Issue Date: Chesapeake Bay Magazine - May 2007
FEATURED DESTINATION: Jamestown's Big Bang
| Jamestown's 400th anniversary gives birth to a universe of activities across the Bay.|
by Jody Argo Schroath
By the time 2007 takes its own place in the past, there will be perhaps two or three people in the Chesapeake area who have not been touched by a Jamestown 400th-anniversary event--they'll be the ones wearing Pampers. And even then. . . .
There are so many special events marking the quadricentennial of the landing at Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America, that they spilled over backward into last year. The replica ship Godspeed, for example, made a tour of the East Coast before returning to Virginia to prepare for this year's first landing re-enactment on April 26. Jamestown Live! allowed a million students across the country to watch an hour-long webcast on Jamestown's legacy that featured questions from students to a panel that included Chickahominy Chief Stephen Adkins, Jamestown's chief archaeologist William Kelso and former astronaut Dr. Kathryn Thornton. The Virginia tribes held a conference last October on 400 Years of Survival. And last month, radio host Tavis Smiley hosted a 2007 State of the Black Union event on the Black Imprint on America. Smiley asked a panel of 36 notable African-Americans to discuss the role that Blacks have played in the development of America, from the arrival of the first slaves at Jamestown in 1619 to the present.
But don't worry, there are plenty of special activities still on the 2007 event horizon, including the biggest and brashest one of them all. That would be America's Anniversary Weekend, May 11 to 13, at Jamestown, a mega-celebration that will feature three days of special events and all manner of famous folks--James Earl Jones, Ricky Skaggs, Chaka Khan, Sandra Day O'Connor and, of course, the Richmond Indigenous Gourd Orchestra (they grow their own instruments). To help you make sense of all the Jamestown 400 hoopla--which will include a visit May 3 and 4 by Queen Elizabeth II--we've ruthlessly marshaled these activities into several neat groups-- Jamestown events, all-around-the-Bay-events and (our readers' favorite) events with boats. Finally, you'll find two related stories--the first, how our understanding of what happened at Jamestown has changed over the years as we have changed; the second, information on cruising the Jamestown area.
When we talk about Jamestown, of course, we are talking about not one Jamestown, but two. For Jamestown newbies, here's how we went from zero to two: Since Jamestown had all but disappeared as a town by the middle of the 18th century, 1907's 300th-birthday celebration was held in Norfolk instead. But organizers of the 1957 event moved the 350th birthday party back to Jamestown--to a facility constructed for the purpose, called Jamestown Festival Park and located adjacent to the original site. Jamestown Festival Park is now named Jamestown Settlement, while the site of the 1607 landing, early forts and town is called Historic Jamestowne. Hence two Jamestowns and three sites for the 400th Anniversary Weekend (the third is Anniversary Park, across Route 31 from the settlement, and where many of the weekend's concerts will be held).
Jamestown Settlement, under the operation of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation of the State of Virginia, includes a re-created Indian village, a reproduction Jamestown fort, 70,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibition space--where you can walk down a 17th-century English main street--and reproductions of the ships that brought the first settlers: Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery. Special 400th-anniversary programming at the Settlement begins April 27 with the opening of "The World of 1607," an ambitious cycle of four exhibits put together by 28 scholars using materials borrowed from all over the world with the aim of putting the settlement of Jamestown in a global context. The idea is to make us nonscholars recognize that events do not occur in a vacuum, but rather as a part of larger forces, including political, social and artistic. Items that will be part of the exhibit include a 15th-century copy of the Magna Carta, a 1607 jade wine cup of the Emperor Jahangir of India and a 17th-century African carved-ivory saltcellar. Don't you feel smarter already?
A lot of the other special programming at Jamestown Settlement will take place only during the Anniversary Weekend. This will include artillery demonstrations, honor guards, story- telling, pageantry and plays. There will be demonstrations by artisans and craftspeople, and more than enough to keep several thousand children as happy as clams for hours at a time. The replica ships will also be open for tours, and costumed interpreters will act as guides in all areas of the park.
The archaeological site, known as Historic Jamestowne, is a partnership between the National Park Service and the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA). It's on nearby Jamestown Island, connected to the mainland by the Colonial Parkway and a short bridge across Sandy Bay. In 1994, the APVA hired archaeologist William Kelso to excavate the site in hopes of finding something exciting for the 2007 anniversary. Although earlier excavations had failed to find evidence of the original James Fort, Kelso found it on his first dig--that April. The site of the fort was long believed to have been flooded two centuries ago by the James River. In fact, nearly all the fort's original footprint is on dry land, with only one corner under water. In the years following that discovery, Kelso and his workers have uncovered more than 700,000 artifacts, including a particularly intriguing skeleton found just outside the original walls buried with a ceremonial captain's staff. Kelso believes this may be the remains of Bartholomew Gosnold, captain of the Godspeed and one of the colony's key leaders.
