About Hampton Roads Virginia
Hampton Roads is the name of both a body of water and a metropolitan region in Southeastern Virginia, United States. Comprising the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC metropolitan area, Hampton Roads is known for its large military presence, its ice-free harbor, shipyards, coal piers, and miles of waterfront property and beaches, all of which contribute to the diversity and stability of the region’s economy.
The body of water known as Hampton Roads is one of the world’s largest natural harbors (more accurately a roadstead or “roads”). It incorporates the mouths of the Elizabeth River and James River with several smaller rivers and empties into the Chesapeake Bay near its mouth leading to the Atlantic Ocean.
The land area (also known as “Tidewater”) includes a collection of cities, counties and towns on the Virginia Peninsula and in South Hampton Roads. Some of the outlying areas further from the harbor may or may not be included as part of “Hampton Roads”, depending upon the organization or usage. For example, as defined for federal economic purposes, the Hampton Roads metropolitan statistical area (MSA) includes two counties in northeastern North Carolina and two counties in Virginia’s Middle Peninsula. The Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA has a population of about 1.7 million, making it the 37th-largest metropolitan area in the United States.
The area is steeped in 400 years of American history, with hundreds of historical sites and attractions that draw visitors from around the world each year. The harbor was the key to Hampton Roads’ growth, both on land and in water-related activities and events. While the harbor and its tributaries were (and still are) important transportation conduits, at the same time they presented obstacles to land-based commerce and travel.
Creating and maintaining adequate infrastructure has long been a major challenge. The Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) and the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (MMMBT) are major harbor crossings of the Hampton Roads Beltway interstate, which links the large population centers of Hampton Roads. In 2007, the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority (HRTA) was formed under a controversial state law to levy various additional taxes to generate funding for major regional transportation projects, including a long-sought but costly third crossing of the harbor of Hampton Roads.
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VA Sex Offenders – The registry, including the Public Notification Database, is based on the Virginia General Assembly’s decision to facilitate access to publicly-available information about persons convicted of specified violent and sexual offenses.
Chesapeake Tourist Information – Based in southeast Virginia, the city of Chesapeake boasts more than 4,000 available hotel rooms and some of the strongest attractions, accommodations and meeting spaces in the area. Chesapeake Convention & Visitors Bureau strives to promote, market and sell the city as a destination for meetings, conventions and individual travelers, fostering economic development and benefiting and supporting members and the overall business community.
Chesapeake School Finder – Search through all of Chesapeake for any public schools address.
Virginia Beach Weather – View the local weather and other current news in the Virginia Beach area.
Great Schools – Looking for schools in your community? You’ve come to the right place. Click on the link to explore top-rated schools, find local information, talk “school” with local parents, and much more.
Movie Listings – Visit this link to view all of the new movies playing as well as new releases and movies that are coming soon.
Maps and Directions – Visit this link to view maps of the local area or obtain navigation directions around the area.
Sperling’s BestPlaces Summary of Hampton Roads – Since 1999, Sperling’s BestPlaces has provided data on thousands of metro areas, cities, and neighborhoods. Check out the information and rankings for the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Area.
Emergency Preparedness – Ready Hampton Roads is a public awareness campaign supported by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission in coordination with the Cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and Williamsburg, and the Counties of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, Southampton, Surry, and York.The purpose of this outreach initiative is to promote emergency preparedness within the Hampton Roads region.
Mueums in Hampton Roads – The Hampton Roads area is littered with museums; from traditional to unique and one-of-a-kind, with many nationally considered the best institutions of their kind.
Hampton Roads Culture
The area is most often associated with the larger American South. People who have grown up in the Hampton Roads area have a unique Tidewater accent which sounds different than a stereotypical Southern accent. Vowels have a longer pronunciation than in a regular southern accent.
Attractions, museums and sites of interest – There’s also a wealth of other points of history to explore in the Hampton Roads area. Led by the Historic Triangle area, Hampton Roads consistently rates among the top tourism destinations in the world.
Cultural attractions include museums, historical sites, and venues from tiny to massively large for such things as art and musical shows. The region hosts two week-long visits by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus each year with multiple performances at Norfolk Scope and the Hampton Coliseum, and even attracts a group of Circus Train Enthusiasts, railfans who watch, photograph and report on the blue or red unit trains as they make their move between the two sites, requiring a long inland trip through Petersburg and Richmond in order to avoid crossing the 10-mile (16 km) geographical distance across the harbor (a trip impassable directly by modern trains; the two bridge-tunnel facilities operated by VDOT accommodate only highway traffic).
