Episode 18

Colonial Williamsburg History

Have you ever wondered how one of the first major cities in America was founded in 1638 and became one of the biggest East Coast tourist destinations?

Jenn tells us all about the founding of Williamsburg, Virginia and how the founding fathers in the colonial era shaped the nation from the very spot where you can get a carriage ride for your loved one!

Video: Your Colonial Williamsburg First Family Visit

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Transcript
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[Music]

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greetings and welcome to the talk with

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History Podcast I am your host Scott

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here with my wife and historian Jen

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hello on this podcast we talk about

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history's continuing impact on us and

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our personal journey through YouTube as

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we continue to explore record and share

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our history walks with you

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now before we get on to our main topic

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Jen I want to lead off with a five-star

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review of the week because we actually

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got one awesome hooray

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um so I'm gonna I'm gonna read the

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little review here this is from not

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sleepy girl now this was actually as

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you're listening to this it's probably a

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few weeks ago but I'm reading it now

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because we batch record

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so not sleepy girl says I love it five

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stars y'all are covering three things I

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love so much Classic Movies histories

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and cemeteries thank you for keeping all

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of these alive I almost cried when y'all

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were talking about Maureen O'Hara thank

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you

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so thank you to not sleepy girl for the

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five star iTunes or apple podcast review

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that's awesome if you were listening and

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you don't have an Apple device you can

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ask us questions over on Twitter at talk

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with history but don't forget to check

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out our other podcasts the history Buzz

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where we interview folks while chatting

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about history over a couple of drinks

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may so please don't forget to leave us

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those apple podcast reviews you can ask

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ask us a question if you leave us a

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five-star review and we will do our best

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to answer it

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let's be honest with each other for a

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minute

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learning about history can be hit or

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miss I'm speaking from my personal

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experience textbooks that we read in

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high school may not have caught your

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imagination like a good book whisking

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you away to a magical land scientific

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future or even time travel to the Past

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but what if time travel did exist and

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you could walk through history see what

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it was like in the past perhaps even

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talk to the Larger than Life historic

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figures that we read about in those not

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so interesting High School textbooks

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well I'm here to tell you folks that

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time travel is real and that's what we

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are talking about today so we're going

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to talk about our experience in gen what

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are we talking about today a historian

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Disneyland historians Disneyland

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Colonial Williamsburg yes

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so tell me about Colonial Williamsburg

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Jen so Colonial Williamsburg is at the

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eastern part of Virginia uh it's kind of

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Southern Eastern so away from DC but

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it's part of what they call the historic

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triangle yeah that's right so you have

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Williamsburg you have Yorktown and you

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have Jamestown all of them are so

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relevant to American history and they're

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all within 20 minutes of each other and

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they form kind of like a triangle yeah

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so they call it the historic triangle

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and and one thing that I didn't realize

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being a West Coast kid so I come out

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here and you tell me about Colonial

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Williamsburg and I've like maybe heard

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of it but it's a huge draw it's the

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biggest tourist attraction in Virginia

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is it really yes I didn't know that it

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is so it's it's huge it it's been

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recreated to look like it did during the

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colonial era yeah and so many people

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want to go and engage because it's such

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a large area and it there's so much to

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kind of walk around around and see that

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people just want to go and spend the day

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and take in all of the attractions and

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the history so we have gone there a

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number of times yeah we've probably been

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there at least a dozen times now and I

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think our first time we were just so

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blown away that we bought like the year

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pass and so it just brought us back and

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the draw of Williamsburg is there is

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different things to see at different

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times of the year

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yeah that that was something that I I I

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guess I should have expected but I

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didn't expect and we even missed a

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couple things and we tried to hit

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everything sure so they do like they do

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Christmas they decorate for Christmas

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it's a very Colonial Christmas they do

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the Fourth of July it's very

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fireworks and patriotic and they marched

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down the street so they do the fall you

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know festivals and they put up ice

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skating rinks so they try to make it

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vary with the time yeah well there's an

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occasion to come in any time of year yes

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and like any like you've taught me any

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good museum is changing their displays

