The Raleigh Tavern
Nestled in the middle of the Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg stands the Raleigh Tavern. Or at least a close facsimile. The original burned down in 1859 and the lot was built over. In 1926 the forerunner to Colonial Williamsburg began excavation on the site and uncovered the original foundation. The building was restored and opened in 1932 and became the first exhibition building at Williamsburg. It stands today. You can eat lunch and dinner there and take part in reenactments of the history that happened here.
What makes this building so special?
Ground was broken for the tavern around 1717, named of course, for Sir Walter Raleigh. One of the first to try to build a colony in Virginia. The tavern became the social center of the town. It became a favorite place for the delegates to the colonial assembly to meet after sessions. In a lot of ways, these “after session” meetings became the breeding ground of the revolutionary movement.
In 1769 the Governor dissolved the House of Burgess because they passed a non-importation agreement. This was in response to the Townsend Acts. It was here at the Raleigh that the men met. Here they formed an association that carried out the first boycott in the colonies against the British.
In 1773 in a private room Richard Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and other prominent men meet and created the first of the Committees of Correspondence. This committee traded news and happenings with leaders in other colonies and would become the primary means of organizing colonial resistance to the Crown’s rule.
The next year when Governor Dunmore closed the legislature for objecting to Parliament closing the Port of Boston in reaction to the Boston Tea Party, the delegates meet here again to draft another non-importation agreement.
The Raleigh Tavern became the center point of the revolution in Virginia. It is very fitting that it became one of the first buildings restored at Williamsburg. If you ever are in the area stop by Colonial Williamsburg and The Raleigh Tavern, a place that earned a spot in history.