With permission from The College of William and Mary Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, who has the original Frenchman’s Map, the project team at The Cannon Tap Room of Brass Cannon Brewing, headed by Phil Norfolk, is replicating the Frenchman’s Map to cover the entire ceiling of the main tap room.
A Brief History of The Frenchman’s Map
The Frenchman’s Map of 1782 Williamsburg is a to-scale map probably drawn by one or more French Military Officer(s). It is also known as The Bible of the Restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, having served as one of the guides, and some say perhaps the most important guide, to the archaeological restoration of Colonial Williamsburg as we experience it today.
Lost after the American Revolution, the map turned up between the pages of an old book bought by John D. Crimmins, a New York contractor and map collector, about 1909 when he bought a small library in Norfolk, Virginia. The map was then donated to The College of William and Mary who upon receiving it, framed it, and hung it in the Library, where it stayed until Pastor Goodwin of Bruton Parish embarked upon his quest to restore Williamsburg. Goodwin realized how important the map could be and the story goes that in 1927 Goodwin and a merry band started trying to layout and rediscover Colonial Williamsburg using The Frenchman’s Map along with a surveyors tap and a sword to stake it down! Such is the lore surrounding both the map and the restoration of one of America’s favorite guideposts in the History of the Nation.
Widely held to now be a billeting map to house French soldiers through the winter (approximately to scale except for the actual buildings not being to scale) done by one or more people probably in the French Quartermaster’s troop, the map is being reproduced as accurately as possible on the ceiling of The Cannon Tap Room by the careful routing of approximately 189 2×2-foot ceiling tiles using a computer numerical controlled routing table. Each tile is then carefully hand painted and then assembled back into the ceiling.
The staff at The Cannon see this important map, that has been used as an important tool guiding the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, as a critical document that few locals, let alone visitors to Colonial Williamsburg, are aware of or able to actually see. Brass Cannon Brewing Inc., is changing that and visitors to The Cannon Tap Room at Brass Cannon Brewing, can now view the Frenchman’s Map simply by looking up, using a one-page guide available as a handout to help make features of the map understandable and relatable to the actual restored town.
Also available at The Cannon Tap Room is the definitive book by Alan Simpson called, “The Mysteries of the Frenchman’s Map of Williamsburg Virginia.” The book has been out of print, but Brass Cannon Brewing is making it available through a limited reprint. All the profits are being donated back The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, who is the publisher.
This article was originally published in the September-October issue of Coastal VirginiaMagazine.
Living history, taverns and binderies, oh my! The Colonial Williamsburg that Virginians know and love has always been all that and much more. In fact, it is the world’s largest living history museum. But as of June 14, 2020, it became a whole lot more: 65,000 thousand square feet and nearly $41.7 million more raised entirely through philanthropic support.
Since 1985, two world-class Colonial Williamsburg museums had enjoyed a far lower profile—as in underground—than they deserved. Still, from their subterranean quarters, accessed through the historic Public Hospital Museum, they had become the second most visited museums in Virginia, just after the Virginia Museum of Fine Art in Richmond.
The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, boasting some 7,000 pieces from the 18th through 20th centuries, including the largest collection of paintings by Edward Hicks of The Peaceable Kingdom fame. Aldrich, known widely for her essential role in founding New York’s Museum of Modern Art, loaned and then gifted her collection to Colonial Williamsburg. Her husband, John D. Rockefeller, established the museum in 1957 as a memorial to his wife who died in 1948.
The collection has continued to grow since that time, and the Museum is recognized as the world’s oldest continually operating institution dedicated solely to the collection, exhibition and preservation of American folk art. With objects that hail from Maine to Texas and the Southwest, it is the only folk art museum in the country that is not strictly regional.
Its sister institution, The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, named for its premier benefactor and the founder of Reader’s Digest, houses some 67,000 pieces of period antiques and works of art representing the best in British and American fine and decorative arts from 1670-1840. Colonial Williamsburg itself boasts among its supporting ranks quite a few recognizable names including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who serves as the chair of its Board of Trustees Architectural Design and Review Committee.
