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Guide to the Area

(Numbers correspond to numbers on the map on page 43.)

"James Towne" developed on the west end of Jamestown Island. At its maximum extent it lay along the river for approximately three-quarters of a mile. It was a thin strip of a town between the James River and the marsh that came to be called Pitch and Tar Swamp. At first there was only the fort, then an enlarged palisaded area. Gradually the town grew with the building of houses, a church, a market place, shops, storehouses, forts, statehouses, and other public buildings grouped along streets and paths. The entire townsite is an exhibit area. The Visitor Center (1), at its edge, is a short distance from the parking area across a trestle bridge spanning Pitch and Tar Swamp.

In the Visitor Center, sponsored jointly by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities and the National Park Service, an orientation program of movies and slides, an information desk, an extensive series of exhibits, and literature and souvenirs are available. The exhibits include many irreplaceable objects, such as earrings of Pocahontas, and many objects recovered from the ground. There are dioramas, a large model of James Fort, illustrated panels, and other displays telling about early Jamestown and explaining the points of interest on the townsite and along the island tour or drive.

bulding hardware unearthed at Jamestown

The adjacent townsite is easily reached from the Visitor Center, and a good general view of it may be had from the observation terrace around the Tercentenary Monument (2). This shaft of New Hampshire granite rising 103 feet above its base was erected in 1907 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the settlement.

A footpath leads from the monument terrace to the church area, crossing the trace of the "Greate Road," which served the town's residents some 300 years ago. It passes close to the site of a 17th-century brick kiln just inside the entrance to the APVA grounds.

The Church Area (3), the most inspiring spot at Jamestown today, embraces the Old Tower, the Memorial Church, and the Churchyard. The ivy-covered Old Church Tower is the only standing ruin of the 17th-century town. It is believed to have been a part of the first brick church built about 1639. Its 3-foot-thick walls of handmade brick laid in English bond have been standing for more than 300 years. The Memorial Church, directly behind the tower, was erected in 1907 by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America over the foundations of the early brick church. Within the church are memorials and burials, including the "Knight's" tomb and that of Rev. John Clough.

The graveyard near the Memorial Church. The sycamore (center) now separates the graves of Rev. James Blair, a founder of William and Mary College, from that of his wife. Sarah Harrison Blair.

Of particular note, inside the church, are the exposed cobblestone foundations of an earlier church said to have housed the first representative legislative assembly in America which convened at Jamestown on July 30, 1619. In the Churchyard many dead are buried, and the few gravestones that have survived the wear of time and weather are a witness to the antiquity of the spot. These carry the names of Berkeley, Blair, Harrison, Ludwell, Beverley, Lee, Sherwood, and others. Even the extent of the burial ground is unknown. It is more extensive than either the iron grill fence or the old wall (built of bricks from the ruins of one of the 17th-century Jamestown churches) suggests.

Adjacent to the church are a number of memorials and monuments erected through the years, particularly in 1907, to commemorate important events at Jamestown and to honor some of those outstanding in Virginia history. These include the House of Burgesses Monument (4) listing the members of America's first representative legislative assembly in 1619, the Pocahontas Monument (5), by William Ordway Partridge; and the Capt. John Smith Statue (6), designed by William Couper.

The foundations of the Last (fourth) Statehouse Group as it extends toward the James River. It was the burning of this statehouse in 1698 that was the immediate reason for moving the capital of the colony from Jamestown to Williamsburg.

The footpath leads to the concrete walkway on the edge of the sea-wall. This seawall (built in 1900—1901) along the shoreline of the Association grounds and the later riprap extension of it now protect the site from further erosion. Walk to the right (upriver) along the concrete walkway. It passes near, but outside, the Confederate earthwork thrown up in 1861 when the James River approach to Richmond was being fortified. At one point a bit of history can be read from the ground in a Site Use Exhibit (7). The earth in the side of the embankment has been carefully sliced and various levels are identified—undisturbed ground, the level of Indian use, the zone with evidences of 17th-century use, and, topping all, the earthwork built by Confederate troops in 1861.

Just beyond, but at a point now in the river, due to the erosion of the last three centuries, is the site of "James Fort" (8), which was built in May and June 1607, and constituted the Jamestown settlement in the first few years. There is a large model of "James Fort" in the Visitor Center and a full scale reconstruction of it has been built in Festival Park above Glasshouse Point and adjacent to the Jamestown terminus of the Colonial Parkway.

In the words of William Strachey, recorder for the colony, the fort, as built in 1607, and standing in 1610, was "cast almost into the forme of a Triangle, and so Pallizadoed. The South side next the River . . . by reason the advantage of the ground doth so require, contains one hundred and forty yards: the West and East sides a hundred onely. At every Angle or corner, where the lines meete a Bulwarke or Watchtower is raised, and in each Bulwarke a peece of Ordnance or two well mounted. To every side, a proportioned distance from the Pallisado, is a setled streete of houses, that run along, so as each line of the Angle hath his streete. In the middest is a market place, a Store house, and a Corps du guard, as likewise a pretty Chappel . . . [all] inclosed . . . round with a Pallizado of Planckes and strong Posts, foure foote deepe in the ground, of yong Oakes, Walnuts, &c . . . the principall Gate from the Towne, through the Pallizado, opens to the River . . . at each Bulwarke there is a Gate likewise to goe forth, and at every Gate a Demi-Culverin and so in the Market Place. . . ."

The Tercentenary Monument erected by the United States in 1907, to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the landing of the first permanent English settlers at Jamestown.

The Hunt Memorial erected to the memory of Rev. Robert Hunt, first minister at Jamestown, by the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Virginia.

Just beyond the fort site, approximately 125 feet from the present seawall, at a point where it makes a pronounced turn to the right, is the First Landing Site (9) which the colonists reached on May 13, 1607. Here the next day, all came ashore and landed supplies. This spot, like the fort site, is now in the river. The Old Cypress (10), standing several hundred feet from the shore above the landing site, is said to have stood at one time on the edge of the island. This is visible evidence of the erosion that has taken at least 25 acres of the western part of the townsite.

Inshore, at this point, the Memorial Cross (11) occupies a position of prominence. This marks the burial ground that extended along the ridge behind it. This is the earliest known burial ground at Jamestown and is thought to have preceded that around the church. It was along this ridge, first used as a cemetery, that Jamestown's third statehouse (burned by Nathaniel Bacon, Jr., in 1676) was constructed. A decade later the fourth (and last) statehouse was built on the same site. It was the accidental burning of the last statehouse and the structures associated with it, in 1698, that was the immediate reason for moving the seat of government from Jamestown. This group of houses—the Last Statehouse Group (12)—consisted of the last country house, three houses of Philip Ludwell, and the fourth statehouse. The foundations are marked and the footpath, leaving the concrete walkway, follows along these foundations and passes near the Memorial Cross.

The walkway now returns to the Church area. The path follows across a low area, known in the old days as the "Vale," and into the Confederate earthwork. Here is the bronze relief memorial to The Rev. Robert Hunt (13). He was the chaplain to the first settlers. On the third Sunday after Trinity, in June 1607, he administered the first recorded Holy Communion according to the rites of the Church of England.

One of the larger of the Jamestown foundations, located in the "New Towne" section. It has been identified as the "Country House." As the foundations indicate, several houses occupied this site.

The foundation ruins of the First Statehouse at Jamestown, where the House of Burgessess met in the period 1640—55. Believed to have been used earlier by Sir John Harvey.


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