Jamestowne at Colonial National Historical Park

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Quick Overview

This is the audio-only described version of the official National Park Service brochure for Historic Jamestowne, which is part of Colonial National Historical Park.  This brochure has paintings, photographs, and text that give an overview of the history of Historic Jamestowne, and includes three maps. 

Side one, presents a large color illustration of the activities and the town in the 1600s. Text describes the scene. Additional text and two photographs at the bottom of this side provide information about the park today. 

Side two goes into more detail about the park’s history and the Jamestown settlement. This story is told through text, a map, photographs, drawings, and artifacts. At the bottom of this side are two park maps and information about touring Historic Jamestowne. 

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Text: Jamestown: A Glimpse Into the Past

A quote is presented as the title for introductory text about the park’s story. This and additional text is presented on top of a color painting that makes up most of side one of the brochure. The text here and on the brochure provides the descriptive details of the painting. Extended description of the painting is under its own title.

Quote: “A verie fit place for the erecting of a great cittie”

Text: Jamestown never became the “great cittie” John Smith envisioned in 1608, but this small colonial settlement did enable England to establish a permanent presence in North America and plant a culture that would shape a nation. 

Even though it was the center of government and Virginia’s main port of entry, James ­town had few residen­ces—mostly ordinaries or taverns—by the 1660s, the period depicted here. Its residents were mostly officials and their families, merchants, inn­keep­ers, indentured servants, and slaves. In the foreground [left] newly arrived servants talk to their master. An inspector examines tobacco at the warehouse as his work­ers, servants, and slaves roll hogs­heads to a newly ar­­rived English merchant ship for the return voyage to England. Planters down the street look over newly arrived African slaves. Idlers watch the activity from a tavern, one of several cater­ing to those in town on business. Farther downriver, workers drive pil­ings for a new wharf, and the lyme­burner roasts oyster shells to make lime for mor­tar. Most brick construction of the period was for dwellings (as in the rowhouse in the background). Other brick structures were inns or government buildings. In the distance farm buildings, orchards, pastures, and crops have replaced the forest that covered Jamestown Island before the colonists moved inland.

The merchant above [upper right foreground] shows his wares, includ­ing the plate shown at right. The tavern maidservant carries the Bellarmine jug at right [three artifacts in the lower right foreground arranged in a cluster]. The plate, jug, and two-handled pitcher were found in archeological excavations at Jamestown.

Illustration credit: NPS/ Keith Rocco

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Extended Painting Description

This painting is of the waterfront of New Town Jamestown as it may have looked in the 17th century. To the right and in the background is the James River with an English Merchant ship in port. The ship and its unfurled masts are only partially visible. On the shore and in front of the ship is a brown wooden warehouse building. An inspector examines tobacco outside of the warehouse. His workers, servants, and slaves roll barrels of tobacco unto the English merchant ship. In front of the warehouse, a dirt road travels along the shoreline of the James River. Two dogs walk on the road and wooden houses are to the left of it and in the background.

In the left foreground, are the newly arrived male and female servants who talk to two male masters. The servants are dressed in plain brown 17th-century garb while the two masters are dressed in finer, green and yellow clothing with decorative features, such as large trimmed collars. One man’s hat has a feather plume in the back.

Behind this group and on the road is a wagon filled with bricks and pulled by a man and two oxen. To the left and on the side of the road, a man relaxes on a bench in front of a fence and outside of a tavern. He holds a pipe and a mug and watches the activity on the dirt road.

Behind the fence in the tavern yard, a young man wearing a 17th-century white work shirt draws water from a well with a bucket. Close to the door of the tavern, one woman holds a mug and another holds a wine jug.

Behind the tavern scene and about midway in the painting down the dirt road, are two well-dressed planters. One is on horseback and one stands. They look over four newly arrived African slaves. Two slaves are female and two are male.

Farther downriver, two workers use a 17th-century pile driver powered by an ox to drive pilings for a new wharf. Two workers use a lime burner to roast oyster shells to make lime for mortar.

