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Temporary event, permanent changes
In 1957, during the 350th anniversary of the founding of America's first English-speaking settlement at Jamestown, the Historic Triangle went through historic changes.
That's when Jamestown Festival Park, which evolved into the living history museum now known as Jamestown Settlement, was built. The 1957 event also led to the extension of the Colonial Parkway linking the Yorktown, Williamsburg and Jamestown historic sites.
The success of the 350th anniversary boosted attendance at other main attractions in the Historic Triangle and launched them into national prominence. The region's tourism leaders hope for a repeat, but no one knows if the commemoration marketing can cut through the clutter in today's market.
Regardless of how many people show up for the Jamestown 2007 commemoration, one thing is certain: There will be a lot of new permanent buildings in the Historic Triangle. Both of the Jamestown sites are getting mounds of taxpayer money to spruce up by 2007.
The state-run Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation started preparing for Jamestown 2007 in 1997 with a 10-year plan to spend $80 million at Jamestown and Yorktown. The group estimates that 87 percent of these projects will be at Jamestown Settlement and that 82 percent of the money will come from taxpayers.
Neighboring Historic Jamestowne, which is administered by the National Park Service and the private APVA Preservation Virginia -- the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities -- is also in the midst of a $60 million upgrade that extends beyond 2007. About $33 million has been appropriated by the federal government.
The park service money will be used to build a $7.9 million visitors center to replace the old one, which was destroyed by Hurricane Isabel. The 18,000-square-foot center, which is to open in October 2006, will include a theater.
A $4.2 million, 11,000-square-foot building will house artifacts found at the ongoing excavation of the original James Fort. A small portion of the artifacts will be on display in a new museum being paid for by APVA.
Here's a look at what the $80 million at Jamestown Settlement will buy:
The settlement built a 36,000-square-foot education wing in 2000 that includes offices upstairs. The area for groups to check in, five classrooms and the gift shop are downstairs. This was the entrance to Jamestown until 2002, when the adjoining 32,000-square-foot wing opened.
The new, cavernous lobby and ticket area has the gift shop entrance on the right. To the left, visitors can watch an orientation film in a small theater, then venture into a large cafeteria, which is run by the owners of Williamsburg-based Second Street.
"We had a much smaller restaurant before," said Debby Padgett, spokeswoman for the foundation.
After paying to enter the settlement, visitors can go left into the 35,000-square-foot special-exhibition wing that opened in the spring of 2004. The high entrance features an enormous chandelier and staircases that lead to the exhibit space upstairs.
The ground floor has a 250-seat theater that shows the orientation film -- which Padgett describes as a docudrama that's more detailed than the introduction film in the lobby. A new introductory film that was shot partially in Angola is set to debut in the summer of 2006.
The current exhibit is being used temporarily while the permanent one is built next door in a new, 40,000-square-foot building. That building will be divided into three galleries. The first is focused on the cultures of the English, Africans and Powhatans; the second shows them collide.
"It'll show how they changed or influenced each other," Padgett said.
The last gallery will trace the colony as it matures into the development of a government. The building will also house three late-17th-century dwellings: slave quarters, a planter's house and an Indian cabin.
The end of the permanent galleries will include another gift shop and a small theater. After the building opens in late 2006, the temporary gallery will be converted into The World of 1607 exhibit. The Jamestown Settlement is increasing its staff starting with the new fiscal year in July. In 2007, the site will have guided gallery tours.
The end of the new permanent gallery building adjoins an enormous gazebo-style roof with no sides. The open area will serve as a new starting point for outdoor tours in July. Now, tourists sit on benches at the edge of the Powhatan Village, exposed to the elements.
In the Powhatan Village, three buildings based on a Paspahegh Indian village found nearby in the 1990s were added in recent years. By 2007, the village will be ringed by a new boardwalk and a small amphitheater.
"It'll be a place for interpretive demonstrations and groups to gather," Padgett said.
Down by the water, the restrooms will be replaced by a new building that will also include a seating area and refreshment stand. Behind that, the old, rotting shipwright building that houses employees and maintenance equipment for three ships will be replaced.
In 2001, the foundation built the pier shelter by the three ships. The new Godspeed is under construction in Maine and should be done next spring. The Discovery is being designed. Both will be larger than the existing ships. The Susan Constant will not be replaced and will remain the largest of the trio.
About two years ago, the foundation added a waterfront area between the boats and the fort where visitors can learn about navigation, boat repair, fishing and trade. The area is a good way to show the technology of the three cultures, Padgett said.
"We're trying to look at life outside the fort -- which was everywhere -- and compress it into this small area," said Lara Templin, site supervisor for the riverfront discovery area.
Most of the buildings in James Fort either have been or will be replaced. The foundation has added a cape merchant's office, governor's house, kitchen and munitions storehouse. A new church is on the way, and the munitions master's house is under construction in the village.
More fort buildings are planned, including one to reflect a find from the dig at Historic Jamestowne. It's unclear how the building will be interpreted. But the settlement will not display any of the 750,000 artifacts found during the dig at the site of the original fort at Historic Jamestowne and does not mention it anywhere in its programs.
The lack of cooperation between the two sites is a source of concern for many observers. But the Jamestowns did agree in November to come up with a joint ticket by 2007. A $4 million shuttle paid for by the park service now goes between the sites, Yorktown and Williamsburg.
In the meantime, APVA recently started building the $5 million Archaearium, which should be finished and full of exhibits found during the dig by next spring. The 7,500-square-foot building will have glass walls and face the original fort.
The foundation is also spending almost $2.8 million to overhaul the exhibits at Yorktown Victory Center by fall 2006 as part of an $8.4 million improvement plan there through 2012. *
MAJOR EVENTS TO PROMOTE JAMESTOWN'S 400TH ANNIVERSARY
MAY 2006 -- AUGUST 2006
Godspeed Sail: A new replica of the Godspeed will stop at six major ports up to New England. A landing party at each stop will feature live music, historical displays and a pavilion featuring Virginia food, culture and information.
Yorktown 225th Anniversary: The historical sites at Yorktown will celebrate the anniversary of the victory over the British during the Revolutionary War. The events will include re-enactors and a salute to today's military.
National Teach-In: A broadcast from the Jamestown sites will explain the area to more than 50 million students.
African-American Heritage Events: African-American groups are planning programs and conferences that will highlight how Africans and African-Americans shaped the country's development.
APRIL 2007-APRIL 2008
The World of 1607: An evolving exhibit will show what other parts of the world were like in the 17th century, when Jamestown was founded. Artifacts on loan from major international museums will reveal various cultures.
The River Sail: A two-week sail up the James River will re-create the landing of the Jamestown settlers.
MAY 13, 2007
America's Anniversary Weekend: The weekend's festivities and events commemorating the landing of the colonists will likely include the president of the United States and British royal family.
JUNE 2007-JULY 2007
Smithsonian Folklife Festival: The organizers of the well-attended two-week Washington, D.C., festival may feature Virginia and Jamestown.
Democracy Forum: The culmination of a series of smaller conferences will draw world leaders to discuss how democracy developed from Jamestown to today.
Virginia Indian Cultural Activities and Events: Leaders of Virginia Indians are developing programs with Jamestown officials.
An exhibit on American Indians at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum in Colonial Williamsburg.
The site of the original James Fort is jointly administered by the Virginia Association for the Preservation of Antiquities and the National Park Service, which also runs the Yorktown Battlefield.
The site of the re-created fort, Powhatan village, ships and exhibits is operated by the state-run Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, which also runs the Yorktown Victory Center.
The General Assembly created the group as a sub-agency of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation to organize the Jamestown 2007 events.