As you walk west down Nicholson Street toward the ever popular George Wythe house, you’re likely to notice a large, cream-colored building on your right as you approach Palace Green. This home is called the St. George Tucker house, otherwise known as the donor house. It serves as a reception center for guests of Colonial Williamsburg who make an annual donation of $100 or more.
Named after distinguished 18th-century Williamsburg resident St. George Tucker, the house has a long and storied history. I won’t go into that here, but the lovely volunteers at the Tucker house are happy to tell the story and give you a tour of the home.
The Tucker house is a wonderful place to enjoy a respite, whether cooling down in the air conditioning on a hot and humid summer day or warming yourself in the cozy heat on a cold and wet winter morning. Guests can enjoy light refreshments including coffee, tea, hot cider, and lemonade, as well as fresh-baked cookies. Take my advice and go for the snicker doodles. They’re all fine and tasty cookies to be sure, but the snicker doodles are the best!
As many of you know, when you walk the streets of Colonial Williamsburg you’ll encounter character interpreters portraying people who would have walked these same streets in the 18th century – people like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Edith Cumbo, and the Marquis de Lafayette. You are encouraged to interact with them and ask them questions, but they will never come out of character of the time period they’re portraying. Thomas Jefferson won’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about if you ask him if he’s on Facebook! And that’s what makes being a donor and having access to the Tucker house so great, because every day one of the interpreters speaks for about an hour.
A limited number of seats are available, so you’re ensured an intimate setting. It also means you’ll want to arrive at least a half hour early to guarantee you’ll have a place to watch. But the part that makes this so great is that after first portraying their character, the interpreter will then come out of character and interact as him or herself. They’ll answer questions about their character as well as personal questions like what goes in to researching and studying that individual, or how they came to work for Colonial Williamsburg. This is indeed a very rare and special treat for those wanting a more behind-the-scenes look at life in Williamsburg then and now and you won’t find an experience like this anywhere else in the Historic Area.
Now if you have a creative side, you can enjoy watching artisan demonstrations like felted wool applique or quilling each afternoon while you enjoy a refreshment. There is also a wonderful library, cozy and bright, where you can peruse the large selection of books on history, architecture, and gardening. You can even check one out if you’d like to take it back to your hotel room to read.
Colonial Williamsburg is a magical place when decorated for the Christmas season, with boxwood wreaths, candles in every window, and cressets lit up at night. The Tucker house is another must-see on your list. That’s because tradition has it that the first Christmas tree in Williamsburg was displayed at this home in 1842. A German professor at the College of William & Mary named Charles Minnegerode asked then owner Judge Nathaniel Beverley Tucker if he could set up a Christmas tree like the ones his family in Germany had. The Judge agreed and it became a tradition that continues to this day, as the house is splendidly decorated for the season and includes a replica of that first tree, complete with ornaments made of colored paper, popcorn garlands, and gilded nuts.
The Tucker house is a truly unique Colonial Williamsburg experience and one you don’t want to miss. The house is open for donors from 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. daily. If you would like more information on becoming a donor, you can visit our website. You can also sign up and donate directly at the Tucker house upon your visit.
Guest Blogger: Ryan Redding
Ryan Redding is a lifelong lover of Colonial Williamsburg. He started visiting with his parents when he was just a baby, so CW has always felt like a home away from home. He recently relocated to Williamsburg from Southern Michigan with his wife, Rhiannon. They love spending their free time in the Revolutionary City and enjoying everything it has to offer, including dining in our historic taverns!
Ryan is also a golf fanatic and enjoys writing for the Virginia Golf Report about golf in central Virginia. You can follow his Colonial Williamsburg adventures through his personal blog, The Dog Street Patriot.