The Colonial Parkway to Jamestown

Jamestown Travel Blog

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James River

Saturday was our day to return to visiting historical sites and visit Jamestown. The Colonial Parkway, linking Williamsburg with Jamestown and Yorktown, is the scenic way to get there. The Colonial Parkway was completed in 1957 to mark Jamestown's 350th anniversary. It's designed for pleasure driving and is an unusual road in many respects: three unmarked lanes (the center for passing) with a concrete/gravel mix surface rather than tarmac that results in a light tan color and a buzzing sound as you drive it. It's also one of the few roads in the USA to have distances marked in kilometers.

Jamestown Settlement
  The drive leaves Williamsburg via a tunnel under the Historic Area and then heads straight for the shoreline, following it to Jamestown. The Parkway has several scenic pull-offs along the way with interpretive signs and labels. ("Neck O'Land" is my favorite of these.) After 10 miles (17 km) the Parkway ends at a fork in the road. To the left is Historic Jamestowne, a National Historic Site and the site of the 1607 Jamestown colony.  To the right is the Jamestown Settlement with its museum and living history displays.

We planned to visit the Jamestown Settlement to see the new and revised exhibits installed for the 400th anniversary of Jamestown's founding in 1607. What is Jamestown, Virginia, you wonder.

Jamestown Settlement entrance
 On 14 May 1607, an expedition from England landed right here and founded what was to become the first permanent English-speaking settlement in North America. The settlement, initially led by Captain John Smith, was founded by the Virginia Company of London as a commercial enterprise. Eventually, the settlement grew and evolved into the Virginia Colony with the first representative government in the Americas. Wrapped up in this story are the encounter with members of the Native American Pamunkey people (including Pocahontas) who were already living in the vicinity, the search for a money-making crop that led to tobacco farming, and the first African slaves, brought by Dutch slave traders in 1619.

 

The Jamestown Settlement museum began in 1957 as Jamestown Festival Park.

350th Anniversary monument from 1957
It has been greatly expanded and augmented. I would venture to say that you gain a better understanding of Jamestown and the Virginia Colony and their significance in United States history (and place in world history) here than you do by visiting the remains of the actual site. 

 

Susan and I wanted to tour the museum displays and especially to see the temporary exhibit "The World of 1607." This was a most fascinating exhibit. It put the founding of Jamestown in a global context, bringing together world events ranging from the Ottoman Empire expansion and the Time of Troubles in Russia to scientific exchange between the Islamic world and Europe and the development of navigational tools to European trade with sub-Saharan Africa.

 

From there, we went through the main exhibits that examine the three cultures that came together in Virginia in the 17th century: Native American, English, and African.

Map of the 1607 voyage
Presently, dd called us. She and bf had gone on the by themselves and they were ready to see the village and fort living history areas. So, we met up at the outside courtyard and walked on to the Powhatan village. Pamunkey reenactors were demonstrating making clothing from deerskin amid the replica yehakin dwellings and fire circles. Further down the path was the replica of Jamestown Fort and the famous three ships. There have been several replicas made of Susan Constant, Discovery, and Godspeed, the three ships that brought the Virginia Company explorers to this spot. Visitors are often surprised by the size of the ships. They are very small for what you imagine was needed for sailing across the Atlantic. You hear comments like: "Why didn't they build them full size?" "They don't look like pirate ships you see in movies."  But, they are indeed full size replicas. Jamestown Fort is a replica of the stockade settlement. You learn that it is similar in triangular design to English outposts of the period built in Ireland.
Recreated Powhatan village
Several reenactors were on hand to tell of their clothing and weapons. Naturally, I had to take many photos at all these locations. On they way back, I stopped again at the Powhatan village. A group of chickens was making a commotion and a Pamunkey reenactor complained to me that the "English chickens" had come again from Jamestown to eat up their corn. (She also explained that in reality, the nearest village had been quite some distance from Jamestown.)

 

Meeting up back at the car, it was 12:30 and time to proceed across the James River for lunch in Surry. We soon were on board the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry, always a pleasant mini-cruise. The ferry goes right by Historic Jamestowne, the National Park Service site.  We could easily see the statue of Captain John Smith, the monument from 1907, and the ruins of Jamestown church located there.

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James River
James River
Jamestown Settlement
Jamestown Settlement
Jamestown Settlement entrance
Jamestown Settlement entrance
350th Anniversary monument from 19…
350th Anniversary monument from 1…
Map of the 1607 voyage
Map of the 1607 voyage
Recreated Powhatan village
Recreated Powhatan village
Powhattan reenactor cures a deersk…
Powhattan reenactor cures a deers…
Powhattan reenactor works a deersk…
Powhattan reenactor works a deers…
Powhattan reenactors at the village
Powhattan reenactors at the village
James Fort replica
James Fort replica
Jamestown stockade
Jamestown stockade
Jamestown settler
Jamestown settler
Jamestown replica
Jamestown replica
Jamestown musketeer
Jamestown musketeer
Replica of Godspeed
Replica of Godspeed
Replica of Susan Constant
Replica of Susan Constant
On the ferry to Surry
On the ferry to Surry
Replica ships from the ferry
Replica ships from the ferry
Historic Jamestowne (national park…
Historic Jamestowne (national par…
Jamestown Sights & Attractions review
Colonists and Native Americans at Jamestown Settlement
Jamestown Settlement is a living history museum that portrays the encounter between the 17th century Jamestown colonists and the Native Americans who … read entire review
Jamestown Sights & Attractions review
Jamestown-Scotland Ferry
The Jamestown-Scotland Ferry connects historic Jamestown, Virginia, and all of Virginia‚Äôs "Historic Triangle" (Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown… read entire review
Jamestown
photo by: spocklogic