Imagine the thriving port of York in the 18th century; chief port for the Virginia Colony. The Port of York was created on July 15, 1691 when the Virginia Burgesses passed the Act for Ports. At peak prosperity (1740-1770). Yorktown became an important tobacco port, exporting crops from area plantations. Later in the 1700's more diversified cargoes went out from the town's warehouses. Incoming freight included clothing, wines and liquor, furniture, jewelry and silver plate, riding gear and coaches, swords, firearms, books and slaves. Yorktown had several hundred buildings and almost 2,000 residents, making it a substantial 18th century community, and rivaling the size of the nearby colonial capital, Williamsburg. There were men of all types and classes along the streets and on the wharves - merchants, planters, prosperous yeomen, shopkeepers, indentured servants and slaves, travelers and seamen. Prominent families were united by birth and marriage with the wealthy gentry of the region.
In 1736, an English visitor to the town wrote:
“You perceive a great Air of Opulence amongst the Inhabitants, who have some of them built themselves Houses, equal in Magnificence to many of our superb ones at St. James's ... Almost every considerable Man keeps an Equipage ... The Taverns are many here and much frequented ... The Courthouse is the only considerable public Building, and is no unhandsome structure ... The most considerable Houses are of Brick; some handsome ones of Wood, all built in the modern Taste; and the lesser Sort, of Plaister. There are some very pretty Garden spots in the Town.”
18th Century Port of York