Jamestown Things to Do

  • Gov. John Smith overlooking the James River
    Gov. John Smith overlooking the James...
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    Looking into the furnace
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Most Recent Things to Do in Jamestown

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    See the Tower - Only 17th Century Structure Here

    by grandmaR Updated Sep 4, 2010

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    The church tower is one of the oldest English built structures in the country. It is the only seventeenth-century building still standing at Jamestown. It dates from about 1690.

    According to the Jamestown website: In January, 1639 Governor John Harvey reported that he, the Council, the ablest planters and some sea captains "had contributed to the building of a brick church" at Jamestown...It was still unfinished in November, 1647 when efforts were made to complete it. After it was finished the church tower was added...

    The tower is slightly over 18 feet square and the walls are three feet thick at the base. Originally the tower was about 46 feet high (ten feet higher than the ruins) and was crowned with a wooden roof and belfry. It had two upper floors as you can see from the large beam notches on the inside. Six small openings at the top permitted light to enter and the sound of the bell or bells to carry across river and town....

    Throughout the nineteenth century the tower remained a silent symbol to Americans of their early heritage. It was strengthened and preserved shortly after the A.P.V.A. acquired it in the 1890s.

    Regular Admission:
    Adults $10
    Ages 15 and under Free

    Hours:
    Entrance Gate, 8:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. daily
    Glasshouse, 8:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. daily
    Visitor Center, 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. daily

    Church tower of the 4th church Bricks were used to build this cemetery wall Informational sign about the churches Inside of the tower arch Another photo of the tower
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    Visitor's Center - National Park

    by grandmaR Updated Dec 19, 2009

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    The first place to go (as always with a National Park) is the Visitor's Center. Unfortunately, when we were there, the Visitor's Center was still in a trailer because the main center had been destroyed by Hurricane Isabel in 2003. So we could not see the film which normally an NPS site would have. But there were still some interesting exhibits and information to be gathered.

    For instance, in New Orleans we were told what we thought was a somewhat bogus tale about pineapple being a symbol of hospitality (which I knew) but adding that when a guest had overstayed their welcome they were given a pineapple. I thought pineapple would have been to expensive to give to a guest to speed him/her on his/her way, and kind of rude as well.

    Colonial National Historical Park Pass

    Fees
    $10 - 7 Days
    $40 - 12 Months (Annual Pass)

    Details:
    Colonial National Historical Park includes Historic Jamestowne and Yorktown Battlefield. Children 15 and under are free.

    The seven-day pass fee is per adult and allows unlimited admittance for seven consecutive days to both Historic Jamestowne and Yorktown Battlefield during regular operating hours.

    Since we had the Golden Age passport, we did not pay anything.

    Operating Hours

    Entrance Gate 8:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. daily
    Visitor Center 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. daily

    Historic Jamestowne is closed Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

    Pineapple information Diorama of the original buildings Entrance booth Map of the site Construction sign
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    Glass House

    by grandmaR Updated Sep 16, 2009

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    At "glass point" near Jamestown, the glass furnaces were re-discovered and excavated in 1948. You can see the excavations (photo 5). The excavations are covered with a roof and are behind glass.

    Because there were extensive forests in the New World, and England was basically deforested and had no wood available for glass furnaces, Jamestown tried several times to manufacture glass without much success.

    The original reconstruction glasshouse was destroyed by fire in 1974, and another one was built in 1976. There, you can see glassblowing performed by glassblowers, in clothing of the period. They produce common glass objects very much as they must have done almost 400 years ago. These objects are available for sale in the shop.

    Glass kiln Sign outside the glass house Looking into the furnace Red hot glass Ruins of the furnace glasshouse 'under glass'
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    The birthplace of European North America

    by etfromnc Written Jul 23, 2009

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    The Jamestown Settlement and The Yorktown Victory Center are the living history educational arms of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation with a stated mission "to educate and to promote awareness of Virginia's role in the creation of the United States of America."

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    New Towne

    by grandmaR Updated Apr 15, 2007

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    In Jamestown's New Town the visible foundations rest over the original foundation ruins which are buried twelve to eighteen inches below the ground. This protects the original foundations from acid rain. The self-guided walking tour is about one-half miles in length. If you choose to visit each of the numbered stops, it may take up to 45 minutes.

    STOP 1: YEOMAN'S COTTAGE (photo 3) A pewter spoon found among the artifacts helps date the structure to before 1675. There is an unusually large fireplace. Archaeologists have decided that this structure was probably an ordinary (tavern) constructed sometime between 1645-1662. This conclusion was based on the high concentrations of pipestems (over 2,000!) found at the site.

    STOP 4 ROWHOUSES - (photo 2) The rowhouses are similar to today's townhouses. The cellar of each unit or dwelling contained a kitchen and storeroom. On the ground floor, a fireplace and chimney separated the front room from the smaller room behind. This rowhouse may have been built following a Town Act in 1662 requiring that 20 X 40 foot brick houses be built at Jamestown. Wine bottles found among the artifacts also suggest that one of the units many have been used as a tavern at some time.

