The iconic, 112-year-old “Gateway to History” at Jamestown near the Memorial Church recently underwent a facelift.
The freshly-restored memorial gates were recently rededicated during a ceremony attended by the Colonial Dames of America — the original nonprofit group that donated the gates in 1907 — and descendants of major players in the gateway’s construction, Jamestown Rediscovery wrote in a news release.
The original gate had gilded golden letters and elegant masonry, and marked the entrance to the Preservation Virginia property, which in 1907 was called the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities.
“Known as the Gateway to History, Jamestown’s Memorial Gates are more than simply an entrance to a historic site,” Jamestown Rediscovery wrote in a news release. “Rather, they symbolize the beginning of modern American democracy and the birth of our nation.”
After more than a century of weather and wear, much of the gilding was gone, parts of the gate were missing and the masonry was in disrepair.
The gates received additional funds — about $38,500 — from the Colonial Dames to restore them back to their original glory starting in fall 2018. Most of the funds were raised through individual donations.
“Since its 1890 inception, [t]he [Colonial Dames of America] has been proudly committed to historic preservation,” said President Brantley Knowles in the news release. “The Society’s erection of the iconic entrance gates at Historic Jamestown Island in 1907 represent one of the earliest examples of this commitment.”
The restoration was led by Michael Lavin, director of collections and conservation with Jamestown Rediscovery. Lavin worked with monuments conservator Jonathan Appell and a custom welder Scott Hederer to complete the conservation of the gates.
The team cleaned and repointed the brickwork where it has been eroded, replaced missing or corroded pieces of the ironwork and restored the hinges to allow them to function again.
Over the winter, some conservation was put on hold because freezing temperatures did not allow work to be done.
On Sept. 18, the Colonial Dames of America returned to Jamestown Island with more than 125 members in attendance. Descendants of James Alston Cabell, president of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities in 1907, also came to the ceremony.
Those family members were able to lay a commemorative wreath at the gate during the ceremony.
“All of us here at Jamestown Rediscovery sincerely appreciate the generous support from the CDA, without which this restoration would not have been possible,” said James Horn, Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation president.