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End of the Warpath: The Jamestown Exposition
(Part 2)
By Nancy E. Sheppard

WJE imageLast week, we brought to you Part 1 of the story of Hampton Roads’ only World’s Fair, the Jamestown Ter- Centennial Exposition of 1907. But what happened to the Jamestown Exposition?

Despite having all of the makings of a monumental success, the Jamestown Exposition of 1907 was a complete and utter financial failure. With the costs of the elaborate buildings, daily parades and celebrations, and maintaining the grounds, hotel, fire department, and hospital on premises were incredible. Not having thought this out very well, the owners of the Jamestown Exposition Company offered a copious amount of "comped” (free) tickets to visitors, amounting to more than half of the people who attended the event.

By the end of November 1907, the Exposition limped its way to the finish line and closed, leaving the buildings to become overgrown and largely forgotten in the years to come. The Jamestown Exposition Company reported a loss of $648,000 and was forced into bankruptcy. Many of the 15 states that built buildings on the property sold them off as private residences and soon thereafter, the Fidelity Land and Investment Corporation purchased the 340 acres, but did nothing to develop the land or care for the existing structures.

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, it was apparent that the U.S. Navy needed a large east coast facility. In 1917, they purchased the land that once housed the Exposition to the Fidelity Land & Investment Corporation and established what became the Naval Station Norfolk. Always true to their heritage, the Navy recognized the importance of the Jamestown Exposition to military and American heritage, vowing to save as many of the buildings as possible. All 15 state buildings were converted into military quarters in a section now referred to as "Admiral’s Row” (though some were moved to their present location due to the necessity to expand the airfield), a commercial industry building and the Baker’s Chocolate House building were converted into residences, the History building and two of the education buildings were converted into administration buildings, and several more of the original Exposition buildings were rehabilitated for the Navy’s purposes.

While a brief glimpse into a storied past of a failed World’s Fair, the legacy of the Exposition is quite the opposite… it was the founding the largest, greatest naval base in the world.

If you would like to learn more about the Jamestown Exposition and more lost attractions of Hampton Roads’ past, look for Nancy E. Sheppard’s third book, Lost Attractions of Hampton Roads, set for release summer 2019!


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