Visitors to Virginia Beach come here to have a great time soaking up the sun, go surfing or shopping, and enjoy the romance and fun of this city. With so many things to see and do, many visitors often forget the historical significance of this wonderful city.
Virginia Beach is not just Virginia’s largest city and tourist area, it is also one of this countries most historical rich cities. This is the city where some of the first settlers to this country landed their ships in the early 1600s. Since that time, Virginia Beach has been both making and preserving history.
There is no shortage of places to see if you are interested in the history of Virginia Beach, Parks, Museums, and a variety of other places offers visitors a glimpse into the past. Why not visit a few of these places and soak up some of the local history that adds to Virginia Beaches charm and National importance.
The Boardwalk is the number one visitor attraction in Virginia Beach and for good reason. This three mile concrete promenade stretches from 40th street to Rudee Inlet and is lined with Restaurants, Hotels, street vendors, upscale shops, sculptures, monuments, a fishing pier and entertainment stages. It is 28 feet wide with an adjacent bike path for bikers and skaters.
It is also one of the cities most popular historical sites. The original Boardwalk was built in 1888, a simple 5 block promenade. Countless people have gotten their first few of the ocean from this place, and it is the setting of many wedding proposals. The boardwalk grew as the city grew. Just strolling down the boardwalk is taking in a bit of historic Virginia beach.
While visiting the boardwalk make sure you stop and view some of the other great historical sites that line this exciting oceanfront area. The Norwegian Lady, The Old Coast Guard station, and the deWitt Cottage.
While visiting the boardwalk take a few minutes to stop and see the Norwegian Lady at the foot of 25th
street. This bronze statute is an identical replica of the wooden figurehead of the Norwegian ship the Dictator that sank off the shores of Virginia Beach.
A gift from the people of Moss, Norway this figure commemorates the loss of life and the heroic efforts to save the people on board the Dictator after this 1891 shipwreck. At her base is a message wishing save passage to all ships.
A duplicate of this statute sits in Moss, Norway.
1113 Atlantic Avenue
Also along the Boardwalk nestled among the modern motels of today is Virginia Beaches oldest remaining oceanfront Structure. The deWitt cottage was built by Bernard P. Holland Virginia’s first postmaster and Mayor as a gift for his bride.
Step inside this cottage and get a completely different view of history as this Cottage is the home of the Atlantic Wildfowl Museum. Here you can view the history of southern Virginia’s migratory wildfowl
as well as see some of the finest examples of decoy woodcarvings throughout the last century.
The Old Coast Guard Station
24th St. and Boardwalk
The Old Coast Guard Station was once a life saving station built in 1903. It is now a wonderful museum with over 1,800 artifacts and 1000 photographs. Here you will not only learn some of the historical life saving techniques used by the guard, but will be able to read and get oral histories on various shipwrecks.
There is a live cam that lets you locate ships on the horizon and then identify them using a computer program. It is a great place to visit and learn more about the coast guard duties past and present as well as some great stories of shipwrecks.
Witch of Duck Road and Statute of Grace Sherwood
Anyone wanting to combined a little history with the supernatural should take a drive down Witch Duck road. This road is one of the most traveled roads in Virginia Beach and for good reason. It was here in 1706, that Grace Sherwood became the first person in Virginia Beach to be tried for being a witch using ducking.
Dragged down this road the poor Ms. Sherwood had her thumbs tied to her big toe and was ducked into the Lynnhaven River. Freeing herself Grace Sherwood swam to safety thus proving to the community she was a witch and was then sentenced to several years in jail.
Three years ago Governor Timothy Kaine exonerated poor Grace and now she has this road named after her as well as several other places within the city such as Sherwood Lane, Witch duck Bay, Witch Duck point, and Witch point trail. You can also see a bronze statute of Grace Sherwood on the grounds of Sentara Bayside Hospital.
Francis Land House
3131 Virginia Beach Blv.
The Francis Land House is a beautiful 200 years old plantation home thought to have been built in 1804. This beautiful Georgian Style home sits on a large expanse of beautifully manicured lawns. It’s interior is decorated with beautiful antiques.
The staff for this city run home, keeps a period vegetable and herb garden as well as a pleasure garden.
There is also a history park which includes a trail through a wooded wetland and interpretive sign exhibits.
The whole family can enjoy this small step back into history as it is free to the public.
Cape Henry Lighthouse
583 Atlantic Avenue
Located on the grounds of the Fort Story military base the Cape Henry Lighthouse is actually two lighthouses both worth viewing.
The newer tower was built just 357 feet from the original tower and is eye catching in black and white.
The original tower built in 1792 is the first lighthouse in the country constructed and lit during George Washington’s administration.
Designed by architect John MaComb Jr. this 164 foot tall structure is octagon shaped and faced with hammer dressed field stone.
Visitors to the lighthouse may climb the tower of the building where they will be treated to panoramic views. This is not a visit for families with small children in tow as you must be 42 inches tall or taller to climb the stairs and ladder leading to the top, and adults are not allowed to carry small children.
Due to the fact that the lighthouses are located on a working military base visitors are asked to call in advance before visiting so that military personnel can instruct you on the proper identification you need to enter the base. The phone number is 757-422-9421. Admission to the lighthouse is $4.00
The guards on duty may also request to search your vehicle for security reasons so plan on a few extra minutes when coming to visit the lighthouses. The small inconveniences that visitors sometimes experience due to the military precautions are minimal compared to the the experience they have seeing and climbing this historical lighthouse.
While on the grounds be sure to view the site of the cross captain Newport raised in 1607 marking his safe journey across the Atlantic.
With the exception of the Cape Henry lighthouse and the Museum within the Old Coast Guard Station all of the historical sites mentioned within this article are free of charge, making exploring the history of Virginia Beach not only exciting but economic as well. Making Virginia Beach truly a place for lovershistory lovers.