About Historic Jamestowne
Historic Jamestowne is where the English established their first successful colony in America in 1607.
History of Jamestowne
In 1607, the English established their first successful colony in America. Previous attempts by the English to establish colonies in the so-called ‘New World’, famously including the Roanoke colony in 1587, had been made, but the colony the English formed in Historic Jamestowne was the root of what was to eventually become America.
Jamestown was strategically located: surrounded by water on three sides but being inland made it easily defensible, and the deep water meant it was suitable as a harbour. The first fort was completed by June – this was deemed necessary as settlers were concerned about attacks from Powhatan Indians. In fact, without the help of indigenous people, the settlers would never have survived the first few years, when they were beset by diseases and famine, although this relationship had soured by 1610.
The land proved fertile for tobacco crops, meaning the Virginia Company began to make money off their investment in Jamestown. The colony became more prosperous over the course of the century, but following a fire in 1698, the capital and government were moved to Middle Plantation, renamed Williamsburg, and Jamestown ceased to be a town, merely becoming a collection of houses and farms.
Due to its strategic location, Jamestown was also vitally important during the American Revolution and the American Civil War. Today, Historic Jamestowne forms part of Colonial National Park, a historic site which encompasses York Town Battlefield, Colonial Parkway and the Cape Henry Memorial.
Historic Jamestowne today
Today, Jamestowne is an island rather than attached to the mainland: through guided ranger tours, hikes, exhibits and self-guided tours, visitors can explore the place’s history and that of the country as a whole. Allow at least half a day to explore fully and bring insect repellent if you’re visiting in the summer – the site is teeming with things that bite.
Amongst its many attractions, it is worth seeing the Jamestown Glasshouse, a recreation of the first industrial building of the Virginia Company, the London-based company that founded the colony.
Getting to Historic Jamestowne
The site is on the banks of the James River: it’s most easily reached via Colonial Parkway, off Route 199. Williamsburg is a 15 minute drive away, and has an AMTRAK service and a depot for Greyhound Buses. You’ll need a taxi to get you the last stretch if you don’t have your own car.
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