Crossing Water: The Story Of Hampton, Virginia

Crossing Water: The Story Of Hampton, Virginia

Sitting just northeast of one of the world’s largest natural harbors, Hampton, Virginia is a small city bordered by miles of beach.

Only 25 miles from the first permanent English settlement in the modern-day United States, Hampton has seen more than 400 years of American history. Hampton has always been coveted as a strategic location, and was home to Fort Monroe until the military installation was decommissioned in 2011. Today, around 137,436 people live in Hampton, many of them working at the city’s several government facilities, including NASA’s Langley Research Center.

Hampton Roads: Mouth Of The Atlantic

Hampton RoadsHampton is one of the seven large cities that make up Hampton Roads, a sprawling metropolitan area surrounding the body of water also known as Hampton Roads.

Hampton Roads wasn’t named for its asphalt. “Roadstead” is an old name for a bay sheltered from riptides by land. Sitting at the mouth of a harbor, roadsteads were the best place for ships to drop anchor before being cleared to enter port. You can think of Hampton Roads as a waiting room for boats.

Multiple rivers empty into Hampton Roads, including the James, Elizabeth and Nansemond. From there, water flows into the Chesapeake Bay and on to the Atlantic.

Old Point Comfort

Hampton’s easternmost point, Old Point Comfort, marks the tip of the Virginia Peninsula.

It was this point that Captain Christopher Newport and his crew would mark as a critical defensive location as they explored the region in 1606. Newport and his men set up their encampment along the banks of the Hampton River after expelling a group of Algonquin Native Americans from the area.

The encampment soon became a town, complete with the structure that made any town worth its name in those days: a church. The English never left Hampton, which is why some say the city is the oldest continually-settled English community in the US.

Slavery’s Roots & Seeds Of Change

In 1619, the first Africans to reach British Colonial soil landed in Hampton, 20 Bantu tribespeople captured in Angola by Brazilian slavers. Technically, the men were classified as indentured servants, but their arrival marked slavery’s first appearance in the New World.

The great stone walls of Fort Monroe were completed on Point Comfort in 1834. With the start of the Civil War, Virginia sided with the Confederates. Fort Monroe, on the other hand, remained under Union control. Hampton would bear the burden of conflict, though, as the town was burned by evacuating rebels in 1861.

A faint glimmer of hope rose from the ashes, however. Slaves abandoned by the Confederates, and protected at least nominally by Union soldiers, established a camp in Hampton. This Grand Contraband Camp (known to locals as “Slabtown,” since it had been constructed from the rubble of Hampton) was the first autonomous African-American community in the US.

Grand Contraband Camp

Grand Contraband Camp in 1864. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Less than a decade later, Hampton would become home to Hampton University, one of the first historically-black universities. Established on land once used as a plantation, the college ultimately opened its doors to Native American students, as well.

Booker T. Washington, a prominent leader in the post-emancipation black community, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s mother, Alberta Williams King, were both educated at Hampton University, along with many other notable alumni.

Flower Children, Then & Now

Hampton became a mecca for jam bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish in the late 1980s and 1990s, thanks to the stunning Hampton Coliseum, a round arena that seats nearly 14,000. Maybe it was the stadium’s space-age design that appealed to them:

 Hampton Coliseum

“Hampton coliseum” by Erik Axdahl Axda0002 – Photographed by uploader. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia –

Recent years have seen some of the nation’s most prominent electronic dance musicians (EDM) stake their claim to the Hampton Coliseum, including an annual festival called BassLights. An idiosyncratic subculture has flowered around the EDM genre, with devotees following their favorite acts for months on the road, much like hippies in the 1960s and 1970s.

Thanks solely to the Hampton Coliseum, the area’s number of hotel rooms shot from 80 in 1970 to around 1,500 today.

Adoption Resources In Hampton, VA

Expectant and prospective adoptive parents will find caring, trusted adoption professionals right across the water from Hampton in Chesapeake, Virginia. That’s where Adoptions From The Heart has its main Virginia office, at 1407 Stephane Way, Suite #H.

Adoptions From The Heart is one of the East Coast’s largest placement agencies for domestic infants. Since 1985, we’ve pioneered “open adoption,” a form of adoption that finds strength and well-being in safe, structured communication between all members of the adoption triad: children, adoptive parents and birth parents.

Everyday, we help families make their most important decisions in the knowledge that they’re fully aware of their options. Expectant parents will find free options counseling, and benefit from our connections to the area’s best providers of health care and other necessary sources of support. Prospective adoptive parents can rest assured that our guidance will help ease the process of adoption from start to finish and far beyond that!


By |2016-03-01T16:36:36-05:00April 7th, 2016|Adoptions|Comments Off on Crossing Water: The Story Of Hampton, Virginia

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