Virginia Peninsula

Virginia Peninsula

The Virginia Peninsula is a peninsula in southeast Virginia, bounded by the York River, James River, Hampton Roads and Chesapeake Bay.

Hampton Roads is the common name for the metropolitan area that surrounds the body of water of the same name. The land portion of Hampton Roads has been historically divided into two regions, the Virginia Peninsula or Peninsula on the north side, and South Hampton Roads on the south side. (Locally, South Hampton Roads is commonly called the "Southside", which is not to be confused with "Southside Virginia", which is a separate region of the south central portion of Virginia located farther inland.) More recently, the metropolitan area has expanded to include the two southernmost counties of the Middle Peninsula, across the York River from the Virginia Peninsula.

The Virginia Peninsula is part of the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) with a population about 1.6 million. The Hampton Roads MSA is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the southeastern United States and the largest between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Georgia.


The Virginia Peninsula is rich in colonial American history. The first permanent English settlement in North America was established in 1607 at Jamestown. The first continuously occupied settlement was at Kecoughtan in Elizabeth City County what is now the City of Hampton. Nearby, Fort Monroe, the country's oldest military base still in use is located at Old Point Comfort. After declaring independence from Great Britain, Virginia's first state capital was Williamsburg; much of the historic district of that city has been restored as Colonial Williamsburg. Also, the decisive battle of the American Revolution, the siege of Yorktown in 1781, took place on the Virginia Peninsula.

During the American Civil War (1861–1865), the Union Army invaded the Virginia Peninsula as part of the Peninsula Campaign in 1862 to capture Richmond. The Battle of Hampton Roads between the first ironclad warships took place near the mouth of the James River off the eastern tip of Warwick County. The 1862 Siege of Yorktown took place along the York River. The world's largest shipyard is located in Newport News, adjacent to the coal piers first established by Collis P. Huntington and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in 1881.

In the 20th century, during the two world wars, massive military facilities were established on large reservations which today contain Fort Eustis, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, and Camp Peary. Entire communities including the lost towns of Lackey, Penniman, and Magruder disappeared in the process, with many Virginians from these and Mulberry Island relocated elsewhere.

Local government

In Colonial times, and even in the first 150 years of the United States, much like Virginia as a whole, the Virginia Peninsula was in an almost constant state of change in terms of local government, largely due to growth, as counties were divided and towns were formed as the population grew. Some towns grew to become cities. Under the state constitutional changes in 1871, extant and future cities in Virginia became independent cities of the counties they had formerly been located within.Fact|date=August 2008

However, in the second half of the 20th century, an unprecedented wave of city-county-town local government consolidations took place in South Hampton Roads and on the Virginia Peninsula. Nowhere else in Virginia have rural areas and more dense cities been combined in such a manner as these two areas. The changes resulted in the two areas having Virginia's cities with the largest land areas and the most farming, even over 30 years after the consolidations in some instances.Fact|date=August 2008

Current cities, counties and towns

The Virginia Peninsula subregion includes four independent cities and two counties. There are currently no incorporated towns. There were also a number of political subdivisions which are now extinct, primarily due to both growth of communities and consolidation of local government (see section below).

Independent cities

* Hampton
* Newport News
* Poquoson
* Williamsburg


* James City County
* York County

Extinct political subdivisions

Many incorporated (formally constituted) localities have become legally extinct, though most have not been abandoned by their citizens, with the notable exception of Jamestown. Exclusive of towns which became cities and still have the same name, no less than 4 shires, 2 counties, 4 towns, and 1 city no longer exist in the Virginia Peninsula area, at least not under their earlier names. For searches of genealogical, land title, and other historical records, it is very helpful to know these old names.Fact|date=August 2008Or|date=August 2008

The following is a listing of these 11 extinct shire, counties, towns, and cities, with the approximate dates they existed:

*Jamestown, Virginia (1607) largely abandoned as a Town after 1699
*Kecoughtan, Virginia (1610), became part of Town and City of Hampton
*Middle Plantation (1632), became Williamsburg after 1699
*Elizabeth River Shire (1634-1643)
*Warwick River Shire (1634-1643)
*Charles River Shire (1634-1643)
*James City Shire (1634-1643)
*Elizabeth City County (1643-1952)
*Warwick County (aka Warwick River County) (1643-1952)
*Town of Phoebus(1900-1952) (earlier known as unincorporated towns of Millwood, Roseland Farms,Chesapeake City), became part of City of Hampton
*City of Warwick (1952-1958), became part of City of Newport News

Major bridges, bridge tunnels, ferry system

Generally surrounded by water, the Virginia Peninsula is linked to other areas across the surrounding water barriers of the James and York Rivers, and the harbor of Hampton Roads by 2 bridge-tunnels, 2 large drawbridges, and a state-operated ferry system. These are:Fact|date=August 2008

*Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel
*Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel
*James River Bridge
*George P. Coleman Memorial Bridge
*Jamestown Ferry

Interstate Highways

*Interstate 64
*Interstate 664
*Hampton Roads Beltway

U.S. and State Routes

*U.S. Route 17
*U.S. Route 60
*U.S. Route 258
*State Route 5
*State Route 31
*State Route 32
*State Route 134
*State Route 143
*State Route 199 (Humelsine Parkway)

Scenic, low speed parkways

*Colonial Parkway

U.S. military installations

The Virginia Peninsula is home to several military bases.

City of Hampton

Fort Monroe and Langley Air Force Base are located in Hampton. The now-decommissioned Fort Wool, located on a man made island called Rip Raps across the mouth of Hampton Roads from Fort Monroe, is also in Hampton.

City of Newport News

Fort Eustis, home of the U.S. Army Transportation Corps is in Newport News. A major military contractor, Northrop Grumman Newport News, is also in Newport News.

York County

York County is home to the U.S. Navy's Yorktown Naval Weapons Station and a supply depot at nearby Cheatham Annex. Camp Peary is also located in York County.

James City County

Although each is primarily located in other jurisdictions, portions of Fort Eustis, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Cheatham Annex, and Camp Peary extend into James City County.

ee also

*Historic Triangle
*Colonial Williamsburg
*Jamestown Festival Park (1957-present)
*Battle of Hampton Roads
*Jamestown Exposition (1907)
*Mariners' Museum
*Chesapeake and Ohio Railway

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