In the foreground on the right, a seated merchant wearing a work shirt, hat, and a work apron, shows his pottery to three prospective buyers. Two are women and one is a gentleman. The merchant’s pottery features a yellow plate, a tan-colored, two-handled pitcher, and a brown wine jug. A photo of the actual plate, jug, and two-handled pitcher found in archaeological excavations at Jamestown is placed in the bottom right corner of the painting. The yellow plate is decorated with a brown flower pattern which surrounds the flat lip of the plate and continues in a circular pattern within the plate’s shallow, rounded main portion.

Illustration credit: NPS/ Keith Rocco

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Text: Visiting Jamestown Today

The Park Today:

In 1893 Preservation Virginia acquired 22.5 acres on Jamestown Island, including the Old Church Tower. In 1930 Colonial National Monument (now a national historical park) was established to include Jamestown, Yorktown, and a parkway to connect sites marking the beginning and end of British colonial experience in America. The National Park Service acquired the rest of the 1,500-acre island in 1934 and jointly administers Jamestown with Preservation Virginia. An entrance fee is charged. Service animals are welcome.  

At the Jamestown Visitor Center a 15-minute film and exhibits recount the story of the English settlement at Jamestown. The Voorhees Archaearium features artifacts from the archeological investigations of the 1607 James Fort by Jamestown Rediscovery, a Preservation Virginia research project. There are two museum stores.

Food is available at the Dale House Café. Williamsburg and Yorktown offer food and lodging and have gas stations (there are none along Colonial Parkway). Private campgrounds are nearby.

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Photo: The Paths of New Towne

Photo caption: The quiet paths of New Towne [pictured] come alive in the scene depicted above [painting of the 1600s].

Photo description: At the left of the photo, a path parallels a wooden split rail fence with several tall trees along the inside of the fence. The path winds off in a leftward curve. In the background, trees line the water’s edge of the James River. In the right foreground of the photo, another path cuts diagonally into the path on the left. Grass fills in the areas around both paths. Behind the path on the right are more trees and a bench that faces the river in the background.

Photo credit: NPS

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Text: Safety

For your safety, please observe posted speed limits. Do not feed wildlife. Keep on the paths and watch your children. Stay away from the river; it is deep even near the shoreline. Do not walk or stand on the fragile ruins.

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OVERVIEW: For More Information

Preservation Virginia:

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Text: Remembering Jamestown

Beginning with the Grand National Jubilee in 1807 and regularly since then, the founding of Jamestown has been marked with commemorations. The 1857 event featured a speech by former U.S. President John Tyler, fireworks, and a great ball. The 300th anniversary in 1907 included a major exposition in Norfolk, Va., with a dedication ceremony at Jamestown for the newly constructed Memorial Church and Tercentenary Monument (right). The 350th anniversary in 1957 was highlighted by the visit of Queen Elizabeth II at the Jamestown Festival and the completion of Colonial Parkway and visitor facilities on Jamestown Island.

The 400th anniversary in 2007 was commemorated with improvements like the Archaearium; a visitor center and a research center; and events throughout the year to highlight America’s beginnings, including a return visit by Queen Elizabeth II.

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Photo: The Tercentenary Monument

Photo caption: The Tercentenary Monument commemorates Jamestown's 300th anniversary.

Photo description: The 103 foot obelisk Tercentenary Monument has the morning sun shining on it with green trees around it and the James River in the background. The monument is built with plain, white colored granite blocks with a triangle shape stone on top. Around the four-sided base of the obelisk are carved eagles and text with the history of the founding of Jamestown.

Photo credit: NPS

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Text: Historic Jamestowne: The Beginning

A leap of historical imagination is needed to see the human face of Jamestown as it existed 400 years ago. The place has become a national icon whose meaning is entangled with the legend of Pocahontas and John Smith. We begin to appreciate the true legacy of Virginia’s first capital when we understand its role in English colonization, the growth of representative government, and questions concerning African Americans, slavery, and American Indian policies. These major themes of American history had their beginnings at Jamestown.

It is hard to overstate just how desperate the early years were at Jamestown. By 1619 disease and malnutrition had taken all but 1,000 of those who had come to Virginia, and those threats ravaged the population for the next five years. While poor leadership, an unhealthy environment, the worst drought in 800 years, and conflict with the Powhatan tribes played a part, the nature of the enterprise weakened the settlement. For its backers, the Virginia Company of London, this was a business venture to exploit Virginia’s natural resources. 

