Yorktown in Virginia

Friday, 19 May 2017 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks
Reading Time:  6 minutes

Yorktown Battlefield © National Park Service Digital Image Archives

Yorktown Battlefield © National Park Service Digital Image Archives

Yorktown is located in York County in Virginia. It is the county seat of York County, one of the eight original shires formed in colonial Virginia in 1682. Yorktown’s population is at 200, while York County’s population is at 66,000. The town is most famous as the site of the siege and subsequent surrender of General Cornwallis to General George Washington and the French Fleet during the American Revolutionary War on October 19, 1781. Although the war would last for another year, this British defeat at Yorktown effectively ended the war. Yorktown also figured prominently in the American Civil War (1861–1865), serving as a major port to supply both northern and southern towns, depending upon who held Yorktown at the time.

Today, Yorktown is one of three sites of the Historic Triangle, which also includes Jamestown and Williamsburg as important colonial-era settlements. It is the eastern terminus of the Colonial Parkway connecting these locations. Yorktown is also the eastern terminus of the TransAmerica Trail, a bicycle touring route created by the Adventure Cycling Association. Yorktown and the nearby area are significant to the early history of the United States. Colonial National Historical Park, which contains and preserves Yorktown National Battlefield and Yorktown National Cemetery, is located on the outskirts of town. The battlefield has many of the earthworks dug by the besieging American and French forces. The Yorktown Victory Monument – commemorating the victory, the alliance with France that brought it about, and the resulting peace with Great Britain after the war – is located just outside the current town. Designed by New York architect Richard Morris Hunt, the monument was installed in 1884 and topped by a figure of Liberty sculpted by John Quincy Adams Ward. That element was destroyed by lightning in 1942. It was replaced in 1957 by a figure of Victory by Oskar J. W. Hansen. A memorial to the French war dead of the Yorktown campaign is being planned for construction at the French cemetery on the site of the battle.

Yorktown Battlefield © Reneftorres/cc-by-sa-4.0 Somerwell House from 1700 on Main Street © Wyatt Greene/cc-by-sa-3.0 Monument of Yorktown, celebrating victory in the American Revolutionary War © Aude/cc-by-sa-2.5 Yorktown Battlefield © National Park Service Digital Image Archives Yorktown Beach and George P. Coleman Bridge © Aude/cc-by-sa-2.5 © Aude/cc-by-sa-2.5 Moore House © Aude/cc-by-sa-2.5
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Monument of Yorktown, celebrating victory in the American Revolutionary War © Aude/cc-by-sa-2.5
Yorktown, named for the ancient city of York in Northern England, was founded in 1691 as a port on the York River for English colonists to export tobacco to Europe. The lawyer Thomas Ballard was the principal founder of the city along with Joseph Ring. It was called “York” until after the American Revolutionary War, when the name “Yorktown” came into common use. The town reached the height of its development around 1750, when it had 250 to 300 buildings and a population of almost 2,000 people. It was the base of British General Charles Cornwallis during the 1781 siege, which was the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War. When waterways were critical to transportation, Yorktown was thought to occupy a strategic location controlling upstream portions of the York River and its tributaries and their access to the Chesapeake Bay. In his Notes on the State of Virginia published in 1781–82, Thomas Jefferson noted that the York River at Yorktown “affords the best harbour in the state for vessels of the largest size. The river there narrows to the width of a mile, and is contained within very high banks, close under which the vessels may ride.” The population dropped in Yorktown and other areas of the mostly rural peninsula after the state’s capital was relocated from Williamsburg to Richmond on the James River, attracting more development there. In addition, tobacco exhausted the soil, and planters shifted to mixed crops, which required less slave labor. Many generations of younger sons migrated out of the Tidewater area to new lands further west, into the Piedmont and beyond to Kentucky, Tennessee and what became the Northwest Territory.

In the early 21st century, Yorktown is popular as a destination in heritage tourism. Yorktown has distinct areas. Yorktown Village or Historic Yorktown is located close to the York River, near the George P. Coleman Memorial Bridge that spans the river to Gloucester Point. Historic Yorktown is comprised first of Water Street, a small strip along the beach of the river; it contains several small restaurants, a park, a hotel, a pier, an antique shop. In May 2005 a building was constructed with more shops and restaurants, enhancing what is known as the “Riverwalk” section on the waterfront. Main Street is located on a bluff above the floodplain. Architecture in this area is almost exclusively original to the colonial era. Nine buildings, including the circa-1730 Nelson House (First Families of Virginia) and Somerwell House, survive from the pre-Revolutionary period. The old court house, several small shops, the Nelson House, and the Yorktown Monument are located along this road. Around the center of the town are residential streets. Grace Episcopal Church, situated on Church Street near the old courthouse, is noted for its architecture.

Read more on VisitWilliamsburg.com – Yorktown, virginia.org – Yorktown, York County, Julie Casey – Williamsburg and Wikipedia Yorktown (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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