Monday, November 16, 2009

Colonial Williamsburg Opens America's Only 18th-Century Coffeehouse

/PRNewswire/ -- More than 200 years since Americans gathered to discuss political and social issues in an authentic 18th-century coffeehouse, Colonial Williamsburg formally dedicates the R. Charlton Coffeehouse, the Historic Area's newest exhibition building and the first major reconstruction on Duke of Gloucester Street in more than 50 years, at 4 p.m. Nov. 20.

"The reconstructed R. Charlton's Coffeehouse is a major architectural and educational addition to the Historic Area," said Colin G. Campbell, president of Colonial Williamsburg. "It adds a new dimension and vibrancy to our understanding and portrayal of life in Williamsburg on the eve of the American Revolution. We are extremely grateful to Forrest and Deborah Mars for enabling Colonial Williamsburg to create a fuller picture of social and political life during that tumultuous era. This project will be of great interest to guests, scholars and artisans alike."

The opening begins with re-enactment of the memorable event of 1765 when an angry crowd threatened Virginia's appointed administrator of The Stamp Act until he was rescued and escorted to safety by the royal governor.

Following the opening ceremony, a walk-through open house of the building is available. The open house continues 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 21-22.

R. Charlton's Coffeehouse will open daily for interpretive tours Monday, Nov. 23 when guests will learn about the pre-Revolutionary significance of this establishment before concluding the experience with the opportunity to enjoy a sample tasting of period coffeehouse beverages - coffee, tea or chocolate. The newest exhibition site in the Historic Area will reflect its 18th-century role as a gathering place for the politically connected as well as for the socially ambitious. The reconstruction will provide an exciting new venue for Historic Area programming.

Archaeological evidence recovered from the coffeehouse site reflects the importance of fine dining as well as the consumption of tea, coffee and chocolate. Charlton offered an epicurean menu that included fish, shellfish, meat and game, even peacock. A Cherokee pipe fragment suggests the presence of Indians who may have been part of an official delegation.

Coffeehouse furnishings include carefully researched reproduction furniture, ceramics, glassware, hardware and other items representing the variety of activities that took place there. Hand-printed wallpapers will cover the walls of the well-appointed private meeting room and the north room, both based on microscopic study of original building fragments.

R. Charlton's Coffeehouse is built on its original foundations with 18th-century construction techniques.

Reconstruction of R. Charlton's Coffeehouse is possible through a $5 million gift from Forrest and Deborah Mars.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia's Tidewater region within an hour's drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg's Web site at

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