Historic Triangle – The Historic Triangle is located on the Virginia Peninsula and includes the colonial communities of Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown, with many restored attractions linked by the Colonial Parkway.
The National Park Service’s Colonial Parkway joins the three popular attractions of Colonial Virginia with a scenic and bucolic roadway carefully shielded from views of commercial development. This helps visitors mentally return to the past, and there are often views of wildlife and waterfowl. This two lane roadway is the best (but not quickest) way to move between the three points. Near the James River and York River ends of the parkway, there are several pull-offs, where some families allow their children to feed bread to the seagulls. Commercial vehicles, except for tour buses, are prohibited.
For an even better experience, approach the area from the south by water from Surry County with a ride aboard one of the Jamestown Ferries, which include the Pocahontas and Williamsburg. As passengers cross, they can walk about the boat or go up to an enclosed viewing level with restrooms. Weather and daylight permitting, passengers usually see Jamestown Island much as the first colonists may have approached it. In fact, the replicas of Christopher Newport’s the three tiny ships, Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery are docked near the northern ferry landing at Glass House Point. Both the Jamestown Ferry and Colonial Parkway are toll-free.
The first permanent English settlement in the New World which was established at Jamestown in 1607. The 350th anniversary celebration at Jamestown Festival Park in 1957 was so popular, tourism has been continuously increasing ever since. The 400th anniversary was celebrated with an 18-month long celebration called Jamestown 2007. Today, at Jamestown, you can visit recreations of an American Indian village and colonial fort, and archaeological sites where current work is underway by archaeologists from the Jamestown Rediscovery project, with recently recovered archaeological artifacts in a new display building. Replicas of the three ships, Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery are docked nearby.
The two major attractions, which are complementary to each other, are the state-sponsored Jamestown Settlement near the entrance to Jamestown Island, and the National Parks Service’s Historic Jamestowne, on Jamestown Island itself.
In 1699, the first capital of Virginia was moved to Middle Plantation at the suggestion of students from the College of William & Mary (established 1693). It was soon renamed to Williamsburg, but became a largely forgotten little town after the capital was moved to Richmond in 1780. Largely due to the 20th-century preservation efforts of the Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, rector of Bruton Parish Church and the generosity of Standard Oil heir John D. Rockefeller Jr., today Colonial Williamsburg is a large living museum of early American life. It has dozens of restored and recreated buildings and reenactors. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The Visitor’s Center (right off the Colonial Parkway) features a short movie and is an excellent place to start (and leave automobiles, which are restricted from the restored area, where wheelchair-accessible shuttle bus service is provided).
Bassett Hall, an 18th-century farmhouse, is located in Williamsburg just southeast of the Historic Area, was the Williamsburg home for over 25 years of the family of John D. Rockefeller Jr and his family from the mid-1930s until 1960, following over 7 years of restoration and expansions. The Rockefeller family bequeathed Bassett Hall to Colonial Williamsburg in 1979. The home is now open to the public and appears much as it did in the 1930s and 40s when the Rockefellers made it their home. The third point of the Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia is Yorktown where General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington in 1781, ending the American Revolution. There are two large visitor centers, battlefield drives, and a waterfront area.
Notwithstanding the amazingly successful efforts to provide a non-commercial atmosphere at the three Historic Triangle areas (and on the Colonial Parkway between them), there are many hotels, motels, campgrounds, restaurants, shops and stores, gasoline stations, and amusements close by.
- Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a major theme park located near Williamsburg in James City County.
- Williamsburg Pottery Factory is also nearby on U.S. Highway 60, seven miles (11 km) west of Williamsburg in James City County.
Peninsula museums – The Mariners’ Museum, founded in 1930 by Archer and Anna Huntington, is an institution dedicated to bringing maritime history to the world. It is currently home to the USS Monitor Center where 210 tons of artifacts recovered from the USS Monitor are held, including the gun turret. The museum also consists of a 550 acre park and Lake Maury, through which is the five mile Noland Trail. The permanent collection at the museum totals about 32,000 objects, equally divided between works of art and three-dimensional objects. The Mariners’ Museum Library and Archive, now located in the Trible Library at Christopher Newport University, consists of over 78,000 books, 800,000 photographs, films and negatives, and over one million archival pieces, making it the largest maritime library in the Western hemisphere.