Historic Jamestowne has recently added a sleek, multi-windowed Archaearium, which uses clever display techniques to show off a selection of the artifacts within view of where they were unearthed. Also at Historic Jamestowne, visitors can visit the glassblowers house, the remains of a late-17th-century church, archaeological finds such as the outlines of Jamestown's last statehouse (1663), an early burial ground, and statues of John Smith and Pocahantas.
Special Anniversary Weekend events at Historic Jamestowne will include commemorations of past Jamestown celebrations, a series of programs called 104 Men and Boys, lectures and the official send-off of the replica shallop that will spend the rest of the summer re-enacting Captain John Smith's 1608 voyages of discovery on the Chesapeake [see "The Captain's Trail," October, November 2006]. Smith had set off from Jamestown not long after the settlers arrived to explore the Bay in search of gold and the long-sought Northwest Passage to Asia and to make contact with the Native American tribes living along its shores. During two major voyages of discovery, Smith and his crew sailed or rowed up nearly every tributary on the Bay and Smith himself created its first detailed map. The re-enactment voyage that leaves Jamestown May 12 will largely retrace Smith's trips, making about two dozen stops at cities and towns along the way.
Musical events will play a big part in the Anniversary Weekend schedule--including a 1,607-member chorale and 400-piece orchestra, famous performers such as Bruce Hornsby, Chaka Khan and Ricky Skaggs, and award-winning musical groups from dozens of schools and independent organizations all over the country (including that all-gourd orchestra). In addition, there will be re-enactments, plays, fireworks, pageantry, demonstrations and dramatic readings . . . in short, just about everything you can imagine. No more than 30,000 people will be admitted on any one of the three days, so buying a ticket in advance is essential. For a detailed schedule of events, visit www.jamestown2007.org. You'll find ticket information there, too, and in the sidebar on this page.
All Over the Bay Events
While the Anniversary Weekend will produce the biggest bang for the history books, you can be sure that there will be a Jamestown 400 boomlet near you. It may be a Signature Event--the term used by Jamestown 2007 organizers for a dozen or so major events around the region, many of which adopt the anniversary's official theme: A convergence of three cultures. Among these are the American Indian Intertribal Festival in Hampton, Va., on July 21 and 22 and the African-American Culture and Commerce Expo on August 24 and 25 in Hampton Roads. Also on the schedule is the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., June 27 to July 8, which will feature performers, storytellers and crafts from native Virginia, southeastern England and West Africa. September 16 to 19 will see the concluding Forum on the Future of Democracy in Williamsburg. (You'll find more information on all these events at the www.jamestown2007.org site.)
Elsewhere, a special exhibit in Richmond is especially worthy of note. "Rule Britannia! Art, Royalty and Power in the Age of Jamestown," at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, runs from April 28 through August 12 (www.vmfa.state.va.us/rule.html). This is an exhibition of 17th-century royal portraits and maritime paintings--some of them massive--that include special loans from the collection of Queen Elizabeth II, museums such as the National Gallery of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and private British collections. Some of these works have rarely been seen by the public.
In Norfolk, the Virginia Living Museum will offer two special and very different programs as its contribution to the Jamestown festivities. "Survivor: Jamestown Maze," which runs through November 25, challenges children and adults to wind their way through a maze, making decisions along the way in order to survive in this new world. Also at the Living Museum, backyard horticulturalists will delight in a new permanent garden that highlight's Virginia's botanical history from 1607 to the present.
Two more Norfolk events are worthy of note. Sail Virginia, June 7 to 12, will feature military parades and ceremonies, historical re-enactments, maritime and cultural activities with tall ships off Ocean View and Norfolk Naval Base, and Harborfest weekend, with plays and special exhibits. (www.sailvirginia2007.com) Norfolk will also be the location for Working Waterways and Waterfronts--A National Symposium on Water Access, May 9 to 11, at the Sheraton Marriott Norfolk. (www.wateraccess2007.com).
The Kimball Theatre in Williamsburg (www.vptheatre.com) is currently showcasing a historical play, Smith, Being the Life and Death of Cap'n John by Ivor Nel Hume. This runs April 5 to December 31.
