History: the Historic Triangle

From George Washington to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, visitors have come to this area for centuries to explore its rich history and natural beauty. From our nation’s humble beginnings through the Civil War and beyond, history lives around almost every corner here. The scenic, 23-mile Colonial Parkway connects the Historic Triangle sites of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown and helps illustrate the English colonial experience in America.


In 1607, 13 years before the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, a group of 104 Englishmen and boys began a settlement on the banks of Virginia’s James River. Today, visitors can explore that original settlement site at Historic Jamestowne. Just down the road from the original colony site, Jamestown Settlement tells the story of the people who founded Jamestown and of the Virginia Indians they encountered. Board replicas of the settlers’ ships, tour gallery exhibits tracing Virginia’s first century, explore a representation of the colonists’ fort, and discover the world of Pocahontas in a re-created Powhatan Indian village.

Colonial Williamsburg

Faithfully preserved and restored, Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area is a town-sized museum, America’s oldest and largest living history experience. From 1699 to 1780, Williamsburg served as the capital of Virginia, England’s largest mainland North American colony. The town you see today, clustered along the one-mile stretch of Duke of Gloucester Street, is little changed from the one that our founding fathers knew.


On October 17, 1781, the decisive military campaign of the American Revolution culminated with the British surrender to combined American and French forces under George Washington in Yorktown. At the Yorktown Victory Center, outdoor and indoor exhibits detail events that led the American colonies to declare independence from Britain and what life was like for the average citizen after the war. Yorktown Battlefield highlights the area where this encounter took place.

Other Regional Historic Landmarks:

Berkeley PlantationBerkeley was the site of the first official Thanksgiving in 1619 and the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison and William Henry Harrison.
Shirley Plantation—Shirley was Virginia’s first plantation and one of the first economic engines of the New World.
Sherwood ForestSherwood Forest Plantation was the home of the 10th U.S. President John Tyler from 1842 until his death in 1862
Westover PlantationWestover was built circa 1730 by William Byrd II, the founder of Richmond.
Evelynton PlantationEvelynton was originally part of William Byrd’s expansive Westover Plantation. Named for Byrd’s daughter, Evelyn, this site has been home to the Ruffin family since 1847.

Learn more about the history of James City County

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