It’s a stretch to imagine that this country village was once animated with knights, maidens, minstrels and jesters. The music of penny whistles and steinfulls of ale made day and night merry. Now, fifteen years later, a ghost town is all that testifies to a short-lived effort to recreate Renaissance England in the Old Dominion.
There’s been a lot written about Virginia’s abandoned Renaissance Faire (on the DCist and Lucent Moments blogs, for instance). The venture was an investment gone bad, an Elizabethan town built in the mid-1990s on a less-than-ideal site. This Renaissance Faire became mired in muck and debt after a few spells of nasty weather and went belly-up.
But all the lasses and lads who pine for that bygone era when chivalry ruled the day are still in luck. The Virginia Renaissance Faire simply packed up and moved 25 miles southwest to the Lake Anna Winery.
Of course, the buildings stayed in Merrie Olde, er, Fredericksburg, and now all that Elizabethan architecture lies rotting in the woods–thatched roofs, half-timbered facades and overhanging stories; dormers, turrets, masonry. An especially odd twist is all the modern hardware that once hid behind-the-scenes in this recreated town, indicating that fair-goers didn’t forsake all the twentieth century creature comforts: ye olde springe matresse, refrigeratour, fyre hydrante.
The site is poised for another radical transformation. It’s for sale and being advertised as suitable for heavy industry. Although it has been on the market for some time, the tendrils of suburban Fredericksburg’s development creep closer by the year, improving the old parcel’s prospects.
Don’t even think of visiting the abandoned Renaissance Faire; you could be ticketed (trespassing is illegal) or shot (no, really, the property is leased to hunters). Your best bet is to visit it vicariously through the photos here or at any of the other places online people have posted images. There’s even a pretty cool aerial tour video of the site Joseph Mitchell took with a drone. That way you can enjoy this odd attraction without the threat of the sheriff burning you at the stake.
“To hear the tales told at night-time hearths you would think we had made a whole new country in Britain, named it Camelot and peopled it with shining heroes, but the truth is that we simply ruled Dumnonia as best we could, we ruled it justly and we never called it Camelot. Camelot exists only in the poets’ dreams, while in our Dumnonia, even in those good years, the harvests still failed, the plagues still ravaged us and wars were still fought.” -Bernard Cornwell, Enemy of God