Posts Tagged ‘England’

James City, Va.
Visited: October 12, 2005
NPS Site Visited: 258 of 353
and is also an:
NPS Affiliate Site Visited: 13 of 26
NPS Website; Local Website; NPS Colonial NHP Website; Local Colonial NHP Website

Jamestown MonumentWHAT IS IT?
Location of the first successful English colony in the New World, led in 1607 by Capt. John Smith.

BEAUTY (3/10)
Historic Jamestown is a visual mess. Haphazardly placed monuments and statues take their place among town ruins in various stages of excavation.

Hurricane Isabel destroyed the Park’s old VC and other permanent structures in 2003. A new Visitor Center is under construction and should open in time for the Site’s 400-year anniversary in 2007. As a result, orange plastic fences and yellow police tape cordon off Historic Jamestown sites, port-o-potties stand next to the Pocahontas statue and no photograph can avoid a 21st-century mechanized construction intrusion.

Cranes, workers, dump trucks and assorted decibel-soaring equipment successfully stake their claim as your visit’s most indelible memory. The only respite from the mechanistic madness is the five-mile Island Drive Loop that travels through the quiet, shimmery mosquito-laden marshlands of Jamestown Island.

During a visit to the Independence NHP in Philadelphia, a docent at the American Philosophical Society averred to Michael that everything wrong in this country is traceable to our English roots. She clearly has not studied Colonial Spanish history. The two grandest historic revelations to sprout at Jamestown, tobacco farming and its conjoined twin slavery, were nourished by the English but learned from the Spanish.

In 1617, John Rolfe experimented with new strains of tobacco, imported from the Spanish West Indies. The resulting leaf proved tastier than the native species and much more profitable. The peninsula soon moved towards mass tobacco production, a society flourished and, as the Park brochures state, “America began”.

Indeed, without tobacco farming and slavery, America would have ceased to exist. The democratic ideals of the founding fathers, our economic power, the notion of religious freedom and tolerance, and the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment put into practice; poof, gone with the wind. We are tobacco; it has always spurred our nation’s blood.

The first 10 years of British life at Jamestown are notable because of the colonists’ sheer incompetence and absolute failure to survive. These settlers starved to death instead of growing crops and turned to cannibalism rather than kill the innumerable rabbits, deer, squirrel and other small game that teemed around them. It was not until 1617 that the colony became a moneymaking success.

In 1619, African slaves were brought to Jamestown to work the tobacco crop, the first instance of slavery in the English New World. Slavery was not new to the Americas, the Spanish were using it to fuel an empire, but was new to English outposts. Virginia did not become inundated with African slave labor until after the 1676 Bacon’s Rebellion but the seeds were sown at Jamestown.

New Visitor CenterCROWDS (2/10)
The Jamestown site was stuffed to the gills, even on a mid-week, late-October morning. The Park’s space-to-tourist ratio is exacerbated by the ongoing construction.

Visitors, most of them in the septuagenarian set, walk around like guillotined chickens. No one knows where to go because the makeshift VC and signage are inadequate. The Park shows the 40+ year-old intro video in an educational mobile facility with no air conditioning and no ventilation.

Confusion reigns at the current incarnation of Jamestown NHS because just around the corner, less than a mile away, is the Jamestown Settlement, a living history Virginia State Park attraction. The State Park has reënactors and replicas of the 1607 ships. The Settlement also has a separate entrance fee. We heard dozens of guests wonder aloud, “where are the ships?” and “why did we have to pay twice”.

Jamestown NHS is located a few miles southwest of the tourist beehive of Colonial Williamsburg. Numerous signs from I-64, Exit 234 point you towards the Jamestown Settlement. You can follow these signs to the NPS site because the two Museums are right next to each other. Handily, we saw a sign at nearly every intersection. You should too.

The 25-mile long Colonial Parkway connects Colonial NHP’s two major sections, Jamestown NHS and Yorktown Battlefield. The Parkway meanders amiably, allowing a stoplight and Interstate-free drive.

Jamestown NHS’s top attraction is the Glasshouse and its adjoining store. Here you can purchase stunning and affordably priced glass blown on-site, replicating the output of early 17th-century Polish and German artisans.

The Park’s book selection was good but hardly definitive. Do your shopping for read-ables at Colonial Williamsburg’s jumbo-sized bookstore.

In Stemware HeavenCOSTS (2/5)
Collectively, Jamestown NHS and Yorktown Battlefield are known as Colonial National Historical Park. The National Parks Pass (NPP) provides free entry into both Colonial NHP sites.

If you do not have the NPP, Jamestown NHS charges $8 per adult. Yorktown Battlefield charges $5 per adult. A combo pass is $10 per adult.

The Virginia State Park, Jamestown Settlement, costs $11.75 per adult. The Commonwealth of Virginia also runs its own Park at Yorktown, called the Yorktown Victory Center, which runs $8.25 per adult. Their combo pass is $17. Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center are not affiliated with the National Park Service; your NPP does not work there.

If there were Rangers at Jamestown NHS, they eluded our probing eyes.

The current educational situation at Jamestown NHS is revoltingly bad. The mentions of Bacon’s Rebellion, tobacco, slavery, English common law, cannibalism, etc… are fleeting at best. The Site does not even tell the Pocahontas story. We trust that this will change once the new Visitor Center opens. Do not expect to learn anything until that date.