The Virginia War Museum covers American military history. The Museum’s collection includes, weapons, vehicles, artifacts, uniforms and posters from various periods of American history. Highlights of the Museum’s collection include a section of the Berlin Wall and the outer wall from Dachau Concentration Camp. The Virginia Living Museum, first established in 1966, combines the elements of a native wildlife park, science museum, aquarium, botanical preserve, and planetarium. The exhibits are themed on the geographic regions of Virginia, from the Appalachian Mountains to the offshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and includes more than 245 different animal species.
The Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News contains a rotating gallery of art exhibits. The Center also contains a Studio Art School of private and group instruction for all ages. It maintains a permanent “Hands On For Kids” gallery designed for children and families to interact in what the Center describes as “a fun, educational environment that encourages participation with art materials and concepts.” The Hampton University museum was established in 1868 in the heart of the historic Hampton University campus. The Museum is the oldest African American museum in the United States and one of the oldest museums in the State of Virginia. It contains over 9,000 objects, including African American fine arts, traditional African, Native American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Island, and Asian art.
The Charles H. Taylor Arts Center is Hampton’s public access arts center. It offers a series of changing visual art exhibitions as well as a quarterly schedule of classes, workshops and educational programs. The Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center in SE Newport News contains a community-based art gallery, as well as arts classrooms and the Ella Fitzgerald Theater. The Casemate Museum (where former Confederate President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned) is at Fort Monroe in the historic Phoebus area at Old Point Comfort in Hampton. NASA Langley Research Center is in Hampton, the original training ground for the Mercury Seven, Gemini, and Apollo Astronauts. Visitors are able to learn about the region’s aviation history at the Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton. Air Power Park is an outdoor on-site display of various aircraft and a space capsule. It is located on Mercury Boulevard at the intersection of LaSalle Blvd, near the AF Base. The Biblical Art Gallery at Ivy Farms Baptist Church is Virginia’s largest collection of pre-1900s religious art.
Harbor Tour Sites
- Fort Wool is located in the middle of the Hampton Roads harbor. Harbor tours departing from Hampton and Newport News provide access to Fort Wool.
- Newport News Shipbuilding – America’s largest military shipbuilder – may also been seem from aboard a Hampton-based harbor tour.
South Hampton Roads – The Chrysler Museum of Art, located in the Ghent district of Norfolk, is the region’s foremost art museum and is considered by the New York Times to be the finest in the state. Of particular note is the extensive glass collection and American neoclassical marble sculptures.
Nauticus, the National Maritime Center, opened on the downtown waterfront in 1994. It features hands-on exhibits, interactive theaters, aquaria, digital high-definition films and an extensive variety of educational programs. Since 2000, Nauticus has been home to the battleship USS Wisconsin, one of the last battleships to be built in the United States. It served briefly in World War II and later in the Korean and Gulf Wars. The General Douglas MacArthur Memorial, located in the 19th-century Norfolk court house and city hall in downtown, contains the tombs of the late General and his wife, a museum and a vast research library, personal belongings (including his famous corncob pipe) and a short film that chronicles the life of the famous General of the Army.
Also in downtown Norfolk and inside Nauticus is the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, an official U.S. Navy museum that focuses on the 220 plus year history of the Navy within the region. The Children’s Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth has one of the largest collection of model electric trains and other toys. The Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth is one of the oldest shipyards and has the first dry dock on display. The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (in Suffolk and Chesapeake) is accessed from U.S. Route 17 in Chesapeake. The Suffolk-Nansemond Museum is in the restored Seaboard and Virginian Railway passenger train station in Suffolk. The Isle of Wight Museum is in Smithfield. The Contemporary Art Center of Virginia located in Virginia Beach features the significant art of our time.
Music and venues – The Hampton Roads region has a thriving music scene, with a heavy concentration thereof in the Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Norfolk areas. Many clubs, venues, and festivals exist within the region, all playing host to a wide variety of musical styles. There are a few hundred bands that play routinely in the region, spanning multiple genres. There are also twenty to thirty musical acts based in the region that perform throughout Hampton Roads and its surrounding areas on a “full time” basis.