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constantly and so they basically have

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like a a monthly event calendar so you

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can kind of see what they're doing and

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where to go and who to talk to yeah so

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so so tell us about the the history of

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Colonial Williamsburg why is it such a

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big deal in such a big draw so it was

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founded in 1632 it was a colony it was

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the Virginia colony and it's the center

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of political events really around the

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American Revolution so that's kind of

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what made it such a a Pinnacle Point in

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American history the College of William

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and Mary is there yeah and it's the

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second oldest institution in uh

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institution of learning in America

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behind Harvard but it was uh founded in

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1693 and so who's William right who's

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William who's Mary so King William III

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is where you get Williamsburg from he's

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the king at this time and then his wife

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is Mary and when William is the king of

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both Ireland

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um Scotland and England so there you'll

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see a lot of these when you walk around

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and you go to like the palace or you go

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to the governor's

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um the governor's Palace you go to the

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Capitol you'll see a lot of the coat of

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arms oh yeah it'll have the unicorn and

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the lion and it's because the Unicorn

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represents Scotland because they believe

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in those mythical creatures and the line

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will represent England

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yeah I don't think again me not being a

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history guy I don't think I put that

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together so so learning as a talk on the

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podcast so those coat of arms you'll see

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all over the place and then when William

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dies well his Mary dies First and

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William dies and Queen Anne becomes

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Queen and she's really Pinnacle with

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like

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sustaining Williamsburg and helping them

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grow and get bigger and she's actually

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the sister of Mary Mary and Anne are the

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legitimate Heirs of the throne yeah and

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so when Mary marries William he becomes

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king but as soon as he dies and Mary

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dies it goes back to Mary's line since

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she's the they have no children so Queen

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Anne becomes Queen

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and she um so that's why their name is

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plastered all over everything it's all

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over everything and so College while you

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and Mary you get Thomas Jefferson you

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get George Washington got a surveyor

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license from the way the college boy

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would marry you get James Monroe you get

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John Tyler these are all presidents that

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have gone to William and Mary so

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it's just a lot of

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historic places

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1699 it becomes the capital of Virginia

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so yeah it's actually Williamsburg is

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the capital and

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it's not until Thomas Jefferson decides

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to move it during the American

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Revolution in 1780 for protection

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because Williamsburg is really close to

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the water

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opening the Chesapeake Bay would be

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technically easier for someone to yeah

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so the British and cannons yeah the

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British will have easy access so he

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moves it further up River where it's not

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as accessible by ship right to Richmond

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and then and so in 1790 Richmond becomes

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the capital of Virginia

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and Williamsburg is

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I wouldn't say forgotten but it's kind

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of it goes into disrepair I mean the

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College of William Mary is still there

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but it's kind of untouched you get

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Farmers that live there and locals but

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it's really not

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it's not modernized it's not as

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populated and then it's it's a sleepy

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town in the early 20th century but there

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is a reverend at Brewton Parish which is

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the church there the church that Thomas

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Jefferson goes to Children's and George

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Washington goes to church and he wants

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to

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bring back the history he wants to give

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it back to America so he

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tries to find philanthropists who are

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interested in something like that and he

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lands on the best one yeah he lands a

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whale yeah he gets John D Rockefeller Jr

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so the director I don't think a standard

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one I don't think I realized that

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because it again from you know if we if

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we give the kind of behind the scenes

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perspective right we go into the YouTube

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realm of things right we talk about how

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we're learning and I'm learning about

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Colonial Williamsburg literally like as

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we're there and you're bouncing off the

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walls with excitement and you're telling

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me about all these things I'm like oh

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that's great you know this is so

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historical and it and I was

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flabbergasted at how big it was 300

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acres it's I mean it's huge and it's

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well done but I don't think in my brain

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when you get there you're like oh this

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must have been like this for as long as

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Williamsburg has been around I didn't

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realize it was literally like kind of

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brought back to life

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yeah about the 1920s so the early 20th

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century

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um Rockefeller and his wife are very

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instrumental bringing all the financial

