Colonial National Historical Park: Archeology – Yorktown VA

Description

Colonial National Historical Park (CNHP) was created by Congress and President Herbert Hoover in 1930 and consists primarily of the Yorktown Battlefield, the historic Jamestown Settlement, and Colonial Parkway.

Several federal agencies participated in its development. The National Park Service (NPS) provided general supervision of the entire historic site project after it was given responsibility for all historic battlefields by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Public Works Administration (PWA) contributed at least $600,000 (and probably much more) in funding. Relief agencies provided labor power: the Civil Works Administration (CWA) worked over the winter of 1933-1934 (probably for mosquito control and general clean-up) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) researched the area’s history and created replica uniforms for museums and reenactments from 1935 on. The bulk of the work, however, was carried out by the African American young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

The African American CCC units performed several years of archaeological work at CNHP. For example, during one excavation, “the site of an old brick and roofing tile kiln was uncovered. A large quantity of roofing tile and partially burned brick were found. The discovery of this kiln definitely establishes the fact that the inhabitants of Jamestown island in colonial days manufactured brick and roofing tile… Numerous articles, including bottles, iron hardware, tools, etc., were uncovered in the course of the excavation” (Daily Press, December 31, 1941).

A 1985 administrative history of the CCC and NPS notes that CCC Director Robert Fechner, in 1935, “praised the archaeological work being done by enrollees… at Colonial National Monument (salvaging two sunken British Revolutionary War frigates in the waters off Yorktown).” A Times Dispatch newspaper article from December 9, 1934 explained: “Part of the labor, in connection with the [underwater archaeology] project is provided by the CCC. These boys operate the pumps, fire the boilers, act as watchmen, and transport relics sent up by the diver to the shore in rowboats.”   The CCC workers even built “an archaeological laboratory and museum” (Daily Press, April 3, 1938).

The work at CNHP is a great example of the CCC’s tremendous and nationwide historic preservation efforts – a significant amount of it carried out by African American enrollees.

Source notes

“Colonial Monument Projects Costing Near Million To Put Hundreds To Work Next Year,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), October 1, 1933, p. 22.

“More CCC Men Reach Yorktown,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), November 12, 1933, p. 18.

“Colonial Monument Has Cost Nearly $3,000,000 Up To Present Time,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), December 3, 1933, p. 25.

“Survey Reveals High Hopes Held By Leading Citizens Of Entire Area Near This City,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), December 31, 1933, p. 11.

“Broad Development Assignment Handed Yorktown CCC Men,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), April 22, 1934, p. 17.

“Salvage War Relics After 153 Years: British Ships Sunk At Yorktown Located In Muddy Bottom of Bay and Hulks Yield Antique Cannon and Shot, Collections of Glassware and Priceless Historic Trophies,” The Times Dispatch(Richmond, Virginia), December 9, 1934, p. 60.

“Five CCC Companies Have Extensive Program In Monument Section,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), February 17, 1935, p. 16.

“To Get Clear Picture of Colonial Area,” The Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), March 27, 1935, p. 15.

“WPA Sewing Unit Making Exhibit of Banners, Uniforms,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), April 30, 1936, p. 9.

“Colonial Monument Area Resuming Appearance Of Days Of Seige,” Daily Press (Newport, News, Virginia), May 24, 1936, p. 28.

“Hundreds Attend CCC Anniversary At Yorktown Camp,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), April 5, 1937, p. 7.

“Company 2303 Holds Open House,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), April 5, 1937, p. 7.

“Yorktown CCC Camps Plan Anniversary Celebration,” The Times Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), April 3, 1938, p. 9.

“Civilian Conservation Camp Anniversary To Be Observed In Historical Parkway Area,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), April 3, 1938, p. 14.

“Fortifications Being Restored,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), April 6, 1939, p. 13.

“Yorktown Siege Casualties Small Compared To Modern Battle In Like Conditions: WPA Research Account Indicates Only 85 Men In Army of 16,000 Colonials Met Death,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), December 10, 1939, p. 46.

“CCC Camps Invite Public To Attend Open House Today,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), April 7, 1940, p. 24.

“Colonial Park Sees Advance During 1941,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), December 31, 1941, p. 8.

Monuments to the New Deal Can Be Found Here,” Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia), January 8, 2015 (accessed January 16, 2022).

John C. Paige, The Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Park Service, 1933-1942: An Administrative History, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, 1985 (accessed January 16, 2022).

Yorktown Battlefield Tour Roads,” Historic American Engineering Record, HAER No. VA-117, 1995, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (accessed January 16, 2022).

Colonial National Historical Park Roads and Bridges,” Historic American Engineering Record, HAER No. VA-115, 1995, Library of Congress (accessed January 16, 2022).

Colonial National Monument Parkway,” Historic American Engineering Record, HAER No. VA-48, 1988, Library of Congress (accessed January 16, 2022).

Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on January 20, 2022.

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Location Info


1000 Colonial Parkway
Yorktown, VA 23690

Coordinates: 37.230839, -76.502360

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