Town Crier Articles

Posted on August 1, 2019 7:00 AM by John Morgan
Categories: Life in New Town
Below are some pictures from our gathering on July 12.  We had about 20 neighbors in all for a great evening of eating and conversation.
 
 
 
Posted on August 1, 2019 7:00 AM by Phil Casey
Categories: Life in New Town
The NTRA Activities Committee organized a very successful party at the pool on the evening of July 17.  When I arrived at 7PM, I could not even find a chair!  They served over 150 hot dogs (donated by Paul’s Deli) and provided drinks for a hot summer night.  The crowd dissipated quickly at the end as the sky darkened, more with threatening clouds than with the coming night. (Pictures at the bottom.)
 
But before that happened, I randomly approached several attendees and asked for their ideas about this guy.
 
It’s the frog in the fountain outside the Regal Theater.  The majority of folks could identify where the picture was taken but they were pretty evenly split on recalling that there is a frog.  Even so, after studying the picture, everybody was willing to offer an opinion on what he or she is doing.  
 
Ellen and Mark Tibbles of Center Street were at the party with their daughter Emi. They are newcomers to New Town. They were the first to offer me an opinion that made me realize the frog is not necessarily doing what I thought. I assumed he was running around in a circle, maybe to amuse or impress one of the other frogs in the fountain. But the Tibbles think he is dancing in fountain’s sprays.
 
Virginia and Dick Barch of Charlotte Park recognized the fountain, but had been unaware of the frogs.  However, they had the marvelous insight that the frog is doing Tai Chi!  Kind of like those Zumba sessions in the community pool.
 
Even though Karin and Don McQueen of Chelsea Green have been here only two weeks, they recognized the frog.  They believe he is preparing to belly flop from his upper perch into the bottom bowl of the fountain.
 
Tracy and Jon Waible of New Town Avenue split on whether they had seen the frog before. But their impression leaned again towards dance; possibly a synchronized swimming performance with the other frogs in the fountain.  If you think about it, that would be a super cool thing to watch while sitting on a bench with a frozen yogurt.  
 
And suddenly, the crowd was gone.  But thanks to the folks who talked to me about New Town’s whimsical frog statuary. And thanks to the Activities Committee for putting on another fine event that brought people together from across New Town.
 
  
Posted on August 1, 2019 7:00 AM by Mike Reilly, Activities
Categories: Life in New Town
NTRA’s popular series of Noon Talks will be starting again in September. The Activities Committee has already lined up most of the speakers for the series.  Noon Talks are presented at 12:00 noon at Center Street Grille on the second Wednesday of September, November, January, March and May each year. For your long term planning, the known speakers are listed below.  Be sure to also watch the calendar on the NTRA website to stay current.    
 
Wednesday, Sept 11, 2019 - Joan Peterson, Executive Director, Literacy for Life.  See additional information below.
 
Wednesday, Nov 13, 2019 - Mark Henneman, Director of Marketing & Community Relations, ReStore, Habitat for Humanity.
 
Wednesday, Jan 8, 2020 - Randy Flood, Chief Executive Officer and co-Founder of the American Revolution Consortium for Civic Education talking about Busting Myths of the American Revolution.
 
Wednesday, Mar 11, 2020 open at this time.
 
Wednesday, May 13, 2020 - Joe Jones, Director, W&M Center for Archaeological Research  talking about The Archeological History of Our Own Roper Park.
 
The speaker in September, Joan Peterson, has served as the executive director of Literacy for Life since 2008. As the agency’s first full time employee, Peterson developed the small struggling organization into a nationally recognized, award-winning, 1000+ person operation. Under her leadership three programs have been developed to meet critically important community needs: a health literacy program (HEAL Program), a work skills program (EmployEd), and a school based program for parents who struggle with English literacy (Empowering Parents Program).
 
Peterson has served on numerous state level and local boards and was recently appointed by Governor Northam to the Virginia Board of Workforce Development. She was the 2016 recipient of the Nancy E. Jiranek Award for Outstanding Executive Director and has accepted awards for Outstanding Nonprofit of the Year by the Greater Williamsburg Area Chamber and Tourism Alliance and the Award for Innovation and Collaboration for the HEAL program from ProLiteracy, a thousand member international association. 
Posted on August 1, 2019 7:00 AM by Phil Casey
Categories: Life in New Town
Have you ever found a little brown snake sunning on your sidewalk who then suddenly arches up like it is ready to strike and you wonder to yourself if this is a him-or-me moment?  I have.
 