In addition, plenty of well known acts have come from the area. Some of the major rock/pop artists include Bruce Hornsby, Gary “U.S.” Bonds, Juice Newton, Mae, Seven Mary Three, Gene Vincent, Keller Williams, and Steve Earle. Ella Fitzgerald is the most recognizable jazz musician from the area. Robert Cray and Ruth Brown are both prominent blues and R&B artists. Tommy Newsom is another famous jazz musician. Many prominent rap and hip hop artists come from the area including Chad Hugo, Clipse, Magoo, Missy Elliott, Nicole Wray, Pharrell Williams, Quan, Teddy Riley, and Timbaland.
The region has a number of venues hosting live music and performances. Several of the larger (in order of maximum seating capacity) are:
- Verizon Wireless Virginia Beach Amphitheatre in Virginia Beach (seating 20,000)
- Norfolk Scope in Norfolk (seating 13,800)
- Hampton Coliseum in Hampton (seating 13,800)
- Kaplan Arena at William & Mary Hall in Williamsburg (seating 10,175)
- Ted Constant Convocation Center at Old Dominion University in Norfolk (seating 9,500)
- nTelos Pavilion at Harbor Center in Portsmouth (seating 7,500)
- Le Palais Royal Theatre at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in James City County (seating 5,600)
- Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News (seating 1,725 and 453 in 2 separate concert halls)
- Lake Matoaka Amphitheatre at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg (seating 1,700)
- The NorVa in Norfolk (standing 1,500)
Dozens of much smaller commercial establishments offer live music and other entertainment such as comedy shows and mystery dinner-theater throughout the region.
Parks and recreation – The Norfolk Botanical Garden, opened in 1939, is a 155-acre (0.6 km2) botanical garden and arboretum located near the Norfolk International Airport. It is open year round. The Virginia Zoological Park, opened in 1900, is a 65-acre (260,000 m2) zoo with hundreds of animals on display, including the critically endangered Siberian Tiger and threatened White Rhino. First Landing State Park and False Cape State Park are both located in coastal areas in Virginia Beach. Both offer camping facilities, cabins, and outdoor recreation activities in addition to nature and history tours. First Landing is the site of Cape Henry while False Cape is located at the southeastern end of Virginia Beach.
Newport News Park is located in the northern part of the city of Newport News. The city’s golf course also lies within the Park along with camping and outdoor activities. There are over 30 miles (50 km) of trails in the Newport News Park complex. The park has a 5.3-mile (8.5-km) multi-use bike path. The park offers bicycle and helmet rental, and requires helmet use by children under 14. Newport News Park also offers an archery range, disc golf course, and an “aeromodel flying field” for remote-controlled aircraft, complete with a 400 ft (120 m) runway.
The region also has amusement parks which attract tourists and locals alike. Ocean Breeze Waterpark, Shipwreck Golf, and Motor World are Virginia Beach’s amusement parks, which were formerly called Ocean Breeze Fun Park. As separate parks, they provide miniature golf, go-karts, water slides, pools, climbing wall, paintball area, and kiddie rides. Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA are the major theme parks in Williamsburg.
Media – Two major newspapers serve Hampton Roads: The Virginian-Pilot in the Southside, and The Daily Press on the Peninsula. Smaller publications include the six days a week Suffolk News-Herald, the Williamsburg-James City County area’s twice-weekly Virginia Gazette (the state’s oldest newspaper), and the New Journal and Guide, James River Journal, The Voice and the Oyster Pointer weeklies. The Smithfield Times which publishes a weekly edition in the Isle of Wight County town of the same name.
Hampton Roads Magazine is one of the region’s city and lifestyle magazine. The publication is published ten times a year and covers all of Hampton Roads, Williamsburg and the Eastern Shore. Hampton Roads Times (hamptonroadstimes.com) serves as an online magazine for the region. Suffolk Living Magazine is another of the region’s city and lifestyle magazines. The publication is published four times a year and covers the City of Suffolk. Suffolk Publications also produces Virginia-Carolina Boomers, a regional guide for Boomers in the area, which comes out twice a year. Inside Business is the area’s only business newspaper. It covers all of Hampton Roads and is published weekly.
