Have a drink in a “new” eighteenth century coffeehouse

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

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View east down Williamsburg’s Duke of Gloucester Street, from Google Earth, a free downloadable program.

If you want to have coffee in an historic eighteenth century coffeehouse, you can now do so! The drinks that are offered are tea, chocolate, and, of course, coffee!

willamsburg_coffeehouse_tea_tableR. Charlton’s Coffeehouse was dedicated at Colonial Williamsburg on the afternoon of Friday, November 20th, 2009. The present building is rebuilt from the ground up. The original structure is only known from archaeological and archival data. Notes the Colonial Williamsburg website and press release:

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, all kinds of meat and game, even peacock. Besides hot beverages, patrons could choose from a section of wines, beer and spirits. A fragment of a Cherokee pipe suggests the presence of Indians who may have been part of an official delegation. Other finds include a number of wig curlers, indicating Richard Charlton’s connection to the wig-making business, and several bones from an anatomical skeleton that was likely used in scientific presentations.

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R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse is built on its original foundations with 18th-century construction techniques and in compliance with modern building codes. The finished reconstruction will appear as close to the original structure as historical, archaeological and architectural evidence permits. It incorporates substantial portions of the building’s original brick foundations. The one-and-a-half-story framed portion of the building—35 feet square—is constructed of hand-sawn timber framing covered with cypress weatherboards and white cedar roof shingles. A central brick chimney allows two of the three first floor rooms to have functional fireplaces, while in the cellar a massive hearth is the central feature of the reconstructed kitchen. Research indicates that at least two of three first floor rooms were used for serving food and beverages which were prepared in the cellar. Other rooms on the first and second floors may have been rented or used for lodging or living quarters.

The general history page of the Colonial Williamsburg website notes:

Williamsburg was the thriving capital of Virginia when the dream of American freedom and independence was taking shape and the colony was a rich and powerful land stretching west to the Mississippi River and north to the Great Lakes. For 81 formative years, from 1699 to 1780, Williamsburg was the political, cultural, and educational center of what was then the largest, most populous, and most influential of the American colonies. It was here that the fundamental concepts of our republic—responsible leadership, a sense of public service, self-government, and individual liberty—were nurtured under the leadership of patriots such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, and Peyton Randolph.

Tickets to Colonial Williamsburg start at $36 for adults, so your visit to R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse will not be inexpensive, but where else can you enjoy am eighteenth-century style coffeehouse!

Maps, a video of the coffeehouse, and an online tour can also be found at the Colonial Williamsburg website.

All photos used in this story are copyright 2009 by Colonial Williamsburg, and were obtained from their website.

Where to find it