Colonial Williamsburg must stay fee-free

I can still recall my first visit to the College of William and Mary; I was walking around confusion corner near Merchants Square on a sunny day. I was suddenly attracted by the beautiful, seamless connection between the College and Colonial Williamsburg: you can enter one of the most beautiful, historic towns simply by crossing the street from campus. As a history student, I could not express how excited I was to know that I would be able to study in such a vibrant learning community where I could walk out of my room and have unlimited access to a living museum. The recent news about fencing off Colonial Williamsburg and charging an entrance fee has truly disheartened me.

Students in this elite college who can afford the extremely high tuition will have the privilege of free entrance, whereas people who worry about their daily necessities will be charged.

This idea of fencing off Duke of Gloucester Street achieves nothing but promoting elitism. We as college students will still enjoy free access to Colonial Williamsburg even after the street is fenced off. Take a second and think about the whole idea: students in this elite college who can afford the extremely high tuition will have the privilege of free entrance, whereas people who worry about their daily necessities will be charged. The situation seems ironic to me. We are now committed to fight for social equality, and the common solution to this problem, as we all believe, is education. Nonetheless, everything is pointless if we start charging for just walking in this great education resource.

This is a vicious cycle that will only further turn people away from their interests, not only in Colonial Williamsburg, but at historic relics in general.

It is not going to help the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in the long run either. When an enterprise is facing financial crises, it can either improve its competitiveness by promoting business and improving overall product quality, or it can exploit consumers. There are multiple ways for the Foundation to resolve its financial problem, and it simply chose the most irrational and unsustainable one. This is a vicious cycle that will only further turn people away from their interests, not only in Colonial Williamsburg, but at historic relics in general. It is to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s advantage to think seriously about why it is making fewer profits instead of taking something away from consumers.

In a more realistic sense, restricting pedestrian access to the streets would directly influence us, students of the College. There are many shops in Colonial Williamsburg that provide student discounts, and we tend to eat out in Colonial Williamsburg when we get tired of the dining hall food. By fencing off the main street at Colonial Williamsburg, it would be extremelyThus, they would have no choice but to increase the prices or, worst of all, even shut down their businesses.

Silence implies tacit consent. The College maintains a strong working relationship with Colonial Williamsburg. The school is responsible for speaking up for the whole college community and encouraging the Foundation to think about alternative solutions instead of fencing off the whole DoG street, which is to neither side’s advantage.

I hope that what waits for students and visitors in the future is the harmonious, coexistent and unrestricted situation between the College and Colonial Williamsburg, instead of the lifeless and solid fences which separate people from attaining knowledge and pursuing equality.

Contact Alfred Ouyang at


  1. I hear what you are saying Alfred but there are some missing peices to your argument. First off, no William and Mary student pay taxes to the city coffers. So claiming ownership to the streets don’t really apply to the students of WM. Secondly, I can’t think that the cost of eating in the taverns is really something student are going to pay for repeatly. Making a reservation to eat isn’t really a college thing. Thirdly, college students come and go. You as a majority are not going to settle in this sleepy, myopic ‘burg. As far as the residents go, CW could do the samething as Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown do. They could take local id to allow free access through an entry point. They could extend that to WM student with student id.
    CW looses revenue to the tune of millions to outside tour groups into the historic area. They are not looking to restrict locals. The locals do not amount to millions of dollars. CW isn’t even targeting the out of towners that come to the area, use the Historic Area, but never buy tickets. They also do not amount to that much money.
    The next time you walk through the Historic area…or run, take note of all the costumed employees. They are all for the wall. Why, you might ask, because they are tired of being poor. Tired of making ends meet to pay bills and still have enough to buy food. This is hard for the over all William and Mary student. Likely you are still being covered by mom and dad and meal vouchers. Likely you are aspiring to be something other than a living history interpreter. Alot of those employees have to share living expenses just to make it through financially. That is fine if you are a college age human. Not so cool in your forties. Yes to the wall.

    • I am a costumed employee (who does not work in a ticketed area) and you are the first person who seems to get how this is not a bad thing.

  2. A few points on this Alfred. This conversation with the city of Williamsburg and the Foundation has been going on for YEARS (if not decades), it is not a chosen path or set in stone, some recent documents have just surfaced to the public.
    I would also like to point out that the Foundation and the College have several reciprocal ties wherein students get free admittance, several discounts, and employees use college resources like the ability to check out books at Swem for research are examples. Colonial Williamsburg is also open because that is how the museum has come into being, but I would encourage you to find another living history museum that lets passers by free admittance just because they wanted to run through hundreds of school children or walk their dog. The Colonial Williamsburg, over the past couple of years, has been exhaustive in trying to figure out how to help the financial problems of the Foundation due to lower visitation rates and popularity, through trial and error, advertising, increasing quality and number of services and experiences it has to offer. Revisiting this discussion with the City is one of them.


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