wanted to save his historic church building, and this he accomplished. However, he began to realize that much of the other colonial era buildings also remained, but were at risk. He sought financing from a number of sources before successfully drawing the interests and major financial support of Standard Oil heir and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his wife which resulted in the creation of Colonial Williamsburg, to celebrate the patriots and the early history of America. Today, Colonial Williamsburg forms the centerpiece of the Historic Triangle with Jamestown and Yorktown joined by the Colonial Parkway.