    STOP 7: AMBLER HOUSE (first photo) The Ambler-Traves Plantation house is not the first to be built on this site. In the 1750s, any building that remained was leveled to build the Ambler Mansion. Small structures called wings were connected to each side of the large central house by walkways. The house was erected to take advantage of breezes for cross-ventilation. The Ambler House burned during the Revolutionary War, again during the Civil War, and finally in March 1895.

    Stop 8 DITCH (photo 5) Ditches were used to channel water (in this case to keep the road bed drier(, keep animals in and out of property and were used as property line markers. Generally the ditches became handy places for Jamestown residents to throw their trash and other disposables.

    Ambler House across the excavations Row Houses Area around the Yeoman's Cottage An Estate In Town Road, ditch and monument
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    Old Towne

    by grandmaR Updated Apr 14, 2007

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    Old Towne consists of just the original fort.

    The NPS website says:

    Old Towne

    Old Towne refers to the area of the triangular Jamestown Fort. Today archeologist have found all three corners and all three walls of that fort. New palisade walls have been erected over the archeological evidence and you can stand inside the fort, possibly where, according to the settlers, Pocahontas did cartwheels in the center of the square.

    Map with Fort location Corner of fort Sign inside fort Monument near fort to first assembly Sign out on the site
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    Jamestown Driving Loop along Island

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Apr 29, 2005

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    Welcome to Historic Jamestowne, a place of many beginnings, of many firsts. It was the beginning of England's successful colonization of America. It was:
    • the First Permanent English Colony on the North American continent
    • the first seat of English government in Virginia and its social and political center for 92 years
    • where the first English representative government in the New World met in 1619, the foundations of our form of government today
    • at Jamestown that the first arrival of Africans to Virginia was recorded, although they actually landed at Cape Comfort.

    Today, Historic Jamestowne is jointly administered by the National Park Service (NPS), which owns the majority of the 1500 acre island, and The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA), which owns 22½ acres. The National Park Service portion of Jamestown is part of Colonial National Historical Park, which includes:

    Island Loop drive sign

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    Wooden Cross marks oldest gravesites

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Apr 29, 2005

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    This large wooden cross was erected by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities in 1957 in memory of those early settlers, the founders of this nation, who died at Jamestown during the first perilous years of the colony. Their bodies lie along the ridge beyond this cross, in the earliest known burial ground of the English in America.

    Wooden cross at Jamestown

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    Hunt Shrine at Jamestown

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Apr 29, 2005

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    This shrine is dedicated to the memory of the Reverend Robert Hunt (1568-1608), the first Anglican minister of the colony. It was erected by the "Colonial Dames of America in the State of Virginia" to commemorate the earliest celebration of the Holy Communion in the first Permanent English Settlement in America.

    The Reverend Robert Hunt was appointed by the Church of England minister of the colony which established the English church and English civilization at Jamestown, Virginia. His people, members of the colony, left this testimony concerning him, "He was an honest, religious and courageous divine, he preferred the service of God in so good a voyage to every thought of ease at home. He endured every privation, yet none ever heard him repine. During his life our factions were oft healed and our greatest extremities so comforted that they seemed easy in comparison with what we endured after his memorable death. We all received from him the Holy Communion together as a pledge of reconciliation for we all loved him for his exceeding goodness. He planted the first Protestant church in America, and laid down his life in the foundation of Virgina."

    Hunt Shrine on walkway at Jamestown

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    Earthworks at Jamestown

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Apr 29, 2005

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    These earthworks were erected by Confederate troops in 1861 as part of the defense system to block Union penetration of the James River. They never saw action as they were bypassed by the McClellan's Peninsula Campaign.

    Earthworks located at Jamestown settlement

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    Statue of John Smith at Jamestown

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Apr 29, 2005

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    John Smith was born about 1580 the son of a yeoman farmer of modest means. As a young man he traveled throughout Europe and fought as a soldier in the Netherlands and in Hungary. There he was captured, taken to Turkey and sold into slavery in Russia. He murdered his master, escaped and journeyed back to Hungary to collect a promised reward of money and a coat-of-arms. He returned to England in time to participate in the settlement of Virginia.

    He was an arrogant and boastful man, often tactless and sometimes brutal. Physically strong and worldly wise, he made an excellent settler. However, his personality, his obvious qualifications and his low social position infuriated many of the colony's leaders and settlers. Despite this, he was named to the first Council in May, 1607. He learned the Indians' language and became the colony's principal Indian trader. During the summer of 1608 he led a 3,000 mile expedition in an open boat to explore and map Chesapeake Bay and its principal rivers. On September 10, 1608 the Council elected him Governor of Virginia for a one-year term. He was an able leader who understood both the Indians and the settlers' needs and the colony prospered.