From High-Flying Fun to a Spa Getaway, Experience it all in Williamsburg
As one of the most popular cities to visit in the state of Virginia, Williamsburg is the perfect getaway for a small vacation with big attractions. No matter what time of year it is, families from all over continually find that Williamsburg is a unique vacation destination with a variety of activities to choose from. Whether you are looking for a fun adventure, a chill weekend recharge, a thrifty getaway—or all three!
Fun for the Whole Family
Williamsburg is filled to the brim with fun and exciting activities for both adults and kids. Set aside a day for thrills at Busch Gardens, where you will find some of the most exciting coasters in the world as well as an entire area with rides, entertainment and dining designed specifically for kids.
Spend an afternoon at Go Ape Freedom Park, the area’s only treetop adventure that no chimp will soon forget! This easy and safe course built for all ages allows you and your child to explore the treetops of Freedom Park using zip lines, obstacles and Tarzan swings. Those who participate will have the chance to live daringly—while treading lightly—and witness one of the most beautiful places in Virginia from a bird’s-eye view.
Perhaps you would like to race your way to fun at Williamsburg’s only go-kart course. Grab the kids and get into gear at Go-Karts Plus, where the kids can be the ones behind the wheel for the day. Here you will find all types of go-karts waiting to be ridden on a wide variety of fun and unique tracks. Be ready to burn some rubber!
Rainy Days Can’t Stop the Fun
Raining outside? Don’t fret! If your day is spoiled by bad weather, there are just as many fun, indoor activities in Williamsburg as there are outdoor activities.
Rainy days can make your kids start climbing the walls, so why not head to a place where that’s perfectly normal?Bounce House Williamsburg offers 20,000 square feet of jumping, bouncing, climbing and sliding! This clean and safe inflatable playground will give your kids an exciting and energetic day rain or shine. Concessions are available, plus an indoor picnic area.
How about letting your child step inside a real-life video game? Laser tag has always been a popular activity for kids, but Williamsburg offers laser tag on steroids at Bounce House’s 9,000-square-foot Laser Tag facility! Traditional laser tag combined with paintball and airsoft give your child the ultimate laser tag experience. With lightweight and easy to use laser tag guns, your kids will love working as a team to complete their action-packed mission.
Want your child to have a blast while getting some exercise? The Williamsburg Indoor Sports Complex (WISC) offers a number of different programs, including indoor soccer, gymnastics, dance, CrossFit and a gym. Let your child run wild and free at The Zone, a kid-friendly area with arcade games, an indoor playground, Clip ‘N Climb, laser tag and a laser maze.
Experience the unbelievable at Ripley’s Believe It or Not!This popular attraction is best known for its Odditorium, featuring a collection of weird oddities from around the world—such as shrunken heads and a two-headed parrot. Don’t stop there, Ripley’s also has amazing add-ons. See movies come to life at the 4D Theater or sneak and crawl through a web of lasers at the Impossible LaseRace.
You can never go wrong with a game of bowling! The pins are positioned and waiting, and you’re up next! So put on your bowling shoes and pick out your favorite color ball as you and the kids rediscover fun at the bowling alley.
Let your kids flex their creative muscles at Paint on Pottery. Even if you and your kids are first-timers or don’t think you’re very “artsy,” painting your own pottery is a great way to have fun and explore creative possibilities. Plus, your kids will love leaving with their very own pottery creation to keep as a sweet memory of their time in Williamsburg.
Relax and Unwind on Your Williamsburg Vacation
Go back to a simpler time, where the modern hustle and bustle of everyday life melts away. Colonial Williamsburg is a must-do for any visitor coming to the area. Men, women and children dressed in colonial attire roam the streets as you explore your way through this 18th-century restored city. These colonists, shopkeepers, blacksmiths and farmers look forward to sharing their lifestyles and stories with you and your family, and are always looking for a helping hand from the younger guests!
Relaxing and educational experiences abound in the Greater Williamsburg area. Explore nearby areas such as the Jamestown Settlement where kids can climb into a sailor’s bunk, steer with a whipstaff, or simply wander through one of the three re-created ships that brought the first English colonists to Virginia in 1607. Expand your child’s knowledge of Pocahontas and her fellow tribe members as you and your family stroll through the Powhatan Indian Village and interact with historical interpreters demonstrating how they would survive on a daily basis.