The Hampton Roads designated market area (DMA) is the 42nd largest in the U.S. with 712,790 homes (0.64% of the total U.S.). The major network television affiliates are WTKR-TV 3 (CBS), WAVY 10 (NBC), WVEC-TV 13 (ABC), WGNT 27 (CW), WTVZ 33 (MyNetworkTV), WVBT 43 (Fox), and WPXV 49 (ION Television). The Public Broadcasting Service station is WHRO-TV 15. WUND 2(UNC-TV/PBS member station), broadcasting out of Edenton, NC, serves as another PBS affiliate for the area. Area residents also can receive independent stations, such as WSKY broadcasting on channel 4 from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, WGBS-LD broadcasting on channel 11 from Hampton, and WTPC 21, a TBN affiliate out of Virginia Beach. Most Hampton Roads localities are served by Cox Cable which provides LNC 5, a local 24-hour cable news television network. Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight, and Southampton are served by Charter Communications. Verizon FiOS service is currently available in parts of the region and continues to expand, offering a non-satellite alternative to Cox. DirecTV and Dish Network are also popular as an alternative to cable television.
Norfolk is served by a variety of radio stations on the FM and AM dials, with towers located around the Hampton Roads area. These cater to many different interests, including news, talk radio, and sports, as well as an eclectic mix of musical interests.
Sports – Norfolk serves as home to two professional franchises, the Norfolk Tides of the International League and the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League. The Tides play at Harbor Park, seating 12,067 and opened in 1993. The Admirals play at Norfolk Scope Arena, seating 8,725 or 13,800 festival seating, which opened in 1971. The Peninsula Pilots play in the Coastal Plain League, a summer baseball league. The Pilots play in Hampton at War Memorial Stadium seating 5,125 and opened in 1948.
On the collegiate level, four Division I programs—two on the Southside and two on the Peninsula—field teams in many sports, including football, basketball, and baseball; all four currently play football in the second-tier FCS, though one of the schools is preparing for a move to FBS football. The Southside boasts the Old Dominion Monarchs and the Norfolk State Spartans, both in Norfolk, while the Peninsula features the William & Mary Tribe in Williamsburg and Hampton Pirates in Hampton. ODU and W&M are both members of the Colonial Athletic Association. Norfolk State and Hampton, both historically black institutions, compete in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. ODU has announced a 2013 move to Conference USA, an FBS football conference, and will become a full FBS member in 2015. The area also has two Division III programs, one in each subregion—the Virginia Wesleyan Marlins on the border of Virginia Beach and Norfolk, and the Christopher Newport University Captains in Newport News. The Captains sponsor fourteen sports and currently compete in the USA South Athletic Conference, but will move to the Capital Athletic Conference in July 2013.
The Hampton Coliseum, seating 10,761 to 13,800 festival seating, hosts the annual Virginia Duals wrestling events, and the annual Hampton Jazz Festival. The arena opened in 1970 and has previously hosted Hampton University basketball along with NBA and NHL preseason exhibition games.
Virginia Beach serves as home to two soccer teams, the Hampton Roads Piranhas, a men’s team in the USL Premier Development League, and a women’s team by the same name in the W-League. The Piranhas play at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex. The Virginia Beach Sportsplex, seating 11,541 and opened in 1999, contains the central training site for the U.S. women’s national field hockey team. The Sportsplex will be expanded to accommodate the Virginia Destroyers, an expansion franchise in the United Football League for the 2011 UFL season. The North American Sand Soccer Championships, a beach soccer tournament, is held annually on the beach in Virginia Beach.
Virginia Beach is also home to the East Coast Surfing Championships, an annual contest of more than 100 of the world’s top professional surfers and an estimated 400 amateur surfers. This is North America’s oldest surfing contest, and features combined cash prizes of $40,000. Langley Speedway in Hampton, seating 6,500, hosts stock car races every weekend during Spring, Summer, and early Fall. The Kingsmill Championship, an event on the LPGA Tour, is contested annually on Mother’s Day weekend at Kingsmill Resort near Williamsburg. The Norfolk Nighthawks were a charter member of the Arena Football League’s minor league, af2. They ceased operations in 2003 after their fourth season. Also, the Virginia Beach Mariners of soccer’s USL First Division were active from 1994 until 2006.
Hampton Roads has hosted many professional wrestling events throughout the years. The Norfolk Scope has served as the site of these events, including Total Nonstop Action Wrestling’s Destination X, World Championship Wrestling’s Starrcade and World War 3, and WWF/WWE’s The Great American Bash and the 2011 Slammy Awards. Norfolk Scope was also the site of an infamous episode of WCW Monday Nitro, where several members of the World Wrestling Federation stable D-Generation X literally drove a tank to the entryway of the Scope, thus “invading” the competition. The Hampton Coliseum has also hosted many events, including RAW, in April 1998, August 2005, May 2007, January 2008, and July 2011, as well as SmackDown! and for ECW on Sci Fi on December 2006. In January 2008, WWE broadcast its first television show taped in high definition from Hampton, VA.