    Captain Smith returned to England in October, 1609 following an accidental gunpowder burn and became Virginia's most effective propagandist and historian. His True Relation of Virginia (1608), Map of Virginia (1612) and General History of Virginia (1624) presented the colony as Smith understood it. In 1614 he made a short voyage to New England where he explored and mapped the coast from Cape Cod to Maine. Smith returned to England and never visited Virginia again, never married and never received the recognition he thought he deserved. He died June 21, 1631 and was buried in St. Sepulchre's Church in London.

    The statue by William Couper was erected in1909

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    Pocahontas Sign giving history information

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Apr 29, 2005

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    Pocahontas was the favorite daughter of Powhatan, who ruled the Powhatan Confederacy. She was born about 1595, probably at Werowocomoco 16 miles from Jamestown. Captain John Smith believed she had saved his life twice during the colony's first years. In 1608-1609 she was a frequent and welcome visitor to Jamestown, often bringing gifts of food from her father.

    From 1609 to 1613 she was part of Indian society and was not seen by the settlers. In April, 1613 she was captured by the English while she was living on the Potomac River and was brought to Jamestown as a hostage. She soon converted to Christianity and was baptized.

    Her marriage to John Rolfe in April, 1614 helped to establish peaceful relations between the Indians and the English. In 1616 she visited England with her husband and infant son, Thomas, and was presented to the Royal Court. While returning to Virginia she died on March 21, 1617 and was buried in St. George's Church in Gravesend, England. Today many Americans claim descent from her through her son and granddaughter.

    The statue, by William Ordway Partridge, was erected in 1922.

    Sign about Pocahontas at Jamestown

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    Church Cemetery Sign in Jamestown

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Apr 29, 2005

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    Soon after the settlers landed they began to build a fort. George Percy reported that "the fifteenth of June, we had built and finished our Fort, which was triangle wise: having three Bulwarkes [one] at every corner, like a halfe Moone, and four or five pieces of Artillerie mounted in them." This fort burned in January, 1608 and was apparently replaced almost immediately.

    William Strachey, writing in 1614, indicated that the river side of the fort was about 120 yards long and the other two sides were about 100 yards each. Surrounding the fort was a pallazado or stockade made of oak and poplar poles each about 14 feet high and 8 to 10 inches in diameter. The fort enclosed an area of about one acre. In the fall of 1608, the pallazado was extended to enclose an additional three acres and the fort became five-sided. John Smith stated that the fort had 24 guns of different types in 1609. Four years later a Spanish prisoner reported that there were only six.

    Graveyard sign located just outside church door

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    Jamestown Church Graveyard on Jamestown Island

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Apr 29, 2005

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    Archaeological evidence implies that this area was used as a burial ground before 1617 when the first church was built on this site. If the man buried in the "Knight's Tomb" just inside the church was Governor George Yeardley, then regular burials commenced here by 1627. After the 1750s there were fewer burials here since the church was abandoned then. All totaled, there were probably several hundred burials in the original graveyard. Only about 30 of these were in the church under the floor.

    Since there is little natural stone in tidewater Virginia, tombstones were rare in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Almost all had to be imported, usually from England. Many of the people buried here after the 1680s were wealthy and their families could have afforded tombstones. Nineteenth-century reports indicate that many did and the graveyard contained many tombstones. Sadly most of these have been lost, stolen or destroyed by the ravages of time

    Just outside the Church doorway is the cemetery

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    1639 Church at Jamestown

    by butterflykizzez04 Written Apr 29, 2005

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    The First and Second Churches--Captain John Smith reported that the first church services were held outdoors "under an awning (which was an old saile)" fastened to three or four trees. Shortly thereafter the settlers built the first church inside the fort. Smith said it was "a homely thing like a barn set on crachetts, covered with rafts, sedge and earth." This church burned in January, 1608 and was replaced by a second church, similar to the first. Made of wood it needed constant repair. Pocahontas and John Rolfe were married in the second church.

    The Third Church--In 1617-1619 when Samuel Argall was Governor, he had the inhabitants of Jamestown build a new church "50 foot long and twenty foot broad." It was a wooden church built on a foundation of cobblestones one foot wide capped by a wall one brick thick. You can see these foundations under the glass on the floor of the present building. The First Assembly was held in the third church.

    The Fourth Church--In January, 1639 Governor John Harvey reported that he, the Council, the ablest planters and some sea captains "had contributed to the building of a brick church" at Jamestown. This church was slightly larger than the third church and was built around it. It was still unfinished in November, 1647 when efforts were made to complete it. After it was finished the church tower was added. The tower is the only seventeenth-century building still standing at Jamestown. It is one of the oldest English-built structures in the United States.

    Tracy (bestfriend) inside the 1639 Church Jamestow

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