A great way to get to know Williamsburg is to take a peaceful stroll down sidewalks and cobbled streets. Be sure to take time to visit the nearby towns that are full of shopping, dining and beautiful surroundings. Enjoy dinner outside in Merchant’s Square, browse the unique shops in New Town or find a new appreciation for art in Smithfield.
Music and the arts have the power to bring peace to any soul. If you enjoy live performances, soothing jazz, plays or featured films, then make your way over to Merchants Square. Here you will find inspiring performances as well as special events and thought-provoking movies. With a theatre hosting special events throughout the year, there is always a chance to witness inspiring creativity right before your eyes. Click here to see what events are going on now.
After all that walking, be sure to book a session at a local spa, providing a relaxing experience, the perfect cap to a fun-filled vacation. Recline in a comfortable chair, please your ears with peaceful music and breathe in air saturated with beneficial minerals. A therapeutic session at the Williamsburg Salt Spawill leave you feeling naturally rejuvenated and healthy without the use of medication. Or indulge in a facial or mani-pedi at one of the many area spas. You won’t want to miss out on the therapeutic, beautifying and healing experiences these locations offer.
At the end of a long day, there’s nothing like kicking back with a great brew or a glass of wine. There are several wineries and breweries in and nearby Williamsburg offering Virginia-made libations with a distinct and delicious taste. Sample tastings of various food-friendly wines and brews, and make some tasty memories. Pair your favorite drink with a delicious meal at one of the bars or restaurants open late in the area. Play a game of pool while watching the game or simply sit at the bar and reminisce on old times. Having a laid-back night out never hurt anybody!
Save Before You Arrive and While You’re Here
By Ron Kirkland, Executive Director of the Williamsburg Hotel & Motel Association
Save up to $4 per person on admission to Colonial Williamsburg with a coupon from the goWilliamsburg Visitors Guide.
The longer you stay, the more you save. Hotels rarely give discounts for one- or two-night stays. Stay three nights or longer and you might be looking at steep discounts or even free nights
Instead of calling the national chains’ 1-800 number, take a little extra time and call your lodging provider locally. Often you can expect to get the best deals and specials when you speak with them directly or book directly at goWilliamsburg.com
The easiest way you can find over $700 in free money-saving coupons and discounts is in the coupon station of the goWilliamsburg Visitors Guide or by downloading the Passport Coupon Book.
Purchase gift certificates for dining, shopping, attractions, spa services and more at the Local Deal House. No fees, no membership. Just sign up and save.
Pick up a copy of the free goWilliamsburg map and coupons. With over $100 in savings and maps for Williamsburg, Yorktown, Gloucester and Virginia Beach, you can’t go wrong.
They say you need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to understand their experiences. So, lace up your sneakers and join in on one of Williamsburg’s diverse and original walking tours. These themed tours of the city include historic tours, ghost tours and seasonally-offered Christmas tours. With so much preserved history in Williamsburg, there’s a lot to explore, including Colonial Williamsburg’s 301-acre Historic Area. These walking tours offer three centuries of extraordinary history, an endless collection of local stories and are led by knowledgeable professionals with decades of experience.
Colonial Williamsburg Walking Tours
While you’re free to explore all of the attractions around the 301-acre Historic Area on your own, you can learn even more along one of Colonial Williamsburg’s informative guided tours. There are several tours available that take you into the homes, gardens and shops of Colonial Williamsburg’s 18th-century locals. Along with getting an inside look at the history surrounding the city and the people who helped shape the nation, tours at Colonial Williamsburg also include behind-the-scenes tours, tours specifically for children, tours of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and more. ColonialWilliamsburg.com/Explore/Tours
Immerse yourself in the area’s little-known history as you follow along Williamsburg’s exclusive history tour dedicated to the African-American experience. Williamsburg Walking Tours offers the city’s only tour dedicated solely to black history. During the 18th century, African American slaves, freedmen, craftsmen and businessmen comprised half of the city’s population. This tour gives an exclusive and well-researched glimpse into the lives of African-American people.
