An Eighteenth-Century Coffeehouse Opens in Virginia

Posted in the 18th century in the news by Editor on December 30, 2009

With winter certainly here, a cup of coffee or hot chocolate tastes even better than usual. The latest addition to Williamsburg allows one to gather in front of a piping hot cup for an eighteenth-century experience. Mr. and Mrs. Charlton pour the drinks; you supply the imagination. From the Williamsburg website:

In November 2009, R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse became the newest reconstructed building on Duke of Gloucester Street in 50 years. An authentic 18th-century coffeehouse, this exhibition building is now open to ticketed guests. R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse is located just across from the Capitol. On the same site more than 240 years ago, a Williamsburg wigmaker named Richard Charlton operated a popular coffeehouse, just a few steps from the colonial Capitol. Over cups of coffee, chocolate, and tea, Williamsburg’s gentlemen and politicians gathered to make deals, discuss business, learn the news from England, and exchange the latest gossip.

One of the most dramatic encounters of the period leading up to the American Revolution took place on the coffeehouse porch in 1765, when an angry crowd protesting against the Stamp Act confronted the appointed collector for Virginia, George Mercer. The royal governor, Francis Fauquier, intervened and saved Mercer from the crowd. Mercer later resigned his position, and the Stamp Act was repealed by the British Parliament the following year. From the building itself created with period techniques and incorporating the original foundations to the opportunity to meet Mr. or Mrs. Charlton and enjoy a coffee, chocolate, or tea in an 18th-century setting, everything about the new coffeehouse reflects the very best of what Colonial Williamsburg has to offer.

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Additional information (including details on the building’s construction) can be found at the blog for R. Charlton’s. The opening of the coffeehouse was covered by Philip Kennicott for the Washington Post.

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