The Hampton Roads area is also home to at least one professional wrestling promotion, Vanguard Championship Wrestling, which holds events throughout the region, and has a weekly television show on the local Fox affiliate. In 1997, Norfolk presented a proposal to bring an expansion hockey team to Hampton Roads. But that initiative failed. The team was going to be called the Hampton Roads Rhinos. In 2002, Norfolk presented a proposal to bring the Charlotte Hornets basketball team to southeastern Virginia, but New Orleans won the bid for the team, renaming it the New Orleans Hornets. In 2004, Norfolk presented a proposal to bring the Montreal Expos baseball team to the metro area, but Washington, D.C. won the bid for the team, renaming it the Washington Nationals. In 1998, 2001, 2006, and 2010 Hampton Roads was hosting the AAU Junior Olympics. In 2012, there were talks of the Sacramento Kings of the NBA moving to a proposed new arena in Virginia Beach near the Oceanfront.
Hampton Roads is 130 miles (210 km) from the nearest major sports teams in Washington, D.C. and Raleigh, North Carolina. Another significant issue with the area as a sports market is internal transportation. The metropolitan area is split into two distinct parts by its eponymous harbor; as of 2012, the harbor has only three widely separated road crossings (the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel, and James River Bridge), each with two lanes of traffic in each direction. In addition, the area has two other major tunnels, plus several drawbridges on key highway corridors.
Hampton Roads previously hosted a successful franchise in the American Basketball Association, although it was never a full-time home for that team. Its highest-ranking teams as of 2012 are the Virginia Destroyers of the UFL, the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL, and the Norfolk Tides of the IL. Virginia is also the most populous state without a major team playing within its borders, though its northern reaches are served by the Washington clubs—two of which, the NHL’s Capitals and NFL’s Redskins, have their operational headquarters and practice facilities in Virginia. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, through a separate company, owns two radio stations, WXTG and WXTG-FM, in the Norfolk market. The Hampton Roads television market is ranked 42nd in the U.S.
Hampton Roads History
The first colonists arrived in 1607 when English Captain Christopher Newport’s three ships, his flagship Susan Constant, the smaller Godspeed, and even smaller Discovery landed in April 1607 at Cape Henry along the Atlantic Coast in today’s City of Virginia Beach, an event now known as the “First Landing.” However, they moved on, under orders from the Virginia Company of London, the crews and new colonists sought a more sheltered area up one of the rivers. Their major concern was other European competitors such as the Spanish, who had earlier discovered the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia’s rivers, and had even in 1570 begun a small settlement on the Virginia Peninsula known as the Ajacán Mission, which had failed.
During 18 days of exploring the area, they surely saw the enormous harbor of Hampton Roads, and some of the party must have appreciated its possibilities. However, after exploring the James River west at least as far as present-day Hopewell, they agreed upon Jamestown Island, where they established the first successful English colony in the New World on May 14, 1607.
Despite the defensive advantages of that location against Spanish attacks, the low and marshy site at Jamestown proved a very poor choice in many other ways. More than five years of fragile existence and high mortality rates followed including the Starving Time of 1609–10 when over 80% of the 500 colonists perished before the future of the Virginia Colony began to appear more promising. The change came about with the just-in-time arrival of a new Governor, Lord De La Warr, and a new colonist with a successful business idea named John Rolfe, who established the Virginia tobacco industry.
For centuries, the harbor and rivers of Hampton Roads have been ideal locations for both commerce and for many major shipyards. Some were established as early as the late 18th century such as the Gosport Navy Yard in what is now the City of Portsmouth. The harbor was also a key point for military control of the region. Even the earliest settlers created fortifications at Old Point Comfort by 1610 against potential attacks by ships of Spanish or other unfriendly European forces.
Revolution, War of 1812 and Defense of Chesapeake Bay – Important conflicts of the American Revolutionary War involved Norfolk, Yorktown and Craney Island (at the mouth of the Elizabeth River in Portsmouth). It was at Norfolk where the last Royal Governor of the Virginia Colony, Lord Dunmore, departed mainland Virginia for the last time. More importantly, the decisive battle of the Revolution was won at Yorktown, in 1781.