In 1742, a 10-year-old boy was brought to Yorktown as a slave and given the name Caesar. Caesar went on to become a talented barber. Find out how Caesar used his skill to become a spy for the Patriot cause. Then, as a freed man named John Hope, became a well-known barber catering exclusively to white clientele.
This intimate tour around the Historic Area guides guests along the same streets, shops and homes that enslaved African American’s walked when they were brought to this burgeoning city. Williamsburg Walking Tours’ African American History Tour has earned Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence and has received reviews from visitors all over the country. Hear more stories on the achievements and contributions of African American’s from the beginning of America’s story, and discover the impact they had on Colonial Williamsburg and the Revolutionary War.
Ghost Walks in Williamsburg
As dusk falls over the cobbled streets, you know it’s time for some eerie experiences. Every now and then we all like to indulge in a little frightful fun, whether it’s watching a scary movie or riding a roller coaster. But since Williamsburg is full of history, the city comes with its historical haunts. If you’re feeling brave and in the mood for a hair-raising experience, schedule a time during your Williamsburg vacation to embark on a ghostly walking tour where some of the area’s deepest and darkest haunts are uncovered. Williamsburg offers ghost tours that are sure to scare your socks off!
Official Colonial Williamsburg Ghost Walk
Begin your terrifying tour at Colonial Williamsburg on the Official Colonial Williamsburg Ghost Walk. Creep through the streets and gardens of the historic area as a guide shares stories of the spirits who call Williamsburg home. Colonial Williamsburg also offers the only ghost tour that takes brave visitors inside the centuries-old historic buildings. The past will come to life as you hear ghostly tales of hauntings and horrors straight from 18th-century sources. For more kid-friendly, not-too-spooky fun, take the Official Ghost Walk Junior, recommended for families with children ages 4–7.
Original Ghosts of Williamsburg Tours
Hear haunting tales and even spot spooky specters on Virginia’s oldest ghost tour. The Original Ghosts of Williamsburg leads guests on a candlelit stroll through the shadowy streets of the Historic Triangle. These tours combine local folklore with historical facts, ghost stories and even some humor. For an elevated eerie experience, take the Extreme Ghost Tour. This late-night tour is two hours long and gives guests the chance to use ghost-hunting equipment to track any paranormal activity. Stops include the historic Peyton Randolph House—one of the most haunted houses in the United States, where creepy activity continues to happen today.
The Original Ghosts of Williamsburg also offers a Ghosts of Yorktown tour. This hour-and-a-half long tour cruises the dark streets of Yorktown. Listen as the ghost guide shares tales of deceased soldiers from the Revolutionary War, who may be seen walking though the battlefields. Stops include the York River Waterfront, including Cornwallis’ haunted cave.
Colonial Ghosts Tours
Ranked in the top ten of the “13 Bone-Chilling Haunted Tours” by US City Traveler, Colonial Ghosts has earned Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence in 2018. These tours offer a genuine experience based on research, eyewitness interviews and a ghost story book connected to factual and historic events. They offer daily daytime cemetery tours and nightly ghost tours. The most popular tour, the Ultimate Ghost Tour, skips the theatrical show and gets straight to the informative stories. These stories span from the Colonial era, through the Civil War and even to the 21st century. Journey, if you dare, to the Public Hospital—America’s first “insane asylum.” Rumor has it that Dr. John Minson Galt, II still haunts the grounds where he lived and worked. Colonial Ghosts also gives amateur ghost hunters a chance to use ghost hunting equipment, just like paranormal investigators, on their ghost hunt.
Put your camera phones to work as you tour the sites of some of Colonial Williamsburg’s most haunted places and capture photos of the ghosts that dwell there. Author Tim Scullion conducted a photo study with over 10,000 photos and used them to write “Haunted Historic Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia: with Breakthrough Ghost Photography.” His book is now the basis of the Ghostographer Tour. Every stop on the tour features the best photos taken by Scullion. Two tours are offered—the Williamsburg West Tour and the Williamsburg East Tour. Learn the background, and possibly the identities, of the phantoms in the photos.