Life was never easy here, but over the decades there was progress. Although men at first outnumbered women by three to one, in time family life took root. After the imposition of a harsh military government forced the settlers into self-sufficiency, the people found a product that would underpin the colony’s economic future—tobacco. Cultivated by John Rolfe (an English settler who married Pocahontas in 1614), the lucrative tobacco plant established the character of Jamestown and the colony for the rest of the 1600s. Most people arriving in Virginia had one thing in mind: buy land (or get 50 free acres for buying their own passage—called a “headright”) and plant tobacco. In the rush for land Jamestown became a place where people stayed until they could move out along the region’s tidewater rivers. At first the labor force consisted of indentured servants who had to work out their time before establishing their own farms. Over the decades the demand for a permanent labor force led to the growing use of enslaved workers from the West Indies and Africa. Given the swings in tobacco prices, boom and bust proved the rule, with economic stability provided by the town’s role as a port of entry and host to officials in town for the General Assembly.

Jamestown’s growth from precarious commercial outpost to colonial port and administrative center was an early step in the greatest migration in modern history. Over the next 300 years, tens of millions of European, African, and Asian peoples arrived on American shores to begin their lives anew.

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Map: English and American Indian Communities in Virginia, 1607–1635

Map description: This map is on the upper right side of side two of the brochure. It shows the southeastern region of Virginia located at the lower portion of the Chesapeake Bay which feeds into the Atlantic Ocean. The map represents an area that is 80 x 50 miles. It shows the area south of the James River; the peninsula, which is located between the James River and the York River; the middle peninsula, which is located north of the York River; and the southern part of the Eastern Shore of Virginia located east of the Chesapeake Bay.

The map shows where American Indian villages, English settlements and English forts were located between the years 1607-1635. The American Indian villages are represented by red squares. There are 13 of them scattered at various locations on the map. Three are located on the York River; another is in the south close to Cape Henry; another is located close to Cape Charles on the Peninsula east of the Chesapeake Bay and the rest are scattered along or close to the James River.

English settlements are represented by blue dots. There are 26 of them, all scattered along or close to the James River.

English forts are represented by blue triangles. There are five of them scattered along the James River. Three are in the southern section of the river close to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. One is midway along the James River on the map and the other is even further north at the top of the map.

A map legend notes that approximately three-quarters of an inch equals 20 miles and approximately half of an inch equals 20 kilometers.

Map credit: NPS

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Photo: Site of the 1607 James Fort

Photo description: This color photo is a view of the 1607 Jamestown Fort from above. It was taken from about 500 feet up on a sunny day and includes the entire area of the Jamestown fort with green trees around its perimeter and the James River flowing beside the fort. The triangle outline of the fort is marked by palisades. The long portion of the fort is situated along the waterfront. The top pointed portion of the fort points inland and has a round defensive position at the tip. Just outside the fort in the upper left corner of the photo, is a 1907 memorial church with its 17th century tower. Inside the fort, there is a statue of John Smith facing the James River; an area with pits where archaeological digging is taking place; and, the frame of a wooden building.

Photo credit: Preservation Virginia

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Chronology of the Jamestown Settlement

In the middle of side two of the brochure is a timeline of text and images from 1607 through 1676. The text is under its own title and descriptions of the images are under a separate title. 