The first naval action of the War of 1812 took place on July 8, 1812, when the Bermuda sloop, HMS Whiting, its crew oblivious to the US declaration of war, dropped anchor in Hampton Roads. As its captain was being rowed ashore, the Royal Naval vessel was seized by the American privateer Dash, which happened to be leaving port.
Under the new United States government, by the 1830s, the entrance from Chesapeake Bay was defended by Fort Monroe, built by the U.S. Army beginning in 1819 on Old Point Comfort, and by Fort Wool, built as Fort Calhoun in 1829, on a small island called the Rip Raps near the middle of the channel (and now adjacent to one of the manmade islands of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel). Much work in the building of these fortresses in the early 19th century was done by a 24-year-old engineer in the U.S. Army, a Lieutenant named Robert E. Lee.
Civil War – During the American Civil War (1861–1865), the famous Battle of Hampton Roads between the first American ironclad warships, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (ex-USS Merrimack) took place off Sewell’s Point, on March 8–9, 1862. That battle was inconclusive, but later in 1862, Union forces took control of Hampton Roads, Norfolk, and the lower James River. However, their efforts to take the Confederate capital of Richmond via the James River with their vastly superior Navy were thwarted by a strong Confederate battery position high above a bend in the river about 8 miles (13 km) below Richmond at Drewry’s Bluff.
Fort Monroe was the launching place for Union General George McClellan’s massive 1862 Peninsula Campaign, a land campaign of many months which began at Fort Monroe and advanced up the Virginia Peninsula, with a Siege at Yorktown and another battle at Williamsburg before the Union Army almost literally reached the gates of Richmond, ending at the Chickahominy River within earshot of the city’s church bells, according to the journals of Union soldiers. However, the Confederates mounted a credible defense of their capital city, and McClellan’s campaign failed to capture Richmond, ending in the Seven Days Battles, during which the Union Army withdrew, effectively extending the War for almost three more years.
On February 3, 1865, as the Confederacy was near total collapse, President Abraham Lincoln met with three senior Confederates in an effort to negotiate for peace (the “Hampton Roads Conference”). Lincoln wanted the states to return to the Union and indicated the Union would pay for the slaves. The Confederates insisted their demand was complete independence, so the 4-hour conference ended in failure.
Beginning in 1861, some of the former slaves found refuge in a camp near Fort Monroe, which remained in Union hands throughout the War. There, the commander, Union Army General Benjamin F. Butler, a lawyer by training, declared them to be “Contraband of war”. On that legal basis, Union forces refused to return them to Confederate owners as would have been the practice even in many “free states” before Virginia seceded and declared itself a foreign power. Soon, word spread, and many slaves were understandably anxious to become “contraband.”
Although many of the “contraband” men at Hampton and elsewhere during the War volunteered and became part of the United States Colored Troops (USCT), others and the women and children grew in increasing numbers near Fort Monroe in Elizabeth City County. From the wood and materials salvaged from the remains of the Town of Hampton, which had been burned earlier by retreating Confederates, they built the Grand Contraband Camp, near, but outside the protective walls of the Army base. It was the first self-contained African American community in the United States.
Emancipation Oak – Close to the contraband camp stood the Emancipation Oak, on the grounds of a school for freedmen. It was under this tree in 1863 that the contrabands gathered to hear the first Southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. The school, begun by Mary Smith Peake to educate the contrabands, led to a normal school after the war, established by church groups and former Union Army officers. It grew to become present-day Hampton University.
Early educators of the era included former Union Army General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, who was the son of missionaries and commanded a USCT force during the War. Among the earlier students was a young former slave named Booker T. Washington, who went on to become a renowned educator and founder of present-day Tuskegee University. The Emancipation Oak still stands today on the grounds of Hampton University and is part of the official logo of the city of Hampton.
20th century – The Jamestown Exposition for the 300th anniversary of the 1607 founding of Jamestown was held at Sewell’s Point in a rural section of Norfolk County in 1907. President Theodore Roosevelt arrived by water in the harbor of Hampton Roads, as did other notable persons such as Mark Twain and Henry Huttleston Rogers, who both arrived aboard the latter’s steam yacht Kanawha. A major naval display was featured, and the U.S. Great White Fleet made an appearance. The leaders of the U.S. Navy apparently did not fail to note the ideal harbor conditions, as was later proved.
Beginning in 1917, as the United States became involved in World War I under President Woodrow Wilson, formerly rural Sewell’s Point became the site of what grew to become the largest Naval Base in the world which was established by the United States Navy and is now known as the Naval Station Norfolk.