Have you ever had a big black snake suddenly appear on a trail next to you and have to vault over it because you saw it late and while you’re up in the air you wondered if you can run fast enough to avoid inevitable attack?  I have.
 
If you have too, you need to know your snakes better.  Trevor Long, who works with Stormwater and Resource Protection for JCC, says there are only two confirmed venomous snakes found in our county:   Copperheads and Northern Cottonmouths.  Even these are not abundant, but they are here and need to be treated with caution.  The Virginia Herpetological Society has a useful website to help identify local snakes and understand their characteristics.  This article has hot links to that website associated with the snake names.  Alternatively, you can buy a hard copy guide to Virginia’s snakes from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
 
In general, venomous snakes will have a triangular shaped head, resembling an arrowhead or diamond. Non-venomous snakes will have a rounded or oval head. Also, if you have time to look, venomous snakes have vertical slits as pupils while nonvenomous snakes have circular pupils.
 
Many people in Virginia call almost every snake with a pattern an Eastern Copperhead, so don’t assume a reported sighting is accurate.  Eastern Copperheads have dark colored crossbands, usually shaped like an hourglass.  The Eastern Copperhead is usually motionless and alert but will vibrate its tail when disturbed.  The Society’s website has this recommendation:  “While Copperheads are venomous they are very placid snakes that only bite if stepped on or otherwise threatened. If you see a copperhead, leave it alone and rest assured it will do its best to avoid you.”
 
 
The Northern Cottonmouth is a semiaquatic snake inhabiting lowland habitats such as  swamps, marshes, ditches, streams, and forested habitats adjacent to wet areas. When out of the water, Northern Cottonmouths often lie under vegetation, in grasses, or under boards and other shelters.  Adults will not venture far from water, but juveniles may disperse over long distances. Northern Cottonmouths are not aggressive and may remain in place when approached. They will flatten their bodies, vibrate their tails, elevate their heads about 45°, and open their mouths, exposing the white interior (this is the origin of their common name). They will not hesitate to bite if molested though.
 
A Cottonmouth Snake
 
Harmless snakes are far more common in our area.  Trevor Long lists the following as among those you are most likely to encounter in New Town.
 
 
 
Snakes play a crucial role in our local ecosystem and are a valuable asset. Snakes get rid of many of the nuisance rodents we find in our yards.  Take the Eastern Ratsnake, the most commonly seen snake in Virginia, for example.  It has been documented to prey on mice, voles, squirrels, skinks, and rabbits (plus a bunch of birds you kind of like so I won’t list those.)
 
So if you see a snake on your property, what should you do?  A. Grab a shovel and have it out.  B.  Go inside and refuse to come out until somebody removes it.  C.  Give it space.  More often than not, answering C is sufficient, but if you lean towards B, be aware that it is not a county or state responsibility.  The state website advises as follows:  “Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries staff do not come to your home or property to remove snakes. ....the only other alternative is to contact a pest control company that advertises handling snakes.”
 
Have you ever killed two 6 foot black snakes on the same day you killed five crows?  Yeah.  Neither have I.  But Dave Burket reports his great great grandfather did in 1890.  
 
Posted on August 1, 2019 7:00 AM by Mary Cheston
Categories: Life in New Town
Calling all photographers or those with smartphones, we’d like you to capture images of New Town’s wildlife. Our website now has the capability for adding photo albums. Given the burgeoning population of rabbits and frogs and the adventurous squirrels around the neighborhood, the Communication Committee thought we should highlight some of these critters and the unusual ways they keep us entertained.
 
Below are a few shots to spark your imagination. Just send your photos to our gmail address: ntrawebsitecommittee@gmail.com. Then check the NTRA website starting in mid-August to see what people have witnessed and submitted.  
 
       
Posted on August 1, 2019 7:00 AM by Mary Cheston
Categories: Life in New Town
With the sweltering heat and erratic storms, what better way to pass an afternoon or evening than watching a movie in air-conditioned comfort. Our community has two nearby places to do just that.
 
Both Movie Tavern at High Street and Regal 12 New Town offer specials for children during the summer. Regal 12 shows $1 children’s films on Tuesday mornings at 10:00 AM (called Summer Movie Express).  According to Regal’s Manager, they are generally movies released in the past 18 months.  Movie Tavern has a similar Kids Dream Summer Filmfestival on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday mornings for $3 through August 14.
 
Value pricing is a regular feature at Movie Tavern.  Seniors get a special Young at Heart rate of $6 on matinees Fridays before 5:30 PM. They also show “Timeless Classics” -- popular old musicals and dramatic films at 3PM on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. On Thursdays, any students or faculty with an ID can enjoy free popcorn and a movie for $6. 
Both locations have special reduced prices all day Tuesday to draw in customers - $5 at Movie Tavern, $5 for Regal members with a membership card. 
 
