The Virginia Council established Port Royal as a port on the Rappahannock River in 1744. Richard Taliaferro surveyed the town and laid it out on a grid with twelve square blocks that survive virtually intact. This small town was an international port for the tobacco trade and campaigned to become the national capital in the 1780s. Somnolence arrived when the railroads bypassed it. Architects for the Williamsburg restoration found it a particularly attractive source of precedents for their work in the colonial capital. The town retains an important concentration of more than thirty eighteenthand early nineteenth-century buildings, in spite of substantial losses since the 1930s. King Street (U.S. 301) runs north-south and ends at the river, while Water Street parallels the river.
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