Twice in the 20th century, families of mostly African American heritage were displaced in entire communities when land along the northern side of the Peninsula primarily in York County west of Yorktown was taken in large tracts for military use during World War I and World War II, creating the present-day U.S. Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, which includes Cheatham Annex, and a former Seabee base which became Camp Peary. Communities including “the Reservation”, Halstead’s Point, Penniman, Bigler’s Mill, and Magruder were all lost and absorbed into the large military bases.
Although some left the area entirely, many of the displaced families chose to relocate nearby to Grove, an unincorporated town in southeastern James City County where many generations of some of those families now reside. From a population estimated at only 37 in 1895, Grove had grown to an estimated 1,100 families by the end of the 20th century. (To its north, Grove actually borders the Naval Weapons Station property and on its extreme east, a portion of the U.S. Army’s land at Fort Eustis extends across Skiffe’s Creek, although there is no direct access to either base).
Colonial Williamsburg – A dream of one Episcopalian priest to save his 18th-century church building was to expand to create the world’s largest living museum. Replacing Jamestown at the end of the 17th century, Williamsburg had been capital of the Colony and the new State of Virginia from 1699–1780. After the capital moved to Richmond in 1780, Williamsburg became a quieter and sometimes described as “sleepy” small town. It saw some action during the Battle of Williamsburg of the 1862 Peninsula Campaign during the Civil War. However, it was not located along any major waterway and did not have railroad access until 1881. Perhaps due to the secure inland location originally known as Middle Plantation, for Williamsburg, growth and great expansion of commerce in the 19th century did not occur as rapidly as in many other Virginia cities. The main activities were The College of William & Mary and Eastern State Hospital, each historic institutions in their own right. In addition to the city’s historic past, quite a few buildings of antiquity from the 18th century were still extant, although time was taking a toll by the early 20th century.
The Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin of Bruton Parish Church initially had wanted merely to save his historic church building. This he accomplished by 1907. He later served in Rochester, New York for many years. Upon returning to Williamsburg in 1923, he began to realize that many of the other colonial-era buildings also remained, but were in deteriorating condition, and their continued longevity was at risk.
Goodwin dreamed of a much larger restoration along the lines of what he had accomplished with his historic church. A cleric of modest means, he sought support and financing from a number of sources before successfully drawing the interests and major financial support of Standard Oil heir and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his wife Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. The result of their combined efforts was the creation of Colonial Williamsburg, which included a restoration of the Wren Building at The College of William & Mary and a change of much of the downtown Williamsburg area into a 301-acre (1.2 km2) Historic Area of restored and replica buildings and surrounds to celebrate the patriots and the early history of America.
By the 1930s, Colonial Williamsburg had become the centerpiece of the Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia. These were, of course, Jamestown, where the colony started, Williamsburg, and Yorktown, where independence from Great Britain was won. The three points were joined by the U.S. National Park Service’s Colonial Parkway, a remarkable accomplishment built over a period of 27 years. The Historic Triangle area of the Hampton Roads region became one of the largest tourist attractions in the entire world. In Dr. Goodwin’s words: “Williamsburg is Jamestown continued, and Yorktown is Williamsburg vindicated.”
Other notable Hampton Roads “firsts” – America’s first free public schools, the Syms and Eaton free schools (later combined as Syms-Eaton Academy), were established in Hampton in 1634 and 1659 respectively. The Syms-Eaton Academy was later renamed Hampton Academy and in 1852 became part of the public school system, thus Hampton High School lays claim to being the oldest public school in the United States. The trust fund created from the Syms and Eaton donations has remained intact since the 17th century and was incorporated into support for the Hampton public school system.
In 1957, the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel was the first bridge-tunnel complex in the world, to be followed by the area’s much longer Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in 1963. This was followed by the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel in 1992. The prevalence of bridge-tunnels in the area is due to the number of shipbuilding and naval bases in the area. Access to the open ocean from Norfolk Naval Shipyard (in Portsmouth), Naval Station Norfolk, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story, and Newport News Shipbuilding (where all U.S. nuclear aircraft carriers have been built) do not pass under any bridges. Passing under bridges was considered a potential threat to the U.S. fleet. In the 1960s, the first astronauts of Project Mercury trained at the NASA facility adjacent to Hampton’s Langley Air Force Base. Local features including Mercury Boulevard commemorate this fact.
Information Provided By: wikipedia.org