ENTER THE WORLD OF THE COLONIAL GOVERNOR AT JAMESTOWN SETTLEMENT
Fit for the highest ranking official in the Virginia colony, the grandest dwelling in Jamestown Settlement’s re-created 1610-14 fort is open to visitors. Based on archaeological and documentary research, the Jamestown Settlement building is furnished and interpreted as the colonial governor’s house.
The 66- by 18-foot, two-and-a-half-story building has a cobblestone foundation, walls of wattle and daub, wood plank floors, and a thatch roof. Entering through one of six doors, two on opposite sides that open into small “lobbies,” visitors can explore all four rooms on the first floor of the new building. The second story, not accessible for public viewing, is likely to have served in the original building as sleeping space for servants and for storage.The first-floor hall, or main public room, has a table with a distinctive armchair at its head for the governor. The adjacent parlor, interpreted as a space where the governor may have entertained guests, features a smaller table and chairs, clothes press and cupboard. On opposite ends of the house are bedchambers – one for the governor, the other for members of his household, which might include his physician and secretary. Two chimneys with back-to-back fireplaces provide a hearth in each of the four rooms.
The new governor’s house is patterned after one of two large “row houses” uncovered by Preservation Virginia’s Jamestown Rediscovery archaeological project at Historic Jamestowne, site of the fort built by English colonists who arrived in Virginia in 1607. The cobblestone foundations of the two row houses at Historic Jamestowne are located within the original James Fort site, paralleling the western wall of the palisade. Based on their location in the fort, historical references and the discovery of high-status items in the vicinity, the buildings probably were constructed between 1610 and 1614, and the one re-created at Jamestown Settlement may have served as the colonial governor’s house.
According to Ralph Hamor’s account of Virginia during 1610-14, Jamestown had “two faire rowes of howses, all of framed Timber, two stories, and an upper Garret, or Corne loft.” The 1618 records of the Virginia Company cite a “Governors house in James town first built by Sir Thomas Gates Knight.” Gates served as lieutenant governor of Virginia from 1611 to 1614.