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Virginia Beach Boardwalk History

Last modified: November 7, 2022

Over four hundred years ago, English colonists spent three days at the southern tip of Virginia Beach on their journey to establishing the Jamestown settlement. Little did these settlers know that their brief stay at the Cape Henry point would be just the beginning of a resort town legacy that would develop a life and history all its’ own.

The 1883 construction of a railroad system made the trip from Norfolk to the coast quick and easy, and ushered in the dawn of Virginia Beach’s resort era. In 1888, just five years later, the cottage and hotel industry saw the addition of what was to be considered the areas’ first “luxury” hotel. With its’ electric lights, bath house verandas and grand ballroom, the magnificent Princess Anne Hotel soon drew the attention of Virginia’s social elite. Designed to accentuate the luxury hotel experience, the first boardwalk – a mere eight feet wide and built of wood decking - extended only the four blocks between the Princess Anne at Sixteenth Street and the Arlington Hotel at Twelfth. Each hotel was afforded access to the Boardwalk thoroughfare by way of a wood plank walkway, and allowed hotel guests to join visitors and socialites in leisurely strolls to take in the majestic beach beauty before them.

Though no longer built of wood, the now three mile long concrete Boardwalk stretching from First Street to Fortieth continues to host scads of visitors from around the world. Furthermore, thanks to the selfless efforts of the Beach’s historical society, Boardwalk patrons are graced with priceless opportunities to experience some of the country’s most significant historic milestones. From the bronze statue “The Norwegian Lady” and her story of tragedy at sea to the 1903 Life-Saving Station that commemorates the birth of the U.S. Coast Guard, Boardwalk history is anything but lackluster. For over 120 years the Boardwalk has bore witness to the building of a nation and to the casualties of war. It has mended wounds inflicted of both storm damage and riot damage. The Virginia Beach Boardwalk offers its’ patrons a window to the past, a pathway to treasured memories, and continues to play a significant roll in the character of Virginia Beach, VA. The Boardwalk is just the beginning…

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Claude Bing