This weekend, May 11-13, 2007 marks the 400 year anniversay of the founding of Jamestown. But 100 years ago, Virginia created the Jamestown Exposition to have a tercentennial celebration.

Jamestown Exposition Site, Norfolk City, Virginia

The Jamestown Exposition Site Buildings, also known as Admirals Row, were constructed in 1906 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the 1607 founding of Jamestown, the first successful English colony in the New World.

Pennsylvania Building:
Photograph courtesy of Virginia State Historic Preservation Office

In 1901, at the instigation of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities and the Tidewater Commercial League, the General Assembly of Virginia authorized the Governor to proclaim the tercentennial of the landing at Jamestown to be celebrated in 1907. The General Assembly granted a charter to the Jamestown Exhibition Company to hold the exposition. Governor Fitzhugh Lee was elected president of the Company. Due to the efforts of the citizens of Norfolk, the Tidewater area was chosen for the approximately 340-acre exposition site. At the time the site was equal distance from Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, and Hampton, but since that time, it has been incorporated into the city of Norfolk.

Teddy Roosevelt opening the Exposition
Photograph courtesy of Library of Congress

The project was not completed by the opening day on April 26, 1907; the planned Historic Art and Education buildings remained incomplete by the Exposition’s end in late November. President Theodore Roosevelt opened the exposition and presided over the naval review. After opening day, attendance dropped sharply, and never again achieved projections.

The Jamestown Exposition buildings are located between Sewallis Point and Willoughby Bay. The U.S. Navy acquired the buildings and surrounding land in 1917 and the entire area is now part of the U.S. Naval Base. As originally laid out, the Exposition grounds included 21 state buildings arranged in two equal rows separated by five blocks of grounds. Both rows faced north over Hampton Roads. Located between the two groups and set back three blocks were the History Building and the Auditorium with its two detached wings. The Auditorium burned in 1941 and was replaced by Building N-26, Headquarters of the Fifth Naval District. The wings were not damaged and were converted into Administrative Buildings N-21 and N-23.

Of the surviving state buildings only the Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia buildings remain on their original sites. The state buildings of the eastern group were moved to the western complex in 1934 when the naval base required land for new construction. All of the buildings have been modified over the years, but most retain their architectural integrity.

Each of the state buildings is distinctive. The Delaware building is an example of a Colonial Homestead with a gable roof and dormers. The Georgia building was modeled after the home of President Theodore Roosevelt’s mother, Georgia native Marta Bulloch. The Maryland Building is a replica of Homewood in Baltimore. The North Dakota Building is a bungalow-style cottage. The Virginia and West Virginia Buildings are Georgian Revival in style, and the Pennsylvania Building is a replica of Independence Hall, Philadelphia.

The nineteen remaining buildings of the 1907 Jamestown Exposition form a rare surviving collection of Edwardian exposition buildings and were listed in the National Register of Historic Places on October 20, 1975.