Just as the Earl Would Have Liked

From “Notes for a Gazetteer: XVIII—Williamsburg, Va.,” an article about visiting Colonial Williamsburg that appeared in the New Yorker on September 10, 1960:

Alt., 85. Pop., 6,735. Many of the ladies in this small Southern community wear sweeping farthingales of elegant texture, and it is not at all unusual to run across a man wearing knee breeches and shoes with silver buckles. These people are invariable gracious and well disposed toward strangers. No royal governor has lived in the Governor’s Palace, an imposing Georgian structure at the north end of the Palace Green, since the Earl of Dunmore left town for good one June morning in 1775, but as far as hospitable ladies in hoop skirts who greet visitors at the palace doors are concerned, the Earl might have just stepped out for a few minutes’ stroll. The ladies keep the palace pretty much the way the Earl would have liked to see it kept—silver polished, candelabras gleaming, coffee simmering on the hob in the kitchen, beds all made, everything in its place. The ladies show visitors through the palace, for a modest fee, and lovingly describe every window drapery, every turn of the stairs, and every plate on every table. “Let’s come right along, you-all, come right along,” they say, and they troop through the old house with charming familiarity.

IMAGE: On the Palace Green (The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)


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