Plaques Added to Historic House at Jamestown Beach

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Representatives of the James City County Historical Commission at Amblers, from left: Lafayette Jones, Alain Outlaw, Fred Boelt and Commission Chairman Frank Abbott. (Photo courtesy of JCC)
Representatives of the James City County Historical Commission at Amblers, from left: Lafayette Jones, Alain Outlaw, Fred Boelt and Commission Chairman Frank Abbott. (Photo courtesy of JCC)

Two plaques signifying the inclusion of the Amblers/Coke-Watts house in the Virginia Landmarks Registrar and the National Registrar of Historic Places were unveiled Dec. 4.

The house, located at the Jamestown Beach campground, was originally constructed by John Coke in 1852 as an irregularly proportioned T-shaped building. It was expanded by more than twice its size when Robert and Estelle Watts renovated the home in the 1950s, transforming it into a symmetrical H-shaped home while using materials that looked like those of the original building.

The original section of the house is considered the only surviving example of a Picturesque-style dwelling on Virginia’s lower Peninsula, according to the house’s National Registrar nomination application.

The house is located on land that was owned by the Ambler family, which purchased it in the mid-18th century and sold it to Coke, who was James City County sheriff in the mid-1840s. The house is now owned by James City County.

In December 2014 the house was named to the Virginia Landmarks Registrar and it joined the National Registrar of Historic Places in February. The James City County Historical Commission sponsored the plaques, said the commission’s staff liaison, Senior Planner Leanne Pollock.

“We want to make sure people recognize the value of the historic resources that the county has,” Pollock said. “A lot of people come to that site with the Bountiful Brews and Bites Festival and triathlons. We thought it was important that people know the house is a valuable resource, too.”

Pollock said the house is currently vacant and the county is working on plans for its future use. The county’s 2009 Shaping Our Shores master plan for the Jamestown Beach campground recommends the Amblers/Coke-Watts house serve as a “focal point” of activity and historic interpretation, potentially housing offices and displaying artifacts.