Williamsburg Walking Tours’ Ghost Tour
Another ghost tour that tells haunted stories of the past is Williamsburg Walking Tours’ Ghostly Tales. This journey is an eerie, 60-minute tour through the colonial capital led by an expert of ghostly lore from the days of old. Legend has it that ghosts have stirred up all sorts of trouble in some of these areas; it’s merely up to the brave to find out which ones.
Holiday Tours in Williamsburg
During the holiday season, Williamsburg sparkles with glistening lights and ornate wreaths. Take a tour of the historic homes, decorated in the traditional colonial style.
Williamsburg Walking Tours offers a Christmas Past & Present Walking Tour. During Thanksgiving weekend through New Year’s Eve, stroll down Williamsburg’s colonial streets and discover how Christmas was celebrated from the 18th-century to modern day. While you take in the festive decorations, learn the history of the decorations and hear stories from Christmases of the past.
Whether it is your first time in Williamsburg, or your 50th, the guided walking tours offered around the area never disappoint and are sure to show you and your family an unforgettable time filled with lots of laughs, thrills and new stories to share.
Sip and Sample along the Williamsburg Tasting Trail
There’s a new way to experience Greater Williamsburg, but one could say that it’s as old as this historic region. While early settlers were building forts and establishing their presence in the area, they also brewed their first beers and planted their first vines. They believed that alcohol had many beneficial purposes. Besides being a clean source of water, they believed it had healing properties and provided energy to the body. One could say that the Williamsburg area is not only the birthplace of America, it’s where we first learned to drink.
In the last year, many new producers of fine alcoholic beverages have been opening their doors and welcoming patrons to imbibe. This has allowed visitors and locals a chance to experience high quality, handcrafted beverages produced by pioneers in their field. The enjoyment of these beverages is both a social and flavorful experience. Enter the Williamsburg Tasting Trail. This one-of-a-kind experience is a great way to explore the best alcoholic beverages in the Greater Williamsburg area.
The beauty of the tasting trail is that award-winning wine, excellent brews and more are all centrally located in the Greater Williamsburg area. Newbies and connoisseurs alike create their own tasting trail experience. Explore the deep history of Virginia wines stretching back more than 350 years. Discover Williamsburg’s growing craft beer industry. Or, if you want it all, take in a sampling of everything—wines, beers, meads and spirits. Visit one or visit them all, it’s up to you! And because each location has been carefully selected, you know that you are sampling the best of the best.
Visitors to Greater Williamsburg are raving about the tasting trail. This is the perfect opportunity to try something new or indulge in a decadent extravagance. Plan a romantic getaway with your spouse. Or make it a relaxing weekend with friends. This is also your chance to pick up a few bottles of excellent wines, brews and spirts to take home as gifts (or keep for yourself).
Establishments of the Williamsburg Tasting Trail
The venues chosen to be a part of the Williamsburg Tasting Trail were carefully selected. Each winery, brewery, distillery and meadery chosen had to display a dedication to their craft, constantly perfecting and improving their methods. They also had to meet the highest standards in their ingredient selection. Not only have these establishments perfected the art of making these amazing spirts, they’ve also shown a desire to expand their repertoire through creative new processes and flavors.
Let’s start with the wines…
Wine lovers are making Virginia a go-to destination. Since the days of the founding fathers, Virginia has been known for its excellent vintages. Five of the best wineries in the state are included in the Williamsburg Tasting Trail. These wineries make up the Colonial Wine Trailand are all located within one hour of Williamsburg.
Start your journey at The Williamsburg Winery, the largest winery in Virginia. Serving classic, European-style wines, the Williamsburg Winery is known for its award-wining vintages. A tasting experience here will also include beautiful views, a delicious meal at one of the winery’s dining venues and possibly an overnight stay at Wedmore Place, a charming hotel with a European feel. Williamsburg Winery even has a 1,300-square-foot tasting room and wine bar in Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchants Square. Visit the location and enjoy a tasting flight on the picturesque outdoor patio.