We could go on, but the list of Jamestown-related events at locations throughout the Chesapeake would stretch into next month's magazine, so we recommend that you check www.jamestown2007.org/calendar.cfm. You can search by date and area.
Events with Boats
Happily for all of us boaters on the Bay, a great many of the 400th-anniversary events will be taking place in and around the water. Here, too, it's enough information to sink a ship, so we are only going to hit the high spots. But we'll give you some websites where you can find out more. The water-centered events fall pretty much into two categories: re-enactment events that feature one or all of the three replica ships, Godspeed, Susan Constant and Discovery, and re-enactment events centered on the 1608 discovery voyages of Captain John Smith and his crew. To make things even more interesting, the Bay has produced not one, but three replicas of Smith's 30-foot open boat, called a shallop, that was carried aboard ship from England and then reassembled in the New World. Each of the replica shallops has its own itinerary--though occasionally, like on this first event, they will all be together.
By way of Jamestown re-enactments, this is the Big Bang. On Thursday, April 26, all three ships and all three shallops will be at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach for a dramatic redo of the Jamestown settlers' first landfall in America at Cape Henry. The first-landing program will start at 9 a.m. Can't make it that early? Don't worry, the second first-landing program will start at 3 p.m. There will be an admission charge at the park for the event.
The replica ships will leave Virginia Beach on April 28, as the Godspeed takes the lead in the Signature Event called Journey up the James. The Godspeed will stop at three other ports before arriving at Jamestown on May 11 for the start of the Anniversary Weekend. [For all the ports of call of Godspeed's Journey up the James as well as its journey on the Bay this summer and fall, see sidebar, page 57.] Recreational boaters are invited to join the flotilla from Virginia Beach to Hampton on April 28 in what Hampton calls the Great American Dock Party. The date also coincides with the city's International Children's Festival. (For information on participating marinas, call 800-487-8778.)
Although all three shallops will be at Virginia Beach on April 26 for the First Landing event, the "official" shallop--the one built in Chestertown by Sultana Projects--will get its formal send-off at 10 a.m. on May 12 from Historic Jamestowne for the start of its re-enactment of Smith's voyages of discovery. (You'll need an Anniversary Weekend ticket to see the send-off.) The first of 20 official stops in the re-enactment voyage will be at Onancock on May 19 and 20, coinciding with that town's combined celebration of Captain Smith and the 200th birthday of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). At all of the official stops, visitors will be invited to meet the crew and view the traveling exhibits that go along with it [see sidebar].
Special events are planned to coincide with official stops of both the shallop on its re-enactment voyage and the Godspeed as it visits ports throughout the Bay following the Anniversary Weekend, so check the schedule in the sidebar and then look for informa-tion near your home port or favorite cruising grounds.
Finally, this summer's Captain John Smith 400 voyage will inaugurate the nation's first all-water historic trail, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Water Trail, which was approved by Congress in December 2006 and which is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. At three points in the Sultana shallop's trip, NOAA will activate its first three "smart buoys" that will give information about the historic and ecological significance of the particular location, as well as live readings of weather and water conditions and of water quality. The first buoy will be located 400 yards offshore due south of the Jamestown monument and will be dedicated during Anniversary Weekend. The second will be a mile or so northwest of the Point Lookout Light near the mouth of the Potomac River. The third will be activated when the shallop approaches Baltimore and will sit about a mile east-south-east of Seven Foot Knoll light. Boaters (and everyone else) will be able to dial these buoys by calling the toll free number 877-BUOYBAY. You'll be able to access the buoys over the internet at www.buoybay.org.
Okay, that's it for us. Now it's up to you. Take a look, learn more about America's beginnings, and then get on board and go see it for yourself!
Cruiser's Digest: Jamestown, VA.
As the first cruisers found it, today's James River remains "navigable upp into the country deepe." Its expansive and now-industrialized mouth, separating metropolitan Hampton and Newport News from Norfolk and Portsmouth, is deep with a wide, prominently marked channel. The James River lift bridge creates the only heads-up for sailboats unable to negotiate its closed position of 60 feet at high tide. Taller masts will need to call the bridge tender (757-247-2133).