What about viewing live performances?  Several Fathom Events will be coming to Movie Tavern including two Metropolitan operas, documentaries on comedian Kathy Griffin, “Live with Margaret Atwood,” and on 9/11 a documentary on Gander, Newfoundland entitled “You Are Here.” 
 
As for what movies are coming up and how early you can plan your weekend, New Town Regal is only notified of their bookings on Wednesday. Their corporate office makes decisions on what to show based on weekly receipts. Because New Town is a smaller, 12 screen venue, films will rotate out quicker if new releases are expected to be popular. Marcus Theaters publishes upcoming release dates on their Movie Tavern website. If it seems that both locations show similar films, that’s a corporate headquarters decision as well.
 
So take advantage of having these theaters close by and check out their websites/apps to see what deals are available. 
Posted on July 1, 2019 7:00 AM by Phil Casey
Categories: Life in New Town

Meet Aliaya Blair and Arturo Sosa, two of the lifeguards taking shifts at the New Town pool this summer.  They are part of a larger team of lifeguards (in fact, Aliaya and Arturo have an apartment for the summer with two other lifeguards) that may draw assignments at our pool, but also may work shifts at Stone Hill, Green Springs or other area pools. 

 

Aliaya is studying pharmacy in her native Jamaica.  She lives in St. Catherine Parish, not far from Kingston.  She attends the University of West Indies, where she has three years remaining.  

 

She has been to the US several times before to visit relatives in NY, NJ and OH.  When she visits, her favorite thing in the US that is unavailable in Jamaica is Dunkin’ Donuts doughnuts  

 

Arturo is in the US for the first time this summer.  He is from the Dominican Republic.  He had been in Williamsburg only about two weeks at the time of our interview but he is already liking it.  He had also spent time in MD for training.  He too mentions food (pizza and Chick Fil-A) as significant attractions of being in the US.

 

Arturo is studying medicine.  He has two and half years left at university, but at 22, it seems likely he will have many years of additional training left to reach his goal of being an MD.  While in the US, he plans to get up to New York City to visit an uncle before returning home.  

 

When asked what safety rules they want to emphasize, both Aliaya and Arturo say first, “No running.”  Arturo adds, “No diving.”  The classics. 

 

Enjoy the pool. Be safe.  Share something cold with a lifeguard.

 

  

Aliaya

 

 

Arturo

Posted on July 1, 2019 7:00 AM by Phil Casey
Categories: Life in New Town

In the heart of New Town, flanking Sullivan Square, are two condominium buildings:  The Bennington on the Park and Foundation Square.  Each building has its own governance board, and at the heart of those are two residents successfully working to beautify New Town.  Barbara Stratton owns and lives at The Bennington while Jim Kavitz is at Foundation Square.  They exemplify the willingness to get involved that it takes to keep New Town an exceptional community.  

Jim and Barbara

 

Barbara and Jim did not know each other until Town Management sought the involvement of both in a project to improve the landscaping at the entrances for Courthouse Street and New Town Avenue.  This spring, many new plants were added to these entrances, selected for their deer and drought resistance as well as their added color.  After this success, Jim (and other active residents including two master gardeners) continued working with Barbara on mutual projects and advocating for the beautification of New Town.  Sometimes it is the small things, like sharing tools, advice on hardy plants and commercial sources.  Other times, they think bigger about targets of opportunity in common areas like the Spring project at the entrances. 

 

At Foundation Square, the residents have been particularly diligent in using gardening to enhance life there.  The Crier did a story in October 2017 about the extensive garden of vegetables, herbs and fruits they maintain for the enjoyment of all New Town children.  They have long augmented the basic maintenance funded by the New Town Commercial Association by buying and installing additional plants around the building.  

 

Meanwhile, across the street at the Bennington, the basic landscaping was showing its age and had never been enhanced, but then their fee structure did not include such enhancements.  Barbara found support from her board to fund new plants to improve the two entrances at The Bennington.  That work has been recently executed.  The formal entrance to The Bennington building is beautifully enhanced with the professional landscape design, provided by Coleman Nursery. 

 

New Color Added This Year at the Bennington

 

Opposite, cascading vines and vivid color set off the entire front of Foundation Square, creating eye appeal for the street-side businesses and the condo residents.  Through the addition of literally thousands of plants, the residents have color throughout the year.  In the spring time, they even organize their own Daffodil Festival Day.  Together, the landscaping color at The Bennington and Foundation Square brilliantly frames Sullivan Square with crepe myrtles and roses in bloom. 