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Timeline Text

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Timeline in Pictures

  1. Illustration caption: Seal of the Virginia Company of London. Illustration description: Under the text on the 1607 portion of the Jamestown Settlement timeline is a black and white engraving of the seal of the Virginia Company of London. The seal is oval shaped and along the outer parameter are the Latin words, Svo Virginia Pro Consilio (for his council of Virginia). Inside the seal is a crown. Below that is the royal shield divided into four rectangular quadrants. On the upper left is a series of fleur-de-lis. On the upper right is a Welsh Lion. In the lower left is an Irish harp. In the in the lower right is the same series of fleur-de-lis. Illustration credit: The Library of Virginia 
  2. Artifact caption: Hoe. Artifact description: Under the 1610 text of the Jamestown Settlement timeline is a small photo of a 17th century rusted brown hoe head that was discovered during an archeological dig on James town Island.  
  3. Artifact caption: Pipe bowl. Artifact description: Under the 1610 text of the Jamestown Settlement timeline is a photograph of a broken piece of a white clay pipe bowl that was discovered during an archaeological dig on James town Island.  
  4. Drawing caption: Early frame house. Drawing description: Beside the 1610 text on the Jamestown Settlement timeline there is a small brown and white illustration of an early 17th century frame house that would have been built on Jamestown Island. Other than the brick chimney on the right side, the house is built completely of wood. It is a small house with one door and one window.  
  5. Drawing caption: Tobacco. Drawing description: Beside the 1610 text on the Jamestown Settlement timeline, there is a small green and white illustration of a single mature tobacco plant. It has multiple leaves on each stem. At the very top are clusters of several small flowers that have a tubular base. 
  6. Artifact caption: Rapier. Artifact description: To the left of the 1649 text on the Jamestown Settlement timeline is a photograph of a complete 17th century rapier sword that was discovered during an archaeological dig on Jamestown Island. The sword blade is long and thin. Its handle has several metal loops to put one’s hand and fingers through while grasping the sword. 
  7. Drawing caption: Brick house. Drawing description: Beside the 1649 text on the Jamestown Settlement timeline is a brown and white illustration of a mid-17th century brick house that would have been built on Jamestown Island. Its walls are brick and it has a wood shingled roof. A chimney is on the left side and there are two windows on either side of a single door 
  8. Drawing caption: Row houses. Drawing description: At the end of the Jamestown Settlement timeline is a brown and white illustration of a later 17th century rowhouse. There are three brick houses in a row attached to each other. Each house has a single chimney and a single door in its center. The two end houses have three windows—one on the second floor and two on either side of the door on the first floor. The center house has four windows—two on the second floor and two on either side of the door on the first floor. 
  9. Artifact caption: Wine bottle. Artifact description: Below the drawing of the rowhouses at the end of the Jamestown Settlement timeline is photo of a 17th century dark brown wine bottle that was discovered during an archaeological did on Jamestown island. The body of the bottle is fat and rounded with a short stem for pouring.   
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PHOTO: Island Drive

Caption: None

Description: On the Island Tour Road, a long wooden bridge crosses over a large swamp area with large amounts of  green swamp grass.   In the distance are a line of Loblolly Pines that have the light of the afternoon sun upon them.

Source: NPS

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PHOTO: Memorial Church, built in 1907

Caption: Memorial Church, built in 1907

Description: Photo of the interior of the 1907 Memorial Church.   In the foreground is the brick archway of the entrance.   Inside the church is a brown triangular wooden ceiling.  There is a large arched window made up  of 17 clear glass panels in the most distant wall.    The walls of the church are a light tan color and there are brown wooden pews on either side of an aisle that goes down the center of the church.   

Source: PRESERVATION VIRGINIA

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Touring Historic Jamestowne

The bottom section of side two of the brochure includes text, six contemporary photos of Historic Jamestowne and two maps. They are presented under their own titles.

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Text: Touring Historic Jamestowne

The walking tour of the historic town site includes Old Towne and New Towne. In the Old Towne section visit the site of the 1607 James Fort, the remains of the 1600s Church Tower, and the 1907 Memorial Church. Share the moment of discovery with archeologists at work. Visit the Voorhees Archaearium and see artifacts that tell the story of James Fort. Just past the Tercentenary Monument is New Towne; brick replicas mark the Excavated Foundations of the expanded settlement. 

You can also take the three- or five-mile Island Drive (below). Begin at the far end of the parking lot. The drive lets you glimpse the natural environment that settlers encountered. Interpretive wayside exhibits and signs along the way discuss the early history of Jamestown Island.

Just inside the park entrance is the Glasshouse, where artisans demonstrate glassblowing techniques of the 1600s. Glassblowing was one of Virginia’s first industries, attempted in 1608 by German and Polish craftsmen.

The nearby Jamestown Settlement, administered by the Commonwealth of Virginia, has a museum, full-size replicas of the three ships that brought the settlers, and reconstructed interpretations of the English fort and a Powhatan village. A separate admission fee is charged.

