1907: Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition

I was actually gonna do a write up on a different Expo, but ended up stumbling upon this one in the process. Figured the other one can wait. Anyways, the Wiki page dedicated to this 1907 Expo is rather poor, so we'll see whether we can supplement it with a few things here and there. By the way, Naval Station Norfolk is located on the site of the original 1907 Jamestown Exposition.

The Seal of Virginia
Considering that Jamestown is located in Virginia, I figured it makes sense to mention the seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia. On July 1, 1776, a committee of four was appointed to make a proper seal for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • The four men were Richard Henry Lee, George Mason, George Wythe, and Robert Carter Nicholas Sr.
  • Four days later the committee's report for a design of the seal was read, and George Mason presented it to the Virginia government.
  • It was voted on and approved that same day.
  • It is not known for certain which members of the committee were chiefly responsible for the design of the seal, but it is generally believed to be principally the work of George Wythe.
We can't seem to get away from the Roman theme. Because of the strong admiration for the Roman Republic felt by the Virginian leaders, the design of the new seal was taken from the mythology of Ancient Rome.
  • The motto selected for the obverse of the Virginia seal is Sic semper tyrannis, or in English, Thus always to tyrants.
  • This is a derived quote from the famous events in Roman history, attributed to Brutus upon his participation in the slaying of Julius Caesar.

Who cares about Christianity, right?

The Expo
The Jamestown Exposition was one of the many world's fairs and expositions that were popular in the United States in the early part of the 20th century. Commemorating the 300th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown in the Virginia Colony, it was held from 04/26/1907 to 12/01/1907, at Sewell's Point on Hampton Roads, in Norfolk, Virginia. It celebrated the first permanent English settlement in the present United States. In 1975, the 20 remaining exposition buildings were included on the National Register of Historic Places as a national historic district.
  • Because of the isolation of Sewell's Point, the company's choice made the site difficult to reach by land in order to develop it for the Exposition.
  • New roads had to be built to the site.
  • Two existing streetcar lines had to be extended a considerable distance to reach the site.
  • The eastern portion of the newly built Tidewater Railway was rushed into service, and the local Norfolk Southern Railway agreed to add substantial passenger capacity in conjunction with the Tidewater Railway to prepare to move the thousands of daily attendees anticipated.
  • On the shore, new piers had to be constructed for moving supplies to exposition buildings.
  • Hotels had to be raised to handle the millions of anticipated exposition visitors. Bad weather slowed everything.

Opening day was April 26, 1907, exactly 300 years after Admiral Christopher Newport and his band of English colonists made their first landing in Virginia at the point where the southern shore of the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. They recorded giving thanks, planting a cross and naming the location Cape Henry. Within the next few weeks, they found and explored the harbor now known as Hampton Roads. Sailing upriver on its biggest tributary, the James River, they eventually settled at what they would call Jamestown to begin their first settlement.

The doors to the Jamestown Exposition opened with President Theodore Roosevelt presiding over the opening ceremony.


The 340-acre (1.4 km²) site included a 122 by 60 ft (37 by 18 m) relief model of the Panama Canal, a wild animal show, a Wild West show, and a re-creation of the then-recent San Francisco earthquake. Possibly the most popular attraction was a re-creation of the Battle of Hampton Roads, the first battle between two ironclad warships, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia, which had taken place within sight of Sewell's Point 40 years earlier during the Civil War. The exterior of the Merrimac-Monitor Building looked somewhat like a battleship, while the interior held a large, circular exhibit describing the battle.
  • The first day of the Exposition had its share of difficulties. Only a fifth of the electric lights could be turned on, and the Warpath recreation area was far from ready. Construction of the government pier left much of the ground in the center of the exposition muddy soup. Of the thirty-eight principal buildings and works that the Exposition Company planned for the fair, only fourteen had been completed by opening day—the Fire Engine House and the Waterfront Board Walk having been completed only in the last two days. The company failed to complete two planned buildings, the Historic Art and Education buildings, by the Exposition's end in late November.
  • Planners asked each state of the union to contribute a building to the Exposition. While some of these buildings offered exhibits on the states' history and industry, others primarily served as embassies of a sort for visitors from the state, providing sitting rooms and guest services. Lack of interest or funds prevented participation by all, but 21 states funded houses, which bore their names: for example, Pennsylvania House, Virginia House, New Hampshire House, etc. During the exposition, days were set aside to honor the states individually. The governor of each state usually appeared to greet visitors to the state's house on these days.
  • The railroads put on elaborate displays. Other technology included late-model automobiles, autoboats, and electric and steam traction engines, each in its highest stage of development. The exposition included an extensive display of military hardware; warships of many nations, including the sixteen battleships of the United States, participated in a naval review.
  • A controversial feature of the exposition was its "Negro Building", designed by W. Sydney Pittman, which displays showed the progress of African Americans. The exhibit was charged with being a "Jim Crow affair", and criticized by prominent figures like W. E. B. Du Bois who voiced his complaint in Appeal to Reason, a Socialist newspaper. However, other blacks saw the Negro Building as an achievement.
This painting by Edward Biedermann, titled 300th Anniversary Celebration of the Founding of Jamestown, may depict Virginia Day during which a grand parade of ships took place.



