Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Williamsburg Pottery. Williamsburg, Virginia

For many, many years The Williamsburg Pottery, known by many as just "The Pottery" was one of the must stops when visiting Williamsburg, Virginia. It was a conglomeration of warehouse buildings and outlet stores. It was started by a man who put some old dishes on their lawn to sell to tourists driving by. The business grew to include a pottery - yes, where pottery is made - and this salt-glazed pottery made in colonial style became a popular souvenir of the area, not just sold at "The Pottery" but all in all of the local gift shops. Soon odd lot items were brought in along with baskets, flower arrangements, woodwork, housewares, garden decorations, and the list just goes on and on. The great thing about The Pottery always was that you would find the most unusual things there and the prices were exceptionally inexpensive. It was incredible. And there was an RV park on the rear of the property.

A few years back the Williamsburg Pottery closed for renovations. The gentleman who started the business passed away and now it was in the hands of the family who decided that it needed updating. There was a lot of apprehension of people who loved the place when the drawings of the new Pottery were revealed. When it opened this past April, I read a lot of disappointing reports from people who went looking for The Pottery and found something very different. On this last trip to Williamsburg we decided to see for ourselves.

The Williamsburg Pottery is located on Route 60 and the address is 6692 Richmond Road in Williamsburg. It is actually very close to the campground that we stay at - American Heritage Campground. This is what you will see from the road. There is a very large parking lot and the building in this photo extends to several buildings all in the same design. What there is now is a "cute" Williamsburg Pottery. If what was inside matched what had in the past been inside the warehouse buildings, it would have been great. But while some was the same on a much smaller scale, a lot was now "upscale" and the prices were increased to match the look. Gone are the bargains. Gone are the oddities. Gone is the room full of baskets, each only a couple of dollars. Gone is most of the fun. Even the food court is gone. Replaced with an upscale cafe and a Bon Pain restaurant. They used to have these great pulled pork sandwiches and a refillable souvenir of The Pottery plastic cup of soda. Those, too, are gone.

You can still see one of the buildings, shown in the photo above of the original Pottery. Seeing standing next to one of the new buildings made me miss the old Pottery even more. The railroad tracks go through the Pottery property and you can see them in the foreground of the above photo. Freight trains still come through on a regular basis. In the photo to the right you can see the old railroad crossing that in the past you had to cross to get to the Pottery buildings. It is all in rubble now.

We went through all of the sections of the "new" Williamsburg Pottery hoping to find a bargain. No bargains were to be found. We looked at the salt-glazed pottery that was on display and did find the section of "seconds" which the Pottery was always known for. Pots with slight mistakes that really did not make a difference and always in the past sold for much, much less than the same piece of pottery that was "perfect". The seconds were there but the prices were more than the price of the same perfect piece that we saw at a tourist gift shop.

It was sadly disappointing. Meryl said to me - as she often does - "change is not always for the better".  It was a way to spend a rainy afternoon, but it turned out to be a sad afternoon recalling what used to be.

They have not forgotten the founder. They put up a monument to him. I wonder when he looks down on what his family has done with his pride and joy what he must be thinking.


  1. Sorry to hear this... I shall be scratching this stop totally off my list ... not that I've been there in 20 years... I went there for the first time back in the early 70's when it ws still pretty much original .... and thought the last time there it was lacking in fun stuff and bargains from the first time I was there.
    And yes, my entire set of Pfaltzcraft Yorktown dishes came from there... second at pennies on the dollar!

    1. We filled in our set of Pfaltzgraff Yorktown dishes with seconds from the outlet store that used to be at the Pottery. The Pfaltzgraff company was bought out and they don't have any outlet stores anymore. We once took a tour of their factory in PA many, many years ago.