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

California State Route 88 the Carson Pass Highway

Between 2016 and 2017 I drove the majority of California State Route 88 from CA 99 in Stockton east over Carson Pass to CA 89.






CA 88 is a 122 mile state highway from CA 99 in Stockton east over the Sierra Nevada Range to the continuation route Nevada State Route 88 at the Nevada State Line.  CA 88 is known as the Carson Pass Highway.  Carson Pass at 8,574 feet above sea level along CA 88 is an all-year Mountain Pass in the Sierras and on occasion designated as Temporary US Route 50 when conditions are bad over Echo Summit. 

CA 88 was not one of the original Signed State Highways.  CA 8 was the original designation over Carson Pass which can be seen on the 1938 California State Highway Map.

1938 State Highway Map

CA 8 was substantially different than CA 88 west of Jackson as it largely follows the current route of CA 26.  From US 99E in 1934 and later US 50/99 in 1936 from Stockton CA 8 originally used the following route to reach Jackson:

-  Legislative Route 5 from US 99 in Stockton …

California State Route 49; The Golden Chain Highway (CA 41 north to CA 16)

Last year I traveled California State Route 49 from CA 16 north to CA 89 in one continuous trip.  This year and in early 2016 I traveled the rest of CA 49 south to CA 41 in Oakhurst.  This blog post consists of photos of the highway from those time periods and historical information about the southern part of CA 49.


This blog post is meant to be a continuation of the previous one I did regarding CA 49 from CA 16 north to CA 89.  A link to said blog post can be found below:

California State Route 49; The Golden Chain Highway (CA 16 north to CA 89)

As stated in the previous blog post; CA 49 is an approximately 295 mile long north/south highway which traverses the traditional Gold Rush Country of California.  While I intend to discuss county level historical alignments of CA 49 as I did in the first blog post I thought this would be a good place to discuss the backstory of highway.

CA 49 was first signed in 1934 along a series of Legislative Route Numbers ("LRN") that were large…

Caliente-Bodfish Road/Kern County Road 483

Back in 2016 I took Caliente-Bodfish Road south towards California State Route 58 while leaving the Sierra Nevada Range after looking for the town site of Old Kernville.






Caliente-Bodfish Road is also known as Kern County Road 483 which I believe is an internal designation for mountainous roadways within the Sierra Nevada Range.  Caliente-Bodfish Road begins at Kern Canyon Road (Old California State Route 178) at the southern extent of Bodfish and climbs over the southern most extent of the Sierra Nevada Range approximately 35 miles to Bena Road near Caliente.  Caliente-Bodfish Road is a full two-lane road despite traversing some narrow terrain in the Sierras.  The high point on Caliente-Bodfish Road appeared to be near 4,000 feet above sea-level and I would estimate that there grades as high as 10% in places.

South of Bodfish Caliente-Bodfish Road ascends quickly above the community on a series of switchbacks.  There is no official overlook but there is a hell of a view of Bodfish an…