The Exposition closed on December 1, 1907, as a financial failure, losing several million dollars. Attendance had been 3 million, a fraction of the numbers promised by the promoters. But, it had other benefits for the United States and for Norfolk and Hampton Roads.
  • Nearly every Congressman and Senator of prominence had attended the exposition, which showcased Sewell's Point. Of naval importance in the early Civil War, it had been virtually forgotten since shortly after its bombardment and return to Union hands in 1862. The admirals in Norfolk urged redevelopment of the exposition site as a Naval Base, to use the infrastructure which had been built.
  • Nearly 10 years would elapse before the idea, given impetus by World War I, would become a reality.
  • On June 28, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson set aside $2.8 million for land purchase and the erection of storehouses and piers for what was to become the Navy Base. Of the 474 acres (1.9 km²) originally acquired, 367 had been the old Jamestown Exposition grounds.
Some of the exposition buildings which were taken over by the Navy remain in use as of 2006, primarily as admirals' quarters for the Navy Base.
  • Thirteen of the state houses can still be seen on Dillingham Boulevard at the Naval Station Norfolk, on what has been called "Admiral's Row."
  • The Pennsylvania House, which through the first part of the century served as the Officer's Club, later served as the Hampton Roads Naval Museum for many years until it was relocated in 1994 to Nauticus on the harbor in Norfolk.
  • Other surviving state buildings on their original sites are the Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia House, as well as the Baker's Chocolate Company House.
  • The remaining state buildings were moved in 1934 and include the Delaware, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Michigan, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Vermont buildings. The Illinois Building was relocated next to the North Dakota Building.
  • The Kenneth L. Howard House at Dunn, North Carolina is a copy of the North Carolina building.
This is just about all the info we can extract out of the wiki page: Jamestown Exposition - Wikipedia

There are a few things missing on the general wiki page. I am talking about the construction info, and photographs of the Exposition. Photographs and other types of images are easier to find, so I will start with those.
Trees and Condition: these images were extracted out of this book covering May 1907 - October 1907. The book was published in 1907.
  • Do these buildings look brand new to you?
  • Do you think they planted these trees, or built these structures in between the trees?







Note: Good quality photographs, and plenty of interesting info can be obtained in the linked book.
Construction Photographs
Unfortunately I was unable to locate any construction photographs. I am not really surprised though. May be they keep them all at some local archive, but they could share at least one... That is if they have any.
  • There were some swamp and construction looking photographs shown in the video, but I would like to find the source of those.
    • It appears that too many Expos were "built" in swampy areas.
  • If I'm not mistaken, in the video they stated that buildings were temporary, but ... were rebuilt into permanent ones by the Navy.
One thing we can say for sure is this... at least officially there were supposed to be no structures in the swampy area they chose for the Expo.


Links and Sources:

KD: Well, just wanted to bring this Exposition to your attention. Please feel free to contribute. Post additional photographs of this expo, and share useful texts.

My questions are very simple:
  • Did they build this "city" between 1905 and 1907, or reused older buildings and structures?
    • What about them trees, and "not new" looking buildings in this 1907 book?
  • If the latter, why would they lie to us?
As it stands, I am not sure that all of the supposedly 1905-07 video footage and images were made within this time frame.

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