What To See When Visiting Jamestown: National Historic Site

Interested in learning about the history of some of the earliest European settlers in North America, our friends the ancient planters? The first place you will want to go is the Jamestown National Historic Site in Virginia, which is itself a segment of the larger Colonial National Historic Park. These locations are important because of the events that occurred there — Jamestown is where the first permanent settlement was established. It wasn’t easy.

Jamestown is also an important reminder of early legislative successes and failures. This is where the first legislative body in North America was hosted. It is also where the first Africans set down. 

The Jamestown National Historic Site teaches visitors about historical events that occurred in Old Towne, where an English fort was built in 1607, and New Towne, where the city expanded later that same century, primarily after the 1620s. Each site has a corresponding visitor center where guests can ask the informed mentors questions about what they see or experience while there. The sites also convey what these locations were like before settlers first arrived.

Jamestown Island had been home to dozens of Powhatan tribes for thousands of years. Unlike the European settlers who came later, the Native Americans were able to sustain and live in harmony with the natural environment. When John Smith arrived in 1607, he thought it would make an adequate spot for long-term trading.

Smith was worried about the possibility of additional settlers from Spain, though. Not only that, there were conflicts with the Algonquin Natives nearly upon arrival. That’s why he decided to move slightly inland in order to construct the fort at Old Towne. Park visitors can explore a reconstructed fort for an idea of what it was like. Those early years of settlement and exploration were devastating, and many who arrived perished.

It wasn’t until the 1620s that a man named William Claiborne decided that it would be sensible to expand. He developed the land that would be named New Towne. This became the official port of entry, and began to grow.

Park visitors will find much of the 17th century settlement available for viewing. Archaeologists have found a number of interesting artifacts that American history lovers might like to see, including: “A clay oven, a gun shop, a jail, and warehouses, which give insight into the colonists’ experience on the island. A gunsmith suggests the importance of gun ownership to colonists who used firearms for protection, while warehouses are evidence of expanding trade and the need for more storage space for increasing imports.”

There is a lot to see and do, so make your vacation plans today!