Though the Colonial Gardens Bed & Breakfast was built in 1965, the materials used to construct it date back as far as the 17th century.
Rather than build a house out of new materials, original homeowner James P. Whyte, Jr. obtained bricks salvaged from an early courthouse in Colonial Williamsburg to use instead.
Word on the street, according to current homeowner Karen Watkins, is that the Rockefellers had the courthouse dismantled during their restoration of Colonial Williamsburg. James Whyte, who served as dean of William & Mary Law School from 1969 to 1975, was privy to the unused bricks.
“From what I understand, James Whyte went to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and gave them a sizable donation to purchase the bricks, which were made by indentured servants in the late sixteen to early seventeen hundreds,” Watkins said. “Some of the bricks on the property still show the brick maker’s initials.”
Even the mortar used to construct the home, called ‘weeping mortar,’ is noticeably different than that used in a modern build, because it overflows between each brick.
Though the house was originally the Whyte’s family home, a subsequent homeowner converted it into a bed and breakfast for all to enjoy. Now, it is run by Watkins and her husband, Ron.
The Watkins first moved to Williamsburg when Ron, who was a Colonel in the Air Force at the time, was stationed at Langley Air Force Base. The couple had roots in North Carolina, and planned on returning there eventually.
“It didn’t take six months for him and I to realize that we were in love with Williamsburg,” Watkins said. “And we thought we would never find a place that would take us away from the heart of North Carolina.”
Watkins can sum up what she loves about the region in a single sentence.
“This is where Northern culture meets Southern hospitality,” she said. “In North Carolina, we have that lovely southern hospitality, but we didn’t have that unique environment of shopping and restaurants and symphony and theater and education, all the amazing things that come together into what we know as the city of Williamsburg.”
A neuromuscular therapist by trade, Watkins decided to sell her business in North Carolina to pursue the idea of opening a bed and breakfast in Williamsburg. The year was 2006, a very busy time for the hospitality industry. It was the year before the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, and Queen Elizabeth II was due to visit.
But after just a little while waiting, Colonial Gardens Bed & Breakfast was listed for sale and Watkins jumped at the opportunity. The bed-and-breakfast features four guest rooms, two of which are suites. It’s located in a quiet area of Jamestown Road, less than five minutes away from the historic area by car, and surrounded by well-maintained gardens.
Since purchasing the B&B, Watkins has enjoyed hosting people from all over, cooking and developing recipes for the guests and holding weddings on the property. Many times, brides and grooms who married on the property have returned for anniversaries.
But some of the most special guests that the Watkins have hosted were two of James Whyte’s sons.
“They loved walking through the house and hearing about all the things that we do here now,” she said. “And we really enjoyed listening to ‘Oh, you know I climbed that tree over here’ and ‘Oh, we used to do this or that.’ How many times can you knock on your childhood door and just say ‘Can I look around?’”
To learn more about the home, click here.
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