Williamsburg, a city of Virginia, and formerly its capital, county seat of James City co., about 50 m. E. S. E. of Richmond, and about the same distance from the Atlantic ocean at the mouth of Chesapeake bay; pop. in 1870, 1,392, of whom 499 were colored. It is on an elevated plateau in the peninsula between the York and James rivers, about 4 m. from the former and 3 m. from the latter. The city consists of three streets nearly parallel with each other. It is the seat of the eastern lunatic asylum of Virginia, established by act of the colonial assembly in 1769 and opened in 1773. This is the oldest institution of the kind in the country. There are two public schools (one male and one female) for each race, and Baptist, Episcopal, and Methodist churches. The Episcopal church edifice dates from 1678, and is still in good repair. The college of William and Mary is adjacent to the city. (See William and Mary, College OF.) - In 1699 an act of the general assembly was passed directing the building of the capitol and the city of Williamsburg (so named from William III.) at the "middle plantation," and giving the governor power to incorporate the city.
Several parts of this act not having been executed, it was reenacted with additions in 1705. The charter was dated July 28, 1722. The seat of government having been removed from Jamestown in 1700, the general assembly met in the college till the completion of the capitol in 1704, and again from 1748 to 1752, while the capitol, which had been burned, was rebuilt. In 1780, in pursuance of an act of 1779, the seat of government was removed to Richmond. The governor's house or palace, completed after 1710, was burned in 1781. The capitol was again burned soon after 1830. A battle was fought here between a portion of the federal forces under Gen. McClellan and the confederates, May 5, 1862. (See Chickahominy).