I had a very adventurous Presidents Day weekend! On Sunday we were blessed with a sunny warm, 40*F day here in Virginia, and we decided to go explore the nearby historical site of the first English settlement in the U.S, Historic Jamestowne. Taking advantage of the Fee-Free weekend the National Park Service had! This story unfortunately does not include lightsabers, I’ll explain the mention later, but instead bows, matchlock muskets, ships, and archeological remains. I should mention, this is not a post explaining the history of this area or people, but of how I did some exploring and learning at the same time!
We started out by exploring the Colonial Parkway, which is a twenty-three mile scenic roadway connecting three historical sites together; Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown. It was created in 1957, and the speed limit is only 45 miles per hour. A gorgeous drive it was!
When you first arrive into the area of the Jamestown Island, you encounter the Jamestown Settlement which was created by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundations, an educational institution of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I must recommend, if you have the money, to visit this place! It is so amazingly done! The exhibits/galleries were done very well, it looks great, as well as transports you to a different place. If being in a visitor center/gallery doesn’t do it for you, continue on to the living history section outside. Where they have replicas and re-creations of James Fort, a Powhatan Indian Village, and the three ships that brought the settlers! The costumed Historical Interpreters did a wonderful job, and I really, really want to someday be a living-history interpreter!
Unfortunately they do not allow photography inside the museum exhibits and galleries.
The Powhatan Indian Village
James Fort (1610-14)
My absolute favorite part of the trip, and probably the time I learned the most, was during the living-history tour of the ships replicas. I was surprised at the how small they were. For some reason, as I searched my brain for any remembrance of Jamestown in a history class, I thought the ships were bigger! What’s also neat is that they are open to the public, and you can go on board and explore! The ships, Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery (listed largest to smallest), are all real ships that the “crew members/interpreters” sail. Unfortunately the Susan Constant, the largest ship was not present do to some regular maintenance being performed. The crew members actually sail the ships to different areas on the east coast for school field trips. In the fall they are heading to Philadelphia!
After the tour, to return to the museum, we had to walk back through the James Fort, and we came upon an interesting interaction. One of the little boys in our tour group had a plastic lightsaber with him. Looks like he wanted to try a real sword!
Larry, the interpreter: “Now don’t swing that around like your lightsaber bud!”
It was now time to head to the actual physical location of the James Fort and settlement! (Handy it was just down the road a bit!) We then entered the Colonial National Historical Park Jamestown, which is a joint operation between the National Park Service and Preservation Virginia. Once inside, you can begin a three or five mile Island Drive to learn more about the environment settlers had encountered, and the early history of Jamestown Island. Or begin a historic walking tour through the 1607 James Fort, the remains of the 1600s Church Tower, and through some of the brick replicas (showing foundations) of the New Towne. The visitor center at the beginning is by the National Park Service, and was done nicely as well. However, very poor lighting, so I didn’t get very good pictures. I did enjoy the timeline they had across a large portion of the wall, it helped make sense of all the information we had received so far. Farther inside the park, near the fort footprints, is the Voorhees Archaearium, where you can see more artifacts found from the site, as well as some insight to the life of a settler. There is no photography allowed inside due to some of the artifacts.
The Island Drive
The Visitor Center Exhibits: The ships shown below are the Susan Constant and the Discovery, to help scale with before!
The Tercentenary Monument
Created for the 300th anniversary in 1907.
Below Left: A statue of John Smith was erected in 1909 in remembrance.
“He was an arrogant and boastful man, often tactless and sometimes brutal. Physically strong and worldly wise, he made an excellent settler.” “On September 10, 1608 the Council elected him Governor of Virginia for a one-year term. He was an able leader who understood both the Indians and the settler’s needs and the colony prospered.”
*Not quite what Disney portrays eh? We won’t dig into that! Haha!
Below Right: The Backstreete through the New Towne area. Noticed by the mounds and ditches on the side for drainage, and trash.
The Ambler House Ruins and the view from in front of the house, located in the New Towne.Below Left: The Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium on the left side of the picture, looking out towards James Fort.
Below Right: In the center of the James Fort site is a recreated model of what Archeologists have found.
To help outline the James Fort, they rebuilt the walls by placing the wooden posts in the exact holes they found.
A very sad note is that some of the James Fort is already been lost to erosion and the James River.
To find out more about any of the sites/places I spoke about, please check out the links I added throughout the post, or check them out here!
Jamestown Settlement– The Commonwealth of Virginia
Historic Jamestowne– National Park Service
Historic Jamestowne– Preservation Virginia
Climate Change and Jamestown– National Parks Traveler