Heading north will take you to Saudé Creek Vineyards next. Enjoy live music every weekend. Saudé is the perfect place for a mellow, relaxing experience with your closest friends. Take in awe inspiring views of the scenic Pamunkey River from their wrap around porch. Incredible varietals and a warm and welcoming atmosphere are always found here.
The opulent feel of New Kent Winery will give you a taste for the good life. Drink a dusky merlot while taking in the historical buildings, constructed with century-old reclaimed materials. Just north of Richmond is James River Cellars Winery. With a distinctive Virginian flavor, this family-owned winery has a wide selection of wines that you won’t want to miss. The last stop on the trail takes you to Upper Shirley Vineyards, on a dazzling riverside estate in Charles City. The winery boasts 19 acres of vineyards that produce about 3,000 cases of award-winning wine per year.
Next, the beers…
Although microbreweries are a newer phenomenon, this craze has been sweeping the nation. Both locals and visitors alike are enjoying the variety of flavors that this industry produces. Breweries in Greater Williamsburg have appeared as strong contenders in this field. Their beverages range from dark, thick stouts to light and fruity saisons. They stand alone or pair perfectly with some of our favorite foods, combining for a mouth-watering experience.
With 16 beers on tap daily, visitors are sure to find something they love at Alewerks Brewing Company. Be sure to grab a delectable half-pound soft pretzel with your lager. The Virginia Beer Company knows that nothing goes better with an ice-cold brew than local food and corn hole.
Then there’s the experimental Brass Cannon Brewing Co. Brass Cannon has come a long way since its humble beginnings using a four-barrel brewing rig built by hand. Today, in their Williamsburg location, Brass Cannon uses a 20-barrel brewing system to craft their unique beverages on a much larger scale in less time. Take a trip to their tasting room and try their popular Langrage Line—small batch brews with unconventional yet delectable combinations. Brass Cannon also offers year-round traditional ales, seasonal selections and special releases.
Billsburg Brewery is a destination brewery and event venue in Jamestown, dedicated to the artisan craft of small-batch brewing. Williamsburg’s newest brewpub, Amber Ox, pairs creative cuisine with craft beer, that is brewed on site, while providing a casual setting to sip and savor.
The great thing about these breweries is the ability to sample. You don’t have to settle for just one beer choice. Most locations offer a flight of beers so that you can taste the diversity of flavors and find something you love.
Various and sundry spirits…
Whisky, bourbon, gin, rum and mead—the final locations on the Williamsburg Tasting Trail offer high quality spirits. Pay homage to the past at Eight Shires Distillery,formerly known as Williamsburg Distillery. This venue uses 18th century techniques and recipes to produce spirits with historical significance. While there, be sure to sample the only bourbon in the world made with Indian corn.
Next, head over to Copper Fox. The handcrafted whiskies are like none other in the world—with malted barley smoked in American fruitwood. Williamsburg’s first meadery, Silver Hand Meadery, introduces contemporary spirit enthusiasts to the ancient honey-based fermented drink, mead.
Drink Williamsburg Tours
These amazing locations can all be visited without having to find a designated driver. Drink Williamsburg gives locals and guests a chance to tour these distilleries, breweries and meadery. Transportation, tours and tastings are all included in the Drink Williamsburg Experience ticket. Their craft alcohol adventures are great for single riders, groups and private parties.
In an effort to promote safety, Drink Williamsburg will pick up and drop off guests in groups of five or more, if they’re within three miles of downtown Williamsburg, for free. They also offer themed events each month, singles outings, couples nights and more. If you want to create your own tasting trail, the Drink Williamsburg bus can be scheduled for private parties. For more information or to book your tour visit DrinkWilliamsburg.com or call 757-818-9511.
It may be difficult to experience every taste on the trail, so plan ahead and plot your tasting experience. All visitors are encouraged to drink responsibly. It may be wise to include a designated driver in your tasting trail adventure, or grab an Uber or Lyft. You can also call locally owned Cardinal Cabs, 757-345-5557, that way everyone in your group can experience the trail fully.
The Williamsburg Tasting Trail is an amazing way to taste and experience the remarkable flavors of Williamsburg. Please enjoy yourself safely; do not drink and drive. For more information visit WilliamsburgTastingTrail.com.