Founded in 1699, Williamsburg, Virginia was the capital of Virginia from 1698 until 1780, when the capital moved to Richmond. The city is known as the home of William & Mary, Eastern State Hospital, and Colonial Williamsburg.
In 1871, prompted by Virginia's new state constitution, Williamsburg opened free public schools for blacks and whites.
In 1881, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway built a rail line through and opened a depot in Williamsburg, with the promise of faster trips to market for the area's produce and more convenient access for tourists.
In 1884, the General Assembly changed Williamsburg's charter, creating a government of a popularly-elected mayor and city council to replace the unelected, self-perpetuating municipal corporation that had governed the city since 1722.
The Eastern Lunatic Asylum expanded, serving hundreds and eventually thousands of patients annually. Renamed the Eastern State Hospital in 1894, it was the town's largest employer.
In 1888, William & Mary reopened. President Lyon G. Tyler hired six faculty members who would remain for many years; together, they became known as the "Seven Wise Men." The student population grew from 0 in 1887 to 333 in 1919 and 1,692 in 1931-1932, with a concomitant increase in faculty and a tremendous expansion of the campus.
In 1889, locals Mary Jeffrey Galt and Cynthia Beverly Tucker Coleman co-founded the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. After initially focusing on Jamestown, the APVA bought and reopened the Powder Horn (today's Powder Magazine) and protected the grounds where the Capitol once stood (and does again today).
In 1893, the Virginia Gazette resumed publication after a hiatus of more than twenty years.
Material in the Special Collections Research Center
- An Awakening Town: Williamsburg in the Late 1800s from the exhibit "A Most Thriving & Growing Place": Williamsburg Before the Restoration.