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Map: Jamestown Island

Map description: This map shows the 2.5-mile by 2.5-mile area that includes all of Jamestown Island and parts of the Colonial Parkway. The Colonial Parkway is the main road that gives access to Jamestown Island and Island Drive. The location of Jamestown Settlement, which is a State of Virginia Living History Museum, is located just outside of Jamestown Island. The Jamestown Glass House is immediately to the right once you pass through the Historic Jamestowne main entrance. The Historic Jamestown Visitor Center and the Archaeological area are to the right once you have driven onto the island. Parking is available in this area. Island Drive is made up of two oblong and connecting loops. All along Island Drive, there are 11 informational pullovers. These are indicated by small red half circles on the road map. The map legend notes that approximately five-eighths of an inch on the map equals a half mile and five-sixteenths of an inch on the map equals a half of a kilometer. Map credit: NPS

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Map: Historic Jamestowne Detail Map

Map description: This half mile by half mile map provides more detail of the area that includes the Historic Jamestown Visitor Center, the New Town Area of Jamestown, and the Old Town area of Jamestown that is administered by Preservation Virginia, which includes the archaeological dig of the original Jamestown fort. North is pointing to the lower right of the map and a legend indicates amenities and other details through symbols, and a solid, double or dashed line.

Colonial Parkway, which leads into Island Drive, cuts horizontally across the lower section of the map. Above it and to the south, is the parking area in front of the Visitor Center, which is wheelchair accessible and has restrooms. Behind the visitor center is a 200-yard walkway bridge that ends at the Tercentenary Monument. Traveling east from the monument is a 600-yard walkway through the foundation ruins of New Town. Traveling west from the monument are the 1907 Memorial Church, the archaeological dig of the original Jamestowne fort and the Dale House Café. The cafe is two hundred yards from the archaeological dig and is wheelchair accessible, has restrooms and food service. One hundred yards from the Dale House Café is the Voorhees Archaerium Archaeology Museum, which is wheelchair accessible and has restrooms.

There are many individual places listed on the map with connecting walkways. Starting in the upper left-hand corner and generally going in a clockwise direction along the James River and turning back around is a list of these places. Most sites are located in the top half section of this map and some are within the Preservation Virginia border. There are also no identified amenities associated with these places except for those already mentioned above.

Map credit: NPS  

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Photos: Touring Historic Jamestowne

  1. Photo caption: Recreated foundations outline excavated New Towne structures. Photo description: On a sunny day in a grassy area, stacked bricks that are about two feet high trace the foundation of the 17th century brick structure that is below the earth. There are large green oak trees in the background. Photo credit: NPS 
  2. Photo caption: Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium. Photo description: The brown archaearium building on Jamestown island (where over a thousand artifacts are on display) is a long building with a slanted brown roof. The long side of the building is made up mostly of large glass windows. Photo credit: Preservation Virginia 
  3. Photo caption: New Towne viewer recreates historic scenes. Photo description: Under an outdoor, open-sided, roofed wooden structure, a rectangular viewer, that resembles a monitor of sorts, is secured to a four foot tall post. In the background are trees in the New Town Area. Photo credit: NPS 
  4. Photo caption: Glasshouse worker shapes molten glass. Photo description: A Caucasian male glasshouse worker with short blond hair, wearing a 17th century white work shirt, is in front of the kiln in the Historic Jamestowne glasshouse. He uses tongs to shape a piece of hot glowing glass into a glass candle stick. Photo credit: NPS 
  5. Photo caption: Memorial Church, built in 1907. Photo description: The interior of the 1907 Memorial Church is pictured. In the foreground is the brick archway of the entrance. Inside the church is a brown triangular wooden ceiling with exposed beams. A large arched window made up of 17 clear glass panels is on the most distant wall. The walls of the church are a light tan color and there are brown wooden pews on either side of an aisle that go down the center of the church. Photo credit: Preservation Virginia 
  6. Photo caption: None. Photo description: On the Island Tour Road, a long wooden bridge crosses over a large swamp area with large amounts of green swamp grass. The grass is of a similar height as the short rail of the bridge. In the distance are a line of Loblolly Pines that have the light of the afternoon sun upon them. Photo credit: NPS
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