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backing and they take 88 original

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structures and then they build like

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hundreds of reconstructed structures and

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open up this colonial historic area and

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it's basically a Living Museum yeah no

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it it's super super cool and like the

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folks walking around tell me about some

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of the the like the characters walking

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so that's what it's a Living Museum they

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employ all of these different types of

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people who recreate The Artisans and the

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occupations of the time they are in the

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actual buildings and locations so you

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can walk in and and see a milliner and

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she's making dresses or you'll walk in

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and see a wig maker and they talk about

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who would make Who would wear these wigs

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and they know a lot they know a lot like

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I mean they're they're ready for little

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kid questions and adult questions it's

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amazing they talk about how you know

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George Washington never wore a wig they

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talk about people who would wear wigs

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all the time when would you change to

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wigs and and how you would get them made

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to your specific head size yeah that was

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one of the more interesting shops that

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we finally got to recently because I

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guess they're not open as often as some

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of the other places yeah so those are

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the we will do another podcast on top

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tips yeah and I'll give you some top

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tips of visiting but you have to catch

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them weather open yeah but like the

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Apothecary like what people did for

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medicine at the time so these people are

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so knowledgeable they stay in character

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they wear the colonial dress

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and it's really amazing if you can

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engage with a historical character oh

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yeah so so a whole lot before you go

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where I know it where you're going so

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for the for the the folks listening

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right Jen's birthday is in December time

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frame and so depending on on what we can

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do whether it's a big birthday or

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something like that you know um

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sometimes for us as parents it's nice

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just to get away for an afternoon or a

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day or whatever like that so Jen takes

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off for her birthday and she drives to

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Colonial Williamsburg we'd already been

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there probably six or seven times

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she does the she spends the whole day I

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don't know if it was Saturday or what

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date I think it was like the middle of

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the week was the middle of the week

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because the kids were in school and you

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come back and you're like Scott I got to

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talk to Lafayette oh my gosh the Marquis

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De Lafayette I

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saw him walking down the street and I'm

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like is that who I think it is and then

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I walked up and I said good morning sir

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and he started speaking in French and

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then I said you know

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um sorry sorry I only speak English and

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so then he started engaging in English

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with me and it was amazing he stayed in

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character and and for those listening

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guests this is the same Lafayette in

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Hamilton yes insane Lafayette and he

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knew his his information yeah I asked

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him about the Battle of Yorktown I asked

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him where he stayed in Williamsburg as

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he was there with George Washington and

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and as they were there with Rochambeau

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and how they were strategizing he could

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tell me where they were staying and

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where they strategized at then I asked

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him about his comeback tour of America

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and where he went and who he talked to

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and we talked for like 10 minutes yeah

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and people walked by and I think they

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were nervous to engage and he he would

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greet them yeah but that they want you

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to talk to them yeah and I can see how

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people would be nervous because they're

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like in they're in full dress right they

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stay in care character and we'll talk

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about more of that on the next podcast

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where we're going to give some top tips

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like you said I didn't realize that he

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started talking to you in French yes

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yeah because a lot of people around

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there you weren't you wouldn't know

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exactly where people would be from right

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right because the French is helping so

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much and so you do have to and some

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people actually are schooled in French

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at the time you would learn it yeah so

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he's he's engaging with that language

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first

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um which would make sense yeah that's

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cool that's a that's a neat little

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tidbit it was so great and I just I I

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just had had a great day I got to see a

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colonial play so they recreated a play

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that would have been shown about the

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1780s in Colonial Williamsburg and it

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was like a it was kind of like a a play

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about couples and Christmas time so it

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was it was great so I really

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enjoyed that but again you want to catch

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some of these events because sometimes

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the historical figures will be in one

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location on a stage and they'll give you

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kind of a talk or something so let's

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move back to a little bit more of the

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history of Colonial Williamsburg so like

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I mean who are someone like the the

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buzzword like the big names that

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everybody would know that were like

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living there working there you know

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before it went into disrepair and before

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things moved up to Richmond sure you're

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gonna know Thomas Jefferson sure of

