Hampton Roads Port

Commercial Airport: Norfolk; Municipal Airport, 7m. E. off Cape Henry Blvd. (US 40), for Pennsylvania Central Airlines.

Government Airports: Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Hampton Blvd. and 99th St.; Army Air Station, Langley Field, 3 m. N. of Hampton on State 27.

Piers: Norfolk: Front St. (continuation of W.York St.) for Norfolk and Washington Steamboat Co.; W. end Brooke Ave. for Rappahannock River and Mobjack Bay Lines; W. end W.Main St. for Baltimore Steam Packet Co. and Merchants and Miners Transportation Co.; W. end Water St. for Buxton Lines to Richmond; S. end Jackson St. for Chesapeake Steamship Co.; W. end Boissevain Ave. for Eastern Steamship Lines (Old Dominion). Portsmouth: E. end High St. for tug to Norfolk connecting with boat to Baltimore, 6 p.m. daily, no fare.

Ferries: Norfolk: S. end Commercial Place, to Portsmouth, fare $0.05, automobile and driver, $0.25; Pine Beach, W. end 99th St., to Newport News, fare $0.20, automobile and driver, $1 and $1.25; W. end Ocean View Ave., to Old Point Comfort and Fort Monroe fare $0.20, automobile and driver, $0.75 and $1; Little Creek, Shore Drive, to Cape Charles fare $0.50, automobile $2.50 and $3; W. end Brooke Ave. to Old Point Comfort, fare $0.25: automobile $1 and $1.25, to Cape Charles, fare $0.70, automobile $2.50 and $3, and to Newport News, fare $0.35. Portsmouth: E. end High St. to Norfolk, fare $0.05, automobile, $0.25, passengers additional to driver, $0.05 each, to Berkley, fare same as to Norfolk; Seaboard Air Line Wharf, E. end High St. for boat to Newport News, fare $0.30, no automobiles. Newport News: 23rd St. and River Rd., to Norfolk, fare $0.30; E. end Jefferson Ave. to Norfolk (Pine Beach) fare $0.20 2-passenger car and driver, $1, 4-passenger car and driver, $1.25, round trip $1.50, extra passenger, $0.20.

Canals: Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal; Dismal Swamp Canal; both are sections of Atlantic Coastal Waterways, no tolls.

Toll Bridges: Norfolk-Portsmouth Bridge, US 460, car and driver, 250, pedestrians, 50; James River Bridge, US 17, car, $1.25.

Government Establishments: Immigration Offices, Norfolk, Post Office Bldg., Granby and Charlotte Sts.; Newport News, Post Office, West Ave. and 25th St. Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, Hampton Blvd. and 99th St. Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, N. end Green St. Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, S. end First and Fourth Sts. Customhouses, Norfolk, Main and Granby Sts.; Newport News, Post Office Bldg., West Ave., and 25th St. Coast Guard Headquarters, Norfolk, Post Office Bldg., Granby and Charlotte Sts. Quarantine Stations, Old Point Comfort and Craney Island. Fort Monroe, Old Point Comfort. State Rifle Range, Virginia Beach.

HAMPTON ROADS is the channel through which the waters of the converging James, Nansemond, and Elizabeth Rivers flow into Chesapeake Bay. This four mile roadstead, 40 feet deep and navigable throughout the year, is bounded on the north by the shore line from Newport News to Old Point Comfort, on the east by the Rip Raps and Willoughby Spit, on the south by Willoughby Bay and Sewall Point, and on the west by a line from Newport News to Sewall Point. Because of its central location on the Atlantic seaboard and its many railroad facilities, Hampton Roads is one of the most important harbors in the country and the east coast rendezvous of the United States navy. There is a combined water frontage of about 50 miles, of which Some 22 miles have been improved or developed.

Spacious Hampton Roads seems never crowded. The pattern of boats on its ample surface changes as constantly as the color of the water, the spots of oily bilge, the seaweed, and the circling gulls. Freighters parade in and out the Capes, followed by a black plume of smoke. Some set their course to or from the upper Chesapeake Bay, but most steam straight in or out from the open sea. Trim steam ferries shuttle back and forth, and tugs tow barges filled with freight cars, lumber, or brick. Scattered about are tramp steamers, anchored and swinging in the tide or nosing toward the black skeletons of coal piers. Warships and cruisers, gray and lean against the horizon, thread their way toward dry docks. Sporadically, government boats tow large red targets into the glittering distance and hurriedly move away as Fort guns boom in target practice. Occasionally, the Virginia pilot boat that lies in wait for incoming vessels off the Capes weighs anchor and comes in for supplies and fuel. Trawlers and oyster boats chug toward hidden fishing banks, while elegant yachts and cabin cruisers glide toward less trammeled waters. Along the shore bob dories, bateaux, and rowboats, filled with fishermen. At dusk the white.painted Bay and coastwise passenger steamers sidle up to Old Point's dock, then steam away into the gathering darkness. The lights of Buckroe Beach, the Fort, and Newport News blink at those of Ocean View, the Naval Base, and feeble farmhouse lights to the west. Precise and intermittent gleams from lighthouses cut arcs across the water, and channels are marked by swaying light buoys and doleful bell buoys. Bridges arch across river mouths, their concrete length festooned with yellow lights broken at the draw by green and red.

