Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach

  • Sandbridge Beach in Virginia Beach


Indigenous Peoples utilized the abundant natural resources of the Virginia Beach area for thousands of years prior to the landing of the Jamestown settlers at Cape Henry in 1607. The Chesapeake Tribe occupied the Virginia Beach area in the late Woodland Period, but they were displaced by other Native Tribes around the beginning of the 17th century. The nearby Nansemond Indian Nation then occupied the area.

The Jamestown settlers made their First Landing in Virginia at Cape Henry in present day Virginia Beach on April 26, 1607. They explored the area for three days before heading inland as instructed.

Adam Thoroughgood (Thorowgood) is considered the founding settler having received a grant of 5,350 acres here and taking up residence by the 1630s. His grant came via the headright system as he transported 105 persons plus his wife and himself. One of the persons he brought to Virginia was Augustine Warner, the great-great grandfather of George Washington. Thoroughgood was the great-great grandfather of George Mason through his daughter Anne. A later grant documented that Thoroughgood had transported 3 persons of African descent to Virginia.

Most of the land area that is present day City of Virginia Beach was Princess Anne County from 1691 until 1963. Princess Anne County and its vicinity was the location of significant events during the American Revolution. In November 1775, British troops under Virginia Royal Governor Lord Dunmore engaged in a skirmish with the Princess Anne County militia at the crossroads at Kemps Landing. The local militia was quickly dispersed, but not before the first Patriot deaths had occurred on Virginia soil. John Ackiss and 4 others were killed in the skirmish, while 2 additional militiamen died during their retreat.

Dunmore set up his temporary headquarters in George Logan’s home (Logan was a loyalist) at Kemps Landing. From there. Dunmore issued a proclamation declaring martial law in Virginia and offering freedom to those enslaved persons that would join his ranks. Dunmore’s “Ethiopian Regiment” of persons that had escaped enslavement participated in the Skirmish at Kemps Landing. Dunmore would be defeated less than a month later at the Battle of Great Bridge (in current City of Chesapeake) several miles down the road from Kemps Landing.

On September 5, 1781, a large French fleet under Admiral Comte de Grasse gained control of the Chesapeake Bay by defeating a British fleet off the Virginia Capes. Anchored at Lynnhaven Bay, de Grasse met on board his flagship with General George Washington and Comte de Rochambeau on September 18, 1781 to solidify strategies for the siege of Yorktown. The British surrendered at Yorktown on October 19.

Virginia Beach, although known as a vibrant modern oceanfront resort city, has an excellent collection of 18th-century houses.

  • Thoroughood House (1719), a National Historic Landmark, and the Lynnhaven House (1725) are part of the Virginia Beach History Museums.
  • 18th-century homes in private hands include:
    • Weblin House (ca. 1720)
    • Carraway House (ca. 1734)
    • Keeling House (1735)
    • Upper Wolfsnare (1759)
    • Pembroke Manor (1764) home of loyalist John Saunders
    • Pleasant Hall (ca. 1779)
  • Additional significant historic structures, buildings, and sites include:
    • Cape Henry Lighthouse (1792) the first federally funded public works project and a National Historic Landmark
    • Francis Land House (1805) also a Virginia Beach History Museums property
    • Ferry Plantation House (1830s) is open to the public
    • deWitt Cottage (1895) home of the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum
    • Pembroke Manor (1764) home of loyalist John Saunders
    • Virginia Beach Lifesaving Station (1903) home to the Virginia Beach Surf and Rescue Museum

    Virginia Beach City Council established the Virginia Beach VA250 Committee in July 2023.
    Committee appointments were made on October and the committee had its inaugural meeting on November 2, 2023. Among its duties, the committee will:

  • Assist in the planning and coordination of community activities to commemorate the events associated with the American Revolution in Princess Anne County/Virginia Beach 250 years ago.
  • Assist in the planning and coordination of community activities to commemorate local historical events that incorporate the ideals of freedom, liberty, and equality.
  • Coordinate with City departments, the tourism industry, cultural organizations, and community organizations to raise awareness about VA250 and local historical commemorations.
  • Coordinate with other regional VA250 committees to encourage cooperative commemorations and marketing.
  • Anticipated events supported by the Virginia Beach VA250 Committee include commemorations for:

  • Independence Day (July 4)
  • Juneteenth
  • Battle of the Virginia Capes
  • Skirmish at Kemps Landing
  • Virginia Beach is also planning research activities related to its historic resources. Dating of historic houses through dendrochronology will be pursued. Dendrochronology projects are underway for the Carraway House and Pleasant Hall, both located in the former Kemps Landing area. Some historians believe that Pleasant Hall was built in 1769 and was George Logan’s home, which would mean it served as Dunmore’s headquarters. The National Register nomination states it was built in 1779 for Peter Singleton. If that is the case, it would have been standing when Benedict Arnold, while serving as a British officer, visited Kemps Landing in 1781. The dendrochronology project is anticipated to provide a conclusive date for the historic building.

    Other plans for events such as lecture series and exhibits will likely be pursued, as well.

    Local Events

    While there are currently no events listed specifically for City of Virginia Beach, search the VA250 Statewide Calendar of Events for a comprehensive listing of programs across the state.


    Mark Reed

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