Our generous score comes from our pleasant experience at the Jamestown Glasshouse. Costumed artisans blow glass while a staff member explains the mesmerizing art. The finished products (assorted stemware, ewers and lamps) are sold both under the Glasshouse canopy and at NPS Visitor Centers throughout the United States.

Colin Farrell?FUN (4/10)
Gab had tons of fun at the Glasshouse. Michael was thoroughly bored. Neither of us enjoyed our time at the Historic Jamestowne site. It is difficult to transport your imagination back to 1607 while bulldozers drown out your every thought. Even though we are not intrigued by the Pocahontas story, we did want to hear it. Instead, we were met with signs beckoning us to return in 2007. All of our learning came through self-induced historical speculation based on our own readings. If you come to learn about Jamestown you will leave with the same desire.

Yes, just not until 2007 when the new VC and Museum open. Maybe then we can come back and adjust our score upward.

TOTAL 37/80


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St. Simons Island, Ga.
Visited: February 2, 2005
NPS Site Visited: 142 of 353
NPS Website; Local Website

Old City RuinsWHAT IS IT?
James Oglethorpe, leader and founder of the Georgia colony, began construction of Frederica Town in 1736. It was the southernmost outpost under British rule. Today, only the ruins remain.

BEAUTY (4/10)
Fort Frederica must have once been a beautiful little town with its wide streets, live oaks, orange trees, a tabby (oyster shell) fort and Georgia-style architecture red brick structures. Little remains of the town today except portions of the fort and the base of the old houses. Oglethorpe built Fort Frederica on a planned square grid of roads that the Park Service still marks with street signs. You need to use your imagination to transform the house shell ruins and overrun old streets into a vital English city.

James Oglethorpe settled Georgia, and Fort Frederica, with the “worthy poor”, or English citizens who had found themselves homeless or in debtor’s prison. Frederica was both a bustling town and the southernmost British defense line in the American colonies. Its primary purpose was military.

As we learned at the Castillo de San Marcos NM in St. Augustine, Oglethorpe launched many attacks from 1740 to 1743 on the Spanish colony from Fort Frederica, none of them successful. One of his sneak attacks was stymied at Fort Matanzas, an NPS site just south of St. Augustine. In turn, the Spanish invaded Georgia in 1742 but were repelled at Bloody Marsh, an adjunct section of the Park near the southern tip of St. Simons Island.

CROWDS (4/10)
We were the only visitors to Fort Frederica NM. The Visitor Center was stuffy; the watchful eye of the volunteer unwavering. Perhaps more visitors would have lightened the mood and made us less claustrophobic.

Costumed MichaelEASE OF USE/ACCESS (2/5)
The Site is 12 miles from Interstate 95 and Brunswick, Georgia. Fort Frederica is located on St. Simons Island. The Island can only be reached via the E.J. Torras Causeway.

U.S. Route 17 leads to the bridge’s entrance. Route 17 is known by many names its short loop around Brunswick. They include Georgia Route 25, Glynn Avenue, the Ocean Highway, the Jekyll Island Road and the Darien Highway. Just follow signs to St. Simons Island.

St. Simons Island’s roads are narrow, crowded and have a low speed limit. They are also very well marked. Many signs point you on you way to Fort Frederica NM.

The 12 miles from the Interstate to the Fort could take as long as forty-five minutes to traverse.

Georgia is the one thing books at Fort Frederica have in common. This small store maintained by a local non-profit association offers journals and replicas of official documents from the colony’s early days. If those seem a little dry, pick up books describing Fort Mose, a Spanish fortification armed solely by escaped slaves or read social histories or Scottish Highlanders in Colonial Georgia. St. Simons Island and the nearby town of Brunswick are settings for several titles, including Eugenia Price’s historical novels.

COSTS (3/5)
Entrance is $5 per vehicle.

No Rangers on duty. We are fortunate that, earlier that week, we had asked a Ranger at the Castillo de San Marcos NM about Fort Frederica’s place in the American story.

Invitation from John IrelandTOURS/CLASSES (4/10)
We have the distinction of being two of the last people to view This is Frederica, an intriguing NPS video starring John Ireland. Remember the soap Santa Barbara? This Is Frederica is essentially a soap opera set among the ruins of the town of Frederica. Actors dressed in colonial garb sporting an array of accents go about their daily chores, interact and recount the history of the 18th-century town in buildings without walls or doors. This makes scenes with bickering neighbors and constables “knocking” on doors even funnier.

Yes, the 1965 film was horribly dated and difficult to follow. Yes, the narrative technique bordered on ridiculous, with Mr. Ireland switching from omniscient observer to active participant with no regard for chronology or linear narrative. We did not learn much, but my goodness the film was fun to watch.

We arrived just days before Fort Frederica NM would unveil their brand new video as part of a celebratory anniversary weekend. Will future visitors ever know This Is Frederica?

There is a small exhibit area in the Visitor Center. It pales in comparison to watching the ”uppity wives of the worthy poor” preen and gossip amid the ruins of Frederica. No Ranger-led activities are offered in the winter months.

Frederica GangFUN (5/10)
It is really impossible to explain how wonderful/horrible This Is Frederica was. Our guffaws echoed in the empty theatre. This film will probably reach mythical proportions in our minds before our trip is over.

The absence of regular Ranger-led activities makes it difficult to recommend this Site. Its historical significance is minimal; access is not as easy as it should be. With the lovely towns of Savannah, Georgia and St. Augustine, Florida so close in either direction, you might stop here en route between them. No need to go out of your way.

TOTAL 34/80

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