Skip to main content

Small Towns of Virginia Series - Cape Charles

The Pavilion Gazebo is the centerpiece of Cape Charles Pier and Boardwalk
Once the hub of all of Virginia's Eastern Shore transportation modes, Cape Charles today is a quieter  shadow of its once hustling self adjusting to find a new niche along the Eastern Shore.  Located approximately 11 miles north of the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, Cape Charles was founded in the mid-1880s when a Pennsylvania Congressman by the name of William L. Scott purchased the land for a sum of $55,000.  The reason for the purchase was that the location was to be the southern terminus of the Delmarva branch of the New York, Philadelphia and Norfolk Railroad.  Immediately after tracks were laid ferry service began transporting passengers, freight, and mail to the mainland in Norfolk; but just as importantly, commerce from the urban areas in the North.  To some Cape Charles was a southern expansion of its Northern brethren as the town was a complete opposite of the sleepy agricultural villages along the peninsula.

The Palace Theatre (1941) was once the regular home of the 'Miss Virginia' pageant

The early days of the automobile era added to the prosperity of the town.  The automobile ferry "Virginia Lee" began operation in 1928 and within five years three round trip excursions occurred daily.  Also, a second ferry to Ocean View began operation.  In the years after the Second World War, it is estimated over two million people a year passed through Cape Charles.  The ferries were a key part of the Ocean Highway, a highly publicized route from New York to Florida.  The image at right shows the Cape Charles Ferry and how it was the key connection from the Peninsula to Norfolk.  However, this brief period would be the peak of Cape Charles role as the Eastern Shore's transportation hub.  In 1950, the Virginia Ferry Corporation moved the ferry terminal six miles to the south to Kiptopeake Beach.  The automobile ferry era on the peninsula would end fourteen years later when the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel opened and provided a continuous link between the Eastern Shore and the Mainland.  The town received another blow in 1953 when passenger rail service was discontinued.  The town still serves as a ferry terminal for freight rail.  But the lost of passenger revenue, auto and rail, has removed the once "City of Cape Charles" from a gateway to the industrial North and transformed it to a quiet fishing, agricultural, and tourism driven town like many of its sister Eastern Shore communities.


The Harbor Grille, an example of Cape Charles redefining itself.
Today, Cape Charles is a village .  Its downtown has emerged from the shadows of its bustling heyday.  This rebirth is anchored by the Hotel Cape Charles, a boutique hotel that has attracted many new visitors into town.  Meanwhile, the residential areas of the town glow in the charm of the Eastern Shore's laid-back atmosphere.  Many homes are nearly 100 years old with a good number dating back to the turn of the 20th century.  Many of these older homesteads have joined the cottage industry of Bed & Breakfast's.  Others are sought out for summer and year-round homes.  Much of the town has been designated a 'Historic District' which has added to the town's new 'tourist' charm.

One of the many older homes of Cape Charles.
To get to Cape Charles, take US 13 from either direction and take VA 184 (Old US 13).  This road will take you directly into the town.  US 13 has many modern amenities (gas and food).  Also, the Tidewater area is only a 30-45 minute drive to the south via US 13 and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

Site Navigation:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Dummy Lights of New York

  A relic of the early days of motoring, dummy lights were traffic lights  that  were  placed  in the middle of a street intersection. In those early days, traffic shuffled through busy intersections with the help of a police officer who stood on top of a pedestal. As technology improved and electric traffic signals became commonplace, they were also  originally  positioned on a platform at the center of the intersection. Those traffic signals became known as  " dummy lights "  and were common until  traffic lights were moved  onto wires and poles that crossed above the intersection.  In New York State, only a handful of these dummy lights exist. The dummy lights  are found  in the Hudson Valley towns of Beacon and Croton-on-Hudson, plus there is an ongoing tug of war in Canajoharie in the Mohawk Valley, where their dummy light has been knocked down and replaced a few times. The dummy light in Canajoharie is currently out of commission, but popular demand has caused the dummy

Colorado Road (Fresno County)

Colorado Road is a rural highway located in San Joaquin Valley of western Fresno County.  Colorado Road services the city of San Joaquin in addition the unincorporated communities of Helm and Tranquility.  Colorado Road was constructed between 1910 and 1912 as a frontage road of the Hanford & Summit Lake Railway.  The roadway begins at California State Route 145 near Helm and terminates to the west at James Road in Tranquility.   Part 1; the history of Colorado Road Colorado Road was constructed as frontage road connecting the sidings of the Hanford & Summit Lake Railway.  The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway spanned from South Pacific Railroad West Side Line at Ingle junction southeast to the Coalinga Branch at Armona.  The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway broke ground during August 1910 and was complete by April 1912. The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway established numerous new sidings.  From Ingle the sidings of the line were Tranquility, Graham, San Joaquin, Caldwell, H

Madera County Road 400 and the 1882-1886 Yosemite Stage Road

Madera County Road 400 is an approximately twenty-four-mile roadway following the course of the Fresno River in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Road 400 begins at California State Route 145 near Madera and terminates to the north at Road 415 near Coarsegold.  Traditionally Road 400 was known as "River Road" prior to Madera County dropping naming conventions on county highways.  Road 400 was part of the original Yosemite Stage Route by the Washburn Brothers which began in 1882.  The Yosemite Stage Route would be realigned to the west in 1886 along what is now Road 600 to a rail terminus in Raymond.  Parts of Road 400 were realigned in 1974 to make way for the Hensley Lake Reservoir.  Part 1; the history of Madera County Road 400 Road 400 is historically tied to the Wawona Road and Hotel.  The Wawona Hotel is located near the Mariposa Grove in the modern southern extent of Yosemite National Park.   The origins of the Wawona Road are tied to the Wawona Hotel but it does predate th