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Colonial America

Places and Buildings in Town


One of the first buildings built in many colonial American towns was the meetinghouse. The meetinghouse served both as the Puritan church and as the meeting place for the citizens to discuss issues and make plans. Everyone in the town was responsible for helping to build and maintain the meetinghouse.

The Courthouse in Williamsburg
The Courthouse in Williamsburg
Photo by Ducksters

Larger cities would often have a courthouse where the local judge would oversee disputes and punish crimes. After hearing the evidence and testimony, the judge would quickly make his ruling and any punishments could be carried out immediately.


The gaol was the town jail. The word "gaol" is pronounced just like "jail." People were held in the gaol while they awaited their trials or punishment. Prisoners might include criminals, debtors, and runaway slaves.


The magazine was a building designed to hold the town's weapons including muskets, swords, pikes, and gunpowder. The magazine was often a stone or brick building to help make it fireproof as it stored the town's gunpowder.

Colonial magazine building
The Magazine in Williamsburg
Photo by Ducksters

The church was often the center of the town. Everyone in the town was expected, sometimes by law, to attend church on Sunday. Churches in Colonial America were generally fairly simple buildings.

Post Office

Major towns would have a post office where mail could be sent between the colonies. The mail was slow and unreliable at first, but was much improved by the late 1700s. The post office usually was home to the town printer and newspaper. It was a great place to get the latest news and learn what was going on in the region.


Most larger towns had a number of taverns. Taverns were places to get a cooked meal and a drink. They were also important meeting places. Men would go to the tavern after work to discuss business and politics. A lot of plans for the American Revolution were made by patriots in taverns across the colonies.

Governor's House

Each colony had a special house where the governor lived. This was usually the largest home in the town. The governor's home was where town leaders often met to discuss issues and make new laws.

Entrance to Governor's home in Williamsburg
The Governor's Palace in Williamsburg
Photo by Ducksters

Market Square

At the center of the town was often a large open square where people could meet and trade goods. Farmers could set up booths to sell produce and small merchants could peddle their goods. Major outdoor events took place at the market square including holiday celebrations and athletic contests.


The coffeehouse was sort of an elite form of the tavern. Only gentlemen were allowed inside the coffeehouse where they would drink mostly non-alcoholic beverages such as coffee, tea, and chocolate. It was a place where wealthy and educated men made business deals and discussed intellectual topics.

Stores at Williamsburg
Colonial Shops
Photo by Ducksters

Colonial towns had plenty of shops to buy all sorts of items such as shoes, tools, food, candles, clothing, paper, and furniture. Most shops specialized in one area like the wigmaker who made custom wigs or the apothecary who made medicines.

Interesting Facts about Places in a Colonial Town Activities To learn more about Colonial America:

Colonies and Places
Lost Colony of Roanoke
Jamestown Settlement
Plymouth Colony and the Pilgrims
The Thirteen Colonies

Daily Life
Clothing - Men's
Clothing - Women's
Daily Life in the City
Daily Life on the Farm
Food and Cooking
Homes and Dwellings
Jobs and Occupations
Places in a Colonial Town
Women's Roles
William Bradford
Henry Hudson
James Oglethorpe
William Penn
John Smith
Roger Williams

French and Indian War
King Philip's War
Mayflower Voyage
Salem Witch Trials

Timeline of Colonial America
Glossary and Terms of Colonial America

Works Cited

History >> Colonial America

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