Sunday, December 3, 2023

The ‘gateway to history’ is getting a facelift

The Colonial Dames of America has donated funds to restore the entrance gate to Jamestown Island. (WYDaily/Courtesy Michael Lavin)
The Colonial Dames of America has donated funds to restore the entrance gate to Jamestown Island. (WYDaily/Courtesy Michael Lavin)

When arriving on Jamestown Island, visitors are greeted by the gateway to history, but over the past century those gates have grown a little rusty.

“It’s so symbolic,” said Brantley Knowles, president general of the Colonial Dames of America. “It gives you goosebumps when you go across the bridge and see this gateway into the past.”

The Colonial Dames of America, a nonprofit that promotes appreciation for colonial history, has donated $38,500 to restore the gate at the entrance to the island, Knowles said.

Related Story: These archaeologists found some pretty interesting artifacts at Jamestown Island, and they’re showing them soon

The gate, formally known as the Colonial Dames of America Gate, was first installed on the island in 1907 by the organization. In its original glory, it maintained gilded symbols and intricate steel design. But in the 112 years since its erection, the gate has gone into a state of disarray, said Michael Lavin, director of collections and conservation for Jamestown Rediscovery.

Lavin said certain parts of the gate have gone missing, such as four arrows at the bottom, and the gilding has completely disappeared.

“It is the marker for all visitor traffic that is going into our property, they all go through those gates,” Lavin said. “It’s the first thing you see when you’re entering our property and it had fallen into disrepair.”

In April of 2018, the CDA decided to focus its efforts on restoring the gate because, Knowles said, it not only represents so much symbolism but it was what the organization’s predecessors raised money to build.

The organization raised most of the funds through individual donations, Knowles said, and work on the gate’s restoration began in the fall of 2018.

During the winter, not much of the project could be completed, however. Lavin said a lot of the masonry and iron work couldn’t be done in freezing temperatures. But since the start of the project, the process for restoration is approximately half-way done.

Related story: Jamestown Unearthed: Memorial Church gets makeover as exhibits pull together for April 15 opening

Currently, there are two archaeologists from Jamestown Rediscovery, led by David Givens, director of archaeology for Preservation Virginia, working on an investigative dig around the site. The investigation began Monday and is routine for any work that is done on Jamestown Island, Lavin said, since the area is steeped in so much history.

While the gate was donated by CDA and is being restored by Jamestown Rediscovery, the property on which it rests belongs to Preservation Virginia, a privately-funded organization that works to educate and restore historic sites around the state.

Lavin said the project is expected to be completed by June and will be ready to be part of the commemoration celebration events in July.

The CDA will have its own event to celebrate the restoration later in September, where members and guests will get to visit the island and learn about a variety of different preservation efforts happening in addition to the gate.

“I can’t imagine how exciting it’s going to be,” Knowles said. “[The CDA] insignia is at the top of the gate and they just gilded it, it really makes a statement. But to be there in person, to view the gateway to history as it should be, I can’t wait.”

Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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