 

 

Color Across the Foundation Square Front

 

As an aside, while working on this article, I learned something about the homeowners’ association for both buildings.  Condo owners pay fees to the Commercial Association, not NTRA.  While the Commercial Association has an agreement with NTRA to allow the condo owners to access the pool and social events, the landscaping at the buildings is not an NTRA function.  The landscaping efforts described above are funded as part of their own operations, but contribute to the beautification of all of New Town.  

 

Neighbors making something happen together!  Thanks to Barbara and Jim.  

 

 

Posted on July 1, 2019 7:00 AM by Mike Reilly, Activities
Categories: Life in New Town
Posted on July 1, 2019 7:00 AM by June Dawkins
Categories: Life in New Town

As Williamsburg area residents, we are familiar with the significance of the part of Virginia we call home. The Historic Triangle is one of the premier national sites for Colonial American history.  But did you know that a site of historical importance can be found right here in New Town? 

Take a stroll through our own Roper Homestead Park at the intersection of Casey Boulevard and Center Street and you will find historical markers identifying the parcel as the site of the Roper Homestead.  In 1990 and again in 2004, New Town Associates (NTA), LLC, commissioned studies by the William and Mary Center for Archeological Research (WMCAR) as part of their permit application for development in New Town.  Archeologists found the remains of two buildings and artifacts, including various quantities of kitchen and serving ware, nails, as well as oyster shells and animal bones on the site.  They placed the time of occupation as roughly between 1800 and 1850. This corresponds to the eras known as the Early National Period (1789-1830) and the Antebellum Period (1830-1860). What is particularly important is that the structural remains and artifacts found have been relatively undisturbed and not superseded by other uses and time periods.

 

Kitchen Excavation at Roper Homestead Park

 

The post-Colonial period in Tidewater Virginia is an understudied timeframe. After the American Revolution, James City County experienced a period of significant decline. In 1796, British architect Benjamin Latrobe, of US Capitol fame, toured the area and remarked on the extent of the “poverty and decay” throughout the Peninsula. Between the late 1780s and 1820, after the capital was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond, JCC population declined by 42 percent as crops failed and the average landholding gradually decreased with the sale and division of plantations.

Given the undeveloped nature of the Roper property and the availability of historical records allowing identification of previous occupants, the site provides a rare opportunity to examine habitation over time. Nearly all of JCC’s records were destroyed in Richmond during the Civil War, but some court records, including land tax entries, were prepared in duplicate, allowing ownership to be traced locally.  

Indications are the Roper tract was a relatively modest farmstead. The earliest record appears in 1803 when Randolph Roper was first assessed for 615 acres with some type of building valued at $1058. By 1820, the property was reassessed at $2146.  The assessments of personal property also document Roper’s rising prosperity during the period, counter to the prevailing economic conditions. In 1803, Roper was taxed for one slave, age 16 or older, and a two-wheeled carriage. By the time of his death in 1822/23, records show that he owned 4 horses and a carriage valued at $50 and that there were 8 slaves on the homestead.  

By 1826, the property had been divided among his heirs and eight individuals appear on the tax records. Only the tract of Ann Roper, who was possibly his wife, includes a building valuation. Ann transferred her tract to a John T. James in 1833. The lack of records showing him farming the land could indicate that Ann continued to work the farm as part of life occupancy rights. Crops would have included corn, wheat, oats, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Butter production, wool, cattle and pigs would also have been part of a mixed farm.   

After the 1850 census, the building valuation decreased dramatically. In 1851, the land tax assessment of structures was only $100. This could indicate loss of property through fire or demolition or a change in use of the property.  Subsequent ownership of Jones heirs, followed by the Darling and Taliaferro families, are less historically significant, although there are records from 1912 showing P B Taliaferro commissioning a survey in advance of planning a subdivision. In 1919, Clarence Casey and four other family members purchased the land that would eventually become New Town and held it until it was deeded to Carlton and Calvin Casey in 1962.

In 2004, the Roper site was designated eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. A 2005 interpretive and archeological management plan was commissioned by NTA LLC from WMCAR to provide guidance on how best to preserve the site as green space with public interpretation of the site’s archeological resources, leading to Roper Homestead Park as it appears today.

Editor’s Note:  The New Town Activities Committee is in discussions with Joe B. Jones, MA, Director of WMCAR, which provided the information for this article, to speak about the Roper tract and its history at a future Noon Talk. Stay tuned!

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