Colonial Williamsburg is the historic district of the independent city of Williamsburg, Virginia. It consists of many of the buildings that, from 1699 to 1780, formed colonial Virginia’s capital. The capital straddled the boundary of two of the original shires of Virginia, James City Shire (now James City County), and Charles River Shire(now York County). For most of the 18th century, Williamsburg was the center of government, education and culture in the Colony of Virginia. It was here that Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Monroe, James Madison, George Wythe, Peyton Randolph, and dozens more helped mold democracy in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States.
The motto of Colonial Williamsburg is “that the future may learn from the past.”  The Historic Area is meant to be an interpretation of a Colonial American city, with exhibits including dozens of authentic or accurately recreated colonial houses and relating to American Revolutionary War history. Prominent buildings in Colonial Williamsburg include the Raleigh Tavern, the Capitol, The Governor’s Palace, and Bruton Parish Church. However, rather than simply an effort to preserve antiquity, the combination of extensive restoration and thoughtful recreation of the entire colonial town facilitates envisioning the atmosphere and understanding the ideals of 18th century American revolutionary leaders. Interpreters work and dress as they did in the era, and they use colonial grammar and diction, although not colonial accents.
The 301-acre (122 ha) Historic Area is located immediately east of the College of William and Mary, which was founded at Middle Plantation in 1693. The new College, long a desire of the colonists, was a key factor in the establishment of the town as capital of Virginia in 1698 and its renaming for King William III of England shortly thereafter. As the new city was laid out, the school’s Wren Building stood at the western end of Duke of Gloucester Street, where it still stands today, opposite the site of the Capitol where the Burgesses and later legislators met.
Colonial Williamsburg is a major source of tourism to the Williamsburg area. It has also become a touchstone for many world leaders and heads of state, including U.S. Presidents. In 1983, the United States hosted the first World Economic Conference at Colonial Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg is the centerpiece of the surrounding Historic Triangle of Virginia area, which has become a popular tourist destination for visitors domestic and foreign. Jamestown and Yorktown, the other two points of the Historic Triangle, are linked to Colonial Williamsburg by the National Park Service‘s bucolic Colonial Parkway.