Newport News, at the mouth of the James, and Norfolk and Portsmouth, along the Elizabeth River and its several branches, with their harbors, anchorage, customs, and other facilities, constitute the Port of Hampton Roads. Federal services and regulations of port activity consist of quarantine, under the Public Health and Customs services, Treasury Department; Immigration Service, under the Department of Labor; and the improvement of rivers, harbors, and other waterways under direction of the Secretary of War and the Chief of Engineers of the United States Army. Local jurisdiction over the port is vested in the State Port Authority of Virginia, created in 1926, which is charged with development of the port and promotion of its commercial and maritime interests. It regulates such services as fire protection, pilotage, dockage, towage, and handling of cargoes.

The total tonnage of water.borne commerce handled through the port in 1938 was 24,083,019 of which 826,739 tons were imports and 1,992,564 were exports. Wood pulp and ore were the largest items of import; coal and scrap iron the largest items of export, the latter reflecting the current trend toward international rearmament. Petroleum products, sugar, gypsum, and paper manufactures were other important items of import. Exports include grain, tobacco and tobacco products, lumber and logs, cotton and textiles.

The Norfolk Navy Yard, on the Portsmouth side, and the United States Naval Operating Base in Norfolk consume a great volume of coal and have created many industries deriving power from the same source. These government properties themselves, worth about $50,000,000, add to the port's commercial stature. Within Norfolk are the United States Public Health Service Hospital, a branch of the United States Hydrographic Office, the Navy's principal fuel reserve depot, a naval air station, a submarine base, and the St.Helena Reservation, now used as a naval air base.

From 1607, when Sir Christopher Newport brought his band of pioneers to effect the first permanent English settlement in America, throughout the Colonial period, Hampton Roads was a point of entry to the seat of government in Virginia. Ships bringing other settlers and supplies sailed through its broad waters into the James. Later it was the hunting place of pirates and hostile British ships, and, during the War between the States, the scene of important naval conflicts.

On June 22, 1807, occurred a naval engagement rising from the presence of four alleged British deserters on the American vessel, Chesapeake. The British frigate Leopard pursued the Chesapeake through the Capes, then fired a broadside into the American vessel, which surrendered without firing a shot. The Chesapeake was boarded and the deserters were taken. Commodore James Barron (1769.1851), commander of the Chesapeake, was afterwards court.martialed 'for neglecting in the probability of an engagement, to clear his ship for battle,' and deprived of rank and pay for five years. On his return to duty, he was refused an active command through the influence of Commodore Stephen Decatur,Jr. This resulted in a duel between Barron and Decatur in 1820, and Decatur was killed. Barron was later commandant of the Gosport Navy Yard in Portsmouth.

On the afternoon of March 8, 1862, occurred the battle that changed naval warfare. The Virginia, formerly the Merrimac, a wooden ship which had been sunk, raised by the Confederates, and converted into an ironclad, attacked the Federal fleet, which was armed with 204 guns and aided by land batteries. By six o'clock the Virginia had sunk the Cumberland, burned the Congress, driven the Minnesota ashore, and compelled the St. Lawrence and the Roanoke to seek shelter under the guns of Fort Monroe. On March 9 the Virginia encountered the Monitor, an ironclad more heavily armored and more efficient by reason of her light draught and revolving gun turret. For four hours the two ironclads battered each other, until at last a shell from the Virginia exploded on the eyeslit of the Monitor's pilot house, blinding her commander, Captain John L. Worden. 'Tactically,' said R.S.Henry in The Story of the Confederacy, 'it was a drawn fight, in its results a victory for the Monitor.'

FORT WOOL, mid-channel on the ferry course, is on a man-made island, constructed of rocks sunk on a shoal called Rip Raps from the rippling of the water. Begun after 1830 and called Fort Calhoun, the fortification was not complete when war broke out in 1861. Hurriedly mounted guns, however, aided in silencing Confederate batteries on Sewall Point and Willoughby Spit on May 9, 1862, when Union forces crossed these waters to take Norfolk. The fort was renamed for General John E. Wool, Union commander of the department of Virginia. During the World War defense nets were spread from its foundations to trap submarines.

Greater Hampton Roads HomePages

BACK | FORWARD