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

Ghost Town Tuesday; Vineland, Florida; the town killed by Disney

Vineland is a small ghost town located in southwest Orange County, Florida near the junction of Florida State Road 535 and Interstate 4.  Vineland is somewhat unique due to it largely being squeezed out of existence by Lake Buena Vista which is the company town where Disney World is located. Vineland was founded in the late 1800s as Englewood.  The town name of Englewood changed to Orange Center in 1911 before finally assuming the name Vineland in 1924.  Much like the rest of Orange County the community of Vineland was centered around Citrus Grove.  In the case of Vineland said orange groves were centered around Ruby Lake. The end of Vineland came as the Disney Corporation began purchasing parcels of citrus grove land to build Lake Buena Vista.  Vineland fell into a sharp decline in the 1960s but the community managed to continue to exist to modern times.  Much of the street grid of Vineland still exists east of FL 535 but most of the original structures are either gone or falle

Old NY 10 and Goodman Mountain in the Adirondacks

  Old highway alignments come in all shapes and sizes, as well as taking some different forms after their lifespan of serving cars and trucks has ended. In the case of an old alignment of what was NY 10 south of Tupper Lake, New York, part of the old road was turned into part of a hiking trail to go up Goodman Mountain. At one time, the road passed by Goodman Mountain to the east, or Litchfield Mountain as it was known at the time. As the years passed, sometime around 1960, the part of NY 10 north of Speculator became part of NY 30, and remains that way today from Speculator, past Indian Lake and Tupper Lake and up to the Canadian Border. At one time, the highway was realigned to pass the Goodman Mountain to the west, leaving this stretch of road to be mostly forgotten and to be reclaimed by nature. During the summer of 2014, a 1.6 mile long hiking trail was approved the Adirondack Park Agency to be constructed to the summit of the 2,176 foot high Goodman Mountain. For the first 0.9 mi

Oregon State Highway 58

  Also known as the Willamette Highway No. 18, the route of Oregon State Highway 58 (OR 58) stretches some 86 miles between US 97 north of Chemult and I-5 just outside of Eugene, Oregon. A main route between the Willamette Valley region of Oregon with Central Oregon and Crater Lake National Park, the highway follows the Middle Fork Willamette River and Salt Creek for much of its route as it makes its way to and across the Cascades, cresting at 5,138 feet above sea level at Willamette Pass. That is a gain of over 4,500 in elevation from where the highway begins at I-5. The upper reaches of OR 58 are dominated by the principal pinnacle that can sometimes be seen from the highway, Diamond Peak, and three nearby lakes, Crescent, Odell and Waldo (Oregon's second largest lake). OR 58 is chock full of rivers, creeks, mountain views, hot springs and waterfalls within a short distance from the highway. OR 58 was numbered as such by the Oregon State Highway Department in 1940. OR 58 is a del