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Time travel, American style
By Benjamin Daniel M’05

His knee britches, waistcoat and tri-corn hat suit Wellington Watts ’88, M’97 remarkably well. His American colonial fashion statement is a work requirement—and a state of mind. “I love taking people back in time, teaching them about the past and connecting them to it.”

The owner and operator of Alexandria Colonial Tours in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, Watts didn’t expect to spend so much time in the 1700s. “I earned my master’s degree in public relations but found that my love for history was stronger than my passion for PR.”

However, Watts’ studies in history and communications eventually came together. He held various jobs between his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and moved to historic Alexandria in 1994 to join communication briefings, a newsletter established by Rowan faculty Don Bagin and Frank Grazian.

Surrounded by colonial architecture and lore, Watts filled his free time with a side job. “I thought being a tour guide would allow me to indulge my passion for history,” he said. “It seemed like fun. My education helped ensure the accuracy of my presentations and, ultimately, the delivery of a better product to my audiences.”

Watts proved to be a worthy successor to the tour business’ owners. “Following my two years as a tour guide, they offered to sell me the business,” he said. He still gives tours, but also employs 15 contracted guides.

Watts’ tours include lantern-lit walks through Old Town Alexandria with stops at a number of historic sites, including some reportedly haunted buildings. He says the ghost tour is the most popular. “If I tell the story really well, it gives my guests a shiver. But the Holiday Lights tour is my favorite,” admits Watts. “The decorations, the lights—it’s beautiful, it’s Christmas-y.”

Last fall the Travel Channel featured Watts’ tours in a segment when “the Alexandria Convention and Visitors’ Association recommended Alexandria Colonial Tours as an ‘exemplary organization,’” he says proudly. He has also earned exposure in national and local press including Southern Living magazine and The Washington Post.

Hard work and his Rowan education have made his business a success, he says. “Dr. Bagin and Professor Fulginiti imparted an excellent business sense and taught me the true value of customer service,” he says. “The history department grew my love for the past and taught me to respect and learn from it.”

An avid student, Watts learns more and offers more to his guests, including the new Women’s History Tour of the Capital and his offerings in Washington, D.C. and Alexandria focused on African American history.

With little free time, Watts admits that he doesn’t venture far for his own sightseeing. “I thoroughly enjoy places like Williamsburg, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.,” he says. “And it’s reassuring to see someone else wear knee britches once in a while.”

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