Colonial Williamsburg stays busy during seasonal shutdown

As January rolls around again, visitors will be sparse in the streets of Colonial Williamsburg as shops and sites close for the month.

But Colonial Williamsburg Foundation employees will still be busy behind the scenes.

For the second year, the foundation will take advantage of the post-holiday slowdown in January by closing the historic areas and trade shops to train employees and revamp buildings and grounds. Tradespeople spend the month accomplishing larger projects difficult to do with guests wandering in and out of the sites and shops.

The foundation usually curtails some parts of operations in January for repairs and maintenance, but this is the second consecutive year the closures will include all of the historic areas and trade shops.

Work will continue for the Harpsichord Makers, who will try to finish a new spinet, a small harpsichord. The wigmakers will be busy tending to more than 100 wigs and hairpieces during the break while the joiners, specialized kind of carpenters, deliver a cupboard to Washington Ferry's Farm in Fredericksburg, according to a post on Colonial Williamsburg's blog, Making History.

The Wheelwrights, who primarily make wooden wheels, will be hard at work making progress on a carriage that will replace one that has been hauling people around Colonial Williamsburg since the 1940s, said wheelwright Andy De Lisle.

The carriage will take more than just one month to finish, but the break will allow them time to focus, and wear normal clothes, he said.

"January gives us the opportunity to work on it essentially uninterrupted," De Lisle said. "Answering questions while you're doing something like carving can distract you a bit, so sometimes you have to put your tools down, and that will slow you down."

Two groups will take advantage of the lull to move their operations entirely. The carpenters have a new site at the corner of Nicholson Street and Botetourt Street where they'll spend January building a new saw house. The coopers, who makes casks and other wooded containers, will be rolling the big barrels from Nicholson Street to their new workspace by the Wythe House, according to the blog.

The interpreters will be busy researching and rehearsing for new programs. One nation builder, Joe Ziarko, will continue preparing for his debut as George Mason later in the spring. Mason is a new nation builder for Colonial Williamsburg.

A Virginia man, Mason was neighbor to George Washington, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and drafted Virginia's Declaration of Rights. Mason was influential in adding the Bill of Rights to the U. S. Constitution, after he refused to sign it due to its lack of a declaration of rights for individuals.

The historic areas, Colonial Williamsburg visitor center and trade shops will be closed until Jan. 27, and the Kimball Theater is also shutting its doors until Feb. 1.

The shops and restaurants in Merchants Square will remain open, as will Chowning's Tavern. The other three historic area taverns will shut down, in addition to the Williamsburg Inn, which will close for renovations toward the end of the month, Colonial Williamsburg spokesman Joe Straw said.

Carriage rides, museum visits and skating at Liberty's Ice Pavilion will still be options for January visitors. Tickets for the carriage rides and museums will be available at the Greenhow Lumber House while the Visitor Center is closed.

"Generally in January, we really do emphasize the art museums as an exciting option," Straw said.

The art museums offer exhibits including African-American Quilts, 18th- and 19th-century furniture and maps.

Liberty's Ice Pavilion is offering season passes for unlimited skating from New Year's Day until Feb. 20 and single-day tickets will be available.

Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

What is open?

Liberty's Ice Pavilion

On Duke of Gloucester Street

Hours: Sunday through Thursday noon to 8 p.m., Friday noon to 10 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Daily admission is $12 for adults and $10 for ages 3 through 12 with season pass options for $29 for adults and $25 ages 3 through 12. Skate rentals are an extra $4.25.

For more information call (844) 201-8587 or visit bit.ly/1JPvIKg.

Art Museums

DeWitt Wallce Decorative Arts Museum and Abby Aldrich Folk Art Museum, both at 326 Francis St.

Hours: Sunday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information call 1-800-447-8679 or visit bit.ly/1QLsTwe.

Merchant's Square

See: www.merchantssquare.org/

Chowning's Tavern

See: http://bit.ly/2iNgKMB

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