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course he goes to school at William and

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Mary he's very influenced by

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um George with and we go in on one of

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our videos yeah we go to the George with

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house yeah and then and if correct me if

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I'm wrong but George with actually kind

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of helped Thomas Jefferson formulate

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some of his thoughts on Law and the

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legal system huge influencer Thomas

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Jefferson so much so he shows so much

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respect to him he keeps that spot open

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on the Declaration of Independence

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that's right we've got a whole video on

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George with and that and so he and he's

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he has a statue of him in front of the

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law school of William Mary because he's

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such a father of American law yeah and

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so you have Thomas Jefferson you have

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people like George with the sign of

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declaration independence you have um of

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course George Washington you're going to

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have Madison you're going to have

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Martha Washington close by her family is

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going to live there so you're going to

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have these early founding fathers of

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course James Monroe and John Tyler both

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also go to William and Mary so you have

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presidents Through Time who go there and

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this place has been visited by Queen

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Elizabeth twice 1957 and 2007. so we I

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stand on the staircase where she stood

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yeah so in in the uh the Williamsburg

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Inn the Colonial Williamsburg they have

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pictures of her visit yeah so you'll get

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like Churchill has been there Eisenhower

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has been there President Bush has been

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there modern day president President

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Obama has been there the ninth G7 Summit

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was held there oh I didn't know that yes

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so it's it's been very there's been a

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couple presidential debates held there

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oh at the College of William Mary oh so

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it's it's just so much a part of

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American History yeah now when you know

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you talk about the historic triangle so

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there's obviously there's places to stay

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in the greater area but as far as like

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staying in Colonial Williamsburg what

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what are people's options because we had

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our one thing sure and we'll talk about

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that here in just a second but there's a

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couple different options for folks to

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stay at well I'm sure you know of course

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you can stay at the Colonial

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Williamsburg again yeah it's as a big

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one it's amazing and it's beautiful it's

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really nice okay the other hotels around

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in the area yeah now you're gonna have

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this is a draw for families so Busch

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Gardens is there yeah there's there's a

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whole lot in the area but as far as like

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in Williamsburg proper and really what I

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was driving it was like I want to talk

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about cleaning Williamsburg in and then

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where we stayed and it's a Colonial

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House Colonial House

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Williamsburg yeah yeah so I in my mind I

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kind of see them as as separate right

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um but the Colonial Williamsburg in I

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mean that's that's the big place and I I

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mean I have friends that like their kids

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do soccer tournaments in the greater in

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the Williamsburg area

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um well it's still modern day I mean

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you'll see if you go to visit don't be

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surprised to see people jogging through

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yeah you see college kids jogging

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through the streets and they're just you

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know because it's it's a very just it's

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way by the college it's very modern day

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uh I think when we were there there was

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actually a run and organization 5K was

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happening so don't be surprised to see

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things like that it's still a very

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active place for the community

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but yeah I would the Colonial

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Williamsburg is is like the ideal place

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to stay and if you can do like we did

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and stay in a colonial home so so so

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tell us a little bit tell the listeners

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right because they may not know that I'm

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like the best husband ever and I got you

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an amazing 15-year anniversary gift so

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it's our 15-year anniversary and Scott

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surprised me with um a weekend in a

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Colonial House the Lewis house and the

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Lewis house was

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on the property of Martha Washington's

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grandfather's property right and

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I think he rented out the house I don't

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think he lived there I don't think Lewis

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was his name no so if I remember right

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from when I was making the video I think

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it actually like it was one of his homes

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one of his properties one of his

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properties he eventually he eventually

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sold it yes he eventually sold it and

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then I think that's the person he sold

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it to is Lewis yes

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um but it's it's highly probable that

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Martha Washington as a as a young child

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absolutely was in the garden was in the

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garden was walking around I mean here

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here you know she was uh what was her

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maiden name I'm trying to remember off

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the top of my head oh I don't know I

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know custis was her first married name

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that's right that's right I don't

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remember what her maiden made I don't

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remember either but it was I mean it was

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really cool because

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when you're walking around Williamsburg

