Growing up in Hampton, Virginia, I often had the opportunity to see many of the historical monuments and well-known establishments in my hometown. I visited many of them with my family, and also as a schoolchild on field trips with my classmates. I thought that I knew a lot about the city where I was born and raised.
Not quite! There is SO much about Hampton that I am just now absorbing as an adult. From NASA Langley and its role in getting men to the Moon and beyond, to the deep historical significance of Ft. Monroe for me as an African-American, I am learning more and more each day!
So, with that in mind, I thought I would share some insights about Hampton, Virginia that I hope that you enjoy!
- Hampton originated around Fort Algernourne (now Fort Monroe, see below). It was built in 1609 on the site of the village of Kecoughtan, named for the tribe that inhabited it to protect the area from Spanish raiders. It is the country’s first continuously occupied, English- speaking settlement.
- The city was named in honor of Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd earl of Southampton, in the late 1600s.
- “Throughout the United States, Hampton Roads is second only to Silicon Valley in its per capita concentration of scientists and engineers.” — David Birch, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- NASA Langley Research Center, originally established in 1917, is the oldest of NASA’s field centers around the country. It is devoted to studying aeronautics and space.
- Mercury Boulevard, a main artery through Hampton, was named to honor the original Mercury Seven astronauts.
- The Mercury Boulevard interchange on Interstate 64 is the second-busiest stretch of highway in Hampton Roads, with up to 170,000 vehicles passing through every day.
- The Hampton Agricultural and Industrial School (later called Hampton Institute, and now Hampton University) was founded in 1868. It owes its start in large part to Mary S. Peake. She secretly taught slaves and free black people in the area, and was hired as the AMA’s first teacher in 1861. She gathered her pupils and taught them under the Emancipation Oak, now a historic landmark on the campus of HU.
- Hampton’s national monument, Fort Monroe, plays a large part in Hampton’s history. In 1607, the English explorer Captain John Smith came ashore near Fort Monroe. In 1609, colonial settlers built a wooden structure large enough to hold 50 men and seven mounted cannons, and called it Fort Algernourne. In 1619, it would serve as a landing place in the New World for Africans brought in as slaves.
- Aberdeen Gardens, established in 1934, is the only Resettlement Administration (New Deal) community in Virginia. It was created for the resettlement of African American workers in Newport News and Hampton. (A personal note: I spent most of my childhood living on Aberdeen Road, but I never really knew the historical significance of my neighborhood. This is an amazing discovery for me!)
[Fact sources: https://www.britannica.com/place/Hampton-Virginia, https://www.dailypress.com/news/dp-xpm-20010807-2001-08-07-0108060170-story.html, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hampton_University, https://hampton.gov/91/History, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberdeen_Gardens_(Hampton,_Virginia) ]
Have you visited Hampton, Virginia? If so, what did you find most interesting about this historical location? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below!