In 1583, Queen Elizabeth I of England granted Walter Raleigh a charter to establish a colony north of Spanish Florida and the next year, Raleigh sent an expedition to the Atlantic coast of North America. The area was called “Virginia,” most commonly thought to be in honor of Elizabeth’s status as “the Virgin Queen.”
In 1606, The London Company (also known as the Virginia Company) was incorporated as a joint stock company (it also included the Plymouth Company) by King James I of England (who succeeded Elizabeth in 1603) as part of the Charter of 1606. The purpose of the Company was to assign land rights to colonists for the express purpose of propagating the Christian religion. The land itself would remain the property of the King, with the London Company and the Plymouth Company as the King’s tenants, and the settlers as subtenants. The Company financed the first permanent English settlement in the “New World” in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607.
Jamestown was actually founded for the purpose of silk cultivation. After blight fungus destroyed the mulberry trees (silkworm food), the colonists tried tobacco.
With the bankruptcy of the London Company in 1624, the settlement was placed under royal authority as an English crown colony.
In 1619, colonists took greater control with an elected legislature called the House of Burgesses. A council chosen by the Virginia Company as advisers to the governor served as the “upper house.” Together, the House of Burgesses and the Council were known as the Virginia General Assembly. On July 30, 1619, the first legislative assembly in the Americas convened for a six-day meeting at the church on Jamestown Island, Virginia, but the meeting was cut short because of an outbreak of malaria. Nevertheless, the Virginia General Assembly stayed in existence, and is now the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World.
As colonization continued, Tidewater Virginia became a new home for many of the English upper class. These colonists were staunch royalists, Anglicans, and had a strong belief in their own elitism. For them, liberty meant the freedom to pursue their rich lifestyles. These colonists were predominantly from the south and west of England, from whence came the “southern drawl.”
Slavery first appears in Virginia statutes in 1661 and 1662, when a law made it hereditary based on the mother’s status. Virginians, instrumental in contributing to the United States Constitution, were the largest beneficiaries of the “three-fifths” rule of counting slaves for state representation in Congress, which ensured that Virginia initially had the largest bloc in the House of Representatives.
Virginia voted to secede from the United States on April 17, 1861, and joined the Confederate States of America one week later. Richmond, Virginia was chosen as the capital of the CSA. During the Civil War, more battles were fought in Virginia than any other state. Virginia was formally restored to the United States in 1870.
Eight U.S. Presidents were born in Virginia, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Woodrow Wilson. In addition, six presidents’ wives came from the state: Martha Washington, Martha Jefferson, Rachel Jackson, Letitia Tyler, Ellen Arthur, Edith Wilson.
Virginia is also home to the largest low-rise office building in the world, The Pentagon. Built in just 16 months, it boasts nearly 17 and one half miles of corridors, yet due to it’s unique design, movement between any two opposite points takes as little as seven minutes.
The Pentagon has approximately 23,000 employees, both military and civilian, sixteen parking lots, 131 stairways, 19 escalators, 691 water fountains, 284 rest rooms, 1 dining room, 2 cafeterias, 6 indoor snack bars, and one outdoor snack bar.