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you don't kind of know what might be an

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office

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or what might be one of these homes that

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you can stay in or a Tavern or something

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like that yes and so the Lewis house was

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a three-bedroom Colonial house and we

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had the whole house and it had a little

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kitchenette it had bathrooms it had it

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was just an amazing place and we had the

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run of the whole place so if you go

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there with your family it's a great

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place to stay with your family and I

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mean it's literally like across the

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street from the Williamsburg Inn and

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then the next block over is the main

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drag of Colonial Williamsburg so

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um I think her last name was

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Dandridge Martha Dandridge okay that

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sounds that sounds right but um staying

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there was amazing so there's lots of

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options and and I think I know this a

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little bit better than you because I did

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all the research trying to find the just

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the right place for our 15-year

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anniversary so there's there's places

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where you can kind of um some of the

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smaller homes right and so they're

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actually some of the bigger buildings

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that's but that's because there's three

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or four rooms right it's kind of almost

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like more like a motel style they try to

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mimic like a Tavern right type idea so

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if you were gonna stay in a in a

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colonial Tavern what would that look

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like so they have some bigger buildings

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that are called taverns yeah and you can

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rent the rooms upstairs and stay in a

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Tavern now they're modernized

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to be American you know with the modern

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amenities but um but it gives you that

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idea yeah and so yes you can get a house

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like we did you can stay in a Tavern

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room you can actually stay in some that

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they they label as like there's like the

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oral house and then there's the oral

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Kitchen yes right and so we talk about

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this a little on our video that every

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house or Manor usually had a kitchen

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would be which would be a whole nother

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Standalone structure behind the main

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house it would not be connected by walls

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it would have space between it and

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that's because of fair fire and so what

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they have done for some of these

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kitchens is they have made them small

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little

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um basically like Studios or one

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bedrooms if you also wanted to rent

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those you could stay in the kitchen and

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it's confusing because you'd be like why

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would I want to stay in the kitchen but

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it's it's part of the house yeah it's

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just not connected yeah and honestly

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like I that's exactly what I thought

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when I was looking this stuff up I was

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like why is this saying in the kitchen

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like I'm I don't I don't get it right

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and then once you educated me thank you

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very much

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um I was like oh that's why because it's

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a separate structure but it's on the

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same basically lot

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um so it Colonial Williamsburg is I know

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you were like incredibly excited to go

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there because we have friends and family

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like close family friends that have been

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going there for quite some time it's

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been really fun and it's just one of

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those places it's nice to walk around

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and it's it's just a great spot it's

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really up to you how much you want to

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engage yep people will dress I I plan to

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dress I bought the colonial dress and

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the colonial hat and the Bonnet and I

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have the under hoops and I plan to dress

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and people will do that and and people

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will engage with you and so it's not odd

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to see people dressed in the colonial

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outfits as they walk around Colonial

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rooms but yeah I'm that'll be a day when

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I see that so the history of Colonial

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Williamsburg it's undeniable

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the country's forefathers lived and

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worked there building the foundation of

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the society that we know today

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that fact alone actually takes time to

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set in when you're there walking in the

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same Garden that Thomas Jefferson walked

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through or having dinner in a Tavern

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that James Madison probably sat down and

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had drinks in

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and yes possibly staying in the same

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home that Martha Washington herself

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might have stayed in at one point in

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time

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so again thank you for listening to the

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talk with History Podcast and please

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reach out to us at our website talk with

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history.com but more importantly if you

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know someone else that might enjoy this

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especially if you think today's topic

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text and tell them to look up the talk

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with History Podcast because we rely on

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you our community to grow and we

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appreciate you all every day we'll talk

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to you next time

About the Podcast

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Talk With History
A Historian and Navy Veteran talk about history inspired travels, their YouTube channel journey, and examine history through conversations with the curious, the explorers, and the history lovers out there

About your host

Profile picture for Scott Bennie

Scott Bennie

Host of the Talk With History podcast, Producer over at Walk with History on YouTube, Editor of the Hashtag Historic newsletter.