Following the same northwesterly twists and turns of those first intrepid Englishmen, boaters gain a deeper appreciation of that initial journey to Jamestown Island, 33 nautical miles from Hampton Roads. And while floating there in the 21st century may not be fraught with as much uncertainty and hardship, it is still filled with wonder. Besides weaving past osprey, eagles, and the serenity of an undulating, mostly undeveloped shoreline, one is also rewarded with a close look at the spooky National Defense Reserve Fleet, commonly called the Ghost Fleet. Following World War II, a stretch of the river about 22 miles upstream from Old Point Comfort was designated as a repository for an assortment of unused ships, thought to be serviceable in future time of need. These aging rafted specters, however, are not just increasingly obsolete but proving to be environmentally hazardous as well and are being scrapped one-by-one.
Just beyond the Reserve Fleet, before the James takes a wide southerly jog, two charted passages lead to Goose Hill Channel and Jamestown Island: the main, multiple-buoyed Tribell Shoal Channel and a parallel unnamed route. The latter, though having few marks, is deep and easily navigated, saving a little time and mileage.
Dockside access to the Jamestown Visitors Center may mean tying up at far flung but amenity-filled marinas--everything from mom-and-pop yards to high-end resorts. Only one, Master Marine of Williamsburg (until recently Jamestown Yacht Basin) on Powhatan Creek adjacent to Jamestown Island, is within walking distance. However, this facility is limited to low profile, shoal-draft boats.
If unable to navigate Powhatan Creek's fixed 12-foot bridge--which is just off the James, connecting Jamestown Island to the Park Service peninsula which houses the living history exhibits and Visitors Center--a possible settled-weather anchorage is in the spacious but unprotected area north of the channel and west of the ferry dock, toward the mouth of the Chickahominy River. Under no circumstances are boats of any size permitted to land anywhere in the Colonial National Historical Park. But tenders plying the scenic Powhatan Creek will find their way to Master Marine of Williamsburg which offers dinghy dockage for a small daily fee. Take note that this space will be at a premium during significant quadricentennial events.
But boating visitors to Jamestown can choose from other marinas in the region and from which overland transportation may be arranged. Though farther away, Yorktown's Riverwalk Landing might prove most convenient of all since admission to one of the Historic Triangle attractions (Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown) enables transportation to the other locations. The bus ride, operating on a regular basis from April through October and free for those paying park entry fees, has an audio program describing the area's unique natural and cultural history. To plan your visit and obtain information about the Historic Triangle shuttle program, contact the National Park Service at 757-898-2410 or check online at www.nps.gov/colo.
Kingsmill Resort and Spa James River at marker number 40 (757-253-1703). Approximately twelve road-miles from Jamestown--and a fully-recreational destination in itself--Kingsmill boasts floating docks, five restaurants (fine to casual), various sports activities and a European spa. In addition, it provides transportation to Williamsburg from which buses shuttle park-admission-paying tourists to both Jamestown and Yorktown.
Master Marine of Williamsburg (formerly Jamestown Yacht Basin) James River/Powhatan Creek (757-654-7714). Only a stone's throw from the Jamestown Visitors Center, dockage here is for vessels whose verticals can clear a 12-foot bridge and require no more than 3-foot depths. Marina management recently changed hands when the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit conservation organization, purchased the property.
River's Rest Marina and Resort James River/Chickahominy River (804-829-2753). This new mini-resort, about nine breathtaking miles up the Chickahominy, has floating docks, pool, motel, restaurant and, as a courtesy, conveys guests to nearby car rental agencies.
Riverwalk Landing York River/Yorktown (757-890-3370). In the heart of the historic and freshly rejuvenated colonial port of Yorktown, these new floating docks are convenient to the Yorktown Visitors Center, where admission includes transportation for the 22-mile ride to Jamestown.
Two Rivers Yacht and Country Club James River/Chickahominy River (757-258-4863). Just under eight miles away, Two Rivers is a private club honoring reciprocal agreements but not open to the general public. From here, cruisers with bikes stowed aboard can take advantage of the newly accessible section of the Capital Trail's cycle-pedestrian path. The first two completed phases run parallel to Route 5 and Greensprings Road, from the Chickahominy Bridge to the Jamestown Visitors Center.
Other marinas lying within a 25-mile radius of Jamestown Island include: Colonial Harbor Marina James River/Chickahominy River (804-966-5523); Smithfield Station James River/Pagan River (757-357-7700); York River Yacht Haven York River/Sarah Creek (804-642-2156). Taxi or rental cars are available: Yorktown Shuttle (757-890-2840); Enterprise Williamsburg (757-258-9199) or (757-220-1900); Smithfield/Surrey (757-357-9711).
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