Heart of the Community, Soul of a Culture
It is gathering place, graced by weathered porch rockers that welcome you into an art gallery and gift shop rivaling New York’s finest.
It is a creative educator, grounding small-town children in history and the arts while big-city kids savor a taste of country life.
It is a museum that shelters yesterday’s culture of the islanders and watermen, and it is a farm that follows today’s best practices to cultivate the land.
Yet it is, most of all, a storyteller, safeguarding the wisdom of our past for the sake of the Eastern Shore’s future.
Standing just off Route 13, Barrier Islands Center wears many hats well. Here, history is in its heyday, from century-old photos and artifacts donated by Hog Island natives, to story-filled tours conducted by an island family descendant, to the mysterious twisted chimney of our own building.
But what was founded in 1996 as a place to preserve the heritage of Virginia’s 23 remote Barrier Islands has evolved into a wide-reaching initiative. Not only has Barrier Islands Center re-anchored the community to a fundamental legacy, it now connects residents up and down the Shore in a variety of meaningful ways.
With the Shore’s natural beauty offering fertile ground for the imagination, it’s no surprise that educational programs abound at the BIC. Each year we serve a growing number of students.
Teachers from local schools now rely on our exhibits and programs to move history out of the books and into the lives of their pupils. Our ever-changing summer camps fill up as fast as they hit the schedule, and Shore artisans hold workshops here that pass along authentic techniques to beginners of all ages, as they fashion their own heirlooms-to-be.
A center for education is just one way we’ve become a vital community resource.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Barrier Islands Center is housed at the Historic Almshouse Farm and comprises three noteworthy buildings. The oldest, known as the Quarter Kitchen, dates all the way back to 1725. Two almshouses, one from the 1890s and the other built in 1910, showcase architecture and construction techniques from those eras.
Yet it’s the lives of the former Barrier Islands residents and their descendants that give these buildings their soul. When those families were forced to uproot themselves from the only life they knew and move to the mainland, sadly, they weren’t exactly welcomed warmly into the community. So having a place today that’s dedicated to not only preserving but celebrating their legacy – well, you can imagine the pride they now feel.
Then there’s the farm. Though we’re quickly accessible off the Shore’s main highway, you wouldn’t know it by the view from our front porch. Eighteen acres of farmland surround the BIC; we lease it to a respected local farmer who grows wheat and soybeans using no-till farming practices to protect the land.
We’d like to think that virtually everyone who lives on the Shore has attended one of our events. There’s the annual Oyster Roast, Art and Music on the Farm, camps and classes for children, art exhibits, wine-tastings, decoy-making classes, lectures on the Shore’s food history – there’s no end to the diversity of activities hosted by Barrier Islands Center. We’re nothing if not flexible, something we’ve no doubt learned from the people whose lives we showcase here.
With the hurricane of 1933, Mother Nature sealed the fate of those Barrier Island families. But in accepting the need to leave the islands behind for safety of the mainland, many of those hardy folk didn’t just pack up suitcases. They picked up entire houses, put them on barges, and floated them into their new lives.
Little did they know what a gift their wherewithal and indomitable spirit would be to the 21st century.
7295 Young Street
Machipongo , VA 23405
Phone 1: 757-678-5550
Open mid-April - November
2015 Opening - April 18
The Historical Society has a rich collection of early postcards, photographs, timetables, documents, and objects which encompass the beginnings of Cape Charles in the 1880s, its houses, churches, schools, harbor and beachfront, commercial enterprises, railroad, and ships.
Local history is presented via “story boards” and models of Eastern Shore sailing vessels, steamers, workboats, barges, and ferries; railroad china, switch locks; Indian artifacts; school memorabilia including a 3-foot megaphone used at 1950s football games. Visitors may learn about the Chesapeake Bay crater, the largest in the U.S., created 35 million years ago, including a collection of rocks from the 1 mile core sample taken near Cape Charles in 2005, and a number of handouts from the USGS. Google “Chesapeake Bay crater” and you will find lots more about it.
Of important historic interest is the site a few miles south of Cape Charles of a large 17th century house originally built by the Custis family. Now owned by the Arlington Foundation and the subject of several archeological digs, the site is open to visitors; artifacts and a model of the house have been assembled into an exhibit now on permanent display at the Museum.
814 Randolph Avenue
Cape Charles , VA 23310
Phone 1: 757-331-1008
The Chincoteague Natural History Association (CNHA) is a non-profit, cooperating association established in partnership with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The purpose of the CNHA is to promote a better understanding and appreciation of the Chincoteague refuge, the Eastern Shore of Virginia refuge, and the natural history and environment of Virginia's Eastern Shore in general. The CNHA produces and provides interpretive and educational material for refuge visitors.
PO Box 917, Herbert Bateman Visitor Center
Chincoteague Island , VA 23336
Phone 1: 757-336-3696
What You’ll Find at the Museum
Open from April 1 to November 30
Thursday & Sunday 1pm to 4pm
Friday & Saturday 11am to 4pm
The Historic Onley Train Station is located at the corner of Pennsylvania Ave. and Maple St in beautiful downtown Onley. The Station was first opened on June 1 1885 making it 126 years old. It is the only New York, Philadelphia & Norfolk station that has never been moved from its original location. Some of the upcoming projects at the Station are repainting the building, installation of a handicap ramp, bathroom facilities, heating system, and upgraded electrical system.
18468 Dunne Avenue
Parksley , VA 23421
Phone 1: 757-665-7245
The Watermen's Heritage Foundation
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Also available for visits at other times by appointment
The mission of the
Watermen’s Heritage Foundation
of Virginia’s Eastern Shore:
Preserve the History
Celebrate the Present
Encourage the Future
for the Watermen of Virginia’s Eastern Shore
Historic Onancock School, 6 College Avenue
Onancock , VA 23417
Phone 1: 757-665-5771
Phone 2: 757-650-4285 (Watermen's Heritage Foundation)
You'll love our nature and you'll dig our history!
This stately historic Federal-style home turned museum has been authentically restored to its 1799 roots, welcoming visitors back to the world of John Shepherd Ker in the thriving port of Onancock. Docent guided tours are available which interpret life on an Eastern Shore plantation back in the early 19th century. Exhibits expand to the newly opened cellar and on the attractive grounds.
Make your own history at Ker Place by choosing the house and grounds as a venue for your wedding, business party, conference or other special occasion. The building is the finest example of Federal Architecture on Virginia's Eastern Shore and it is sure to add that something special to your event. Our rental rates are comparable with other premier hospitality locations, and we have tables, chairs and audio/visual equipment available for your use during your stay. www.shorehistory.org/venuerental
Tuesday through Saturday
March through December
First Tour - 11 AM
Last Tour - 3 PM
By Appointment January and February
Group tours and access to Historical Society Library and Archives
are available by appointment
Home of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society
PO Box 179, 69 Market Street
Onancock , VA 23417
Phone 1: 757-787-8012
Phone 2: 757-787-4271 (Fax)
Chincoteague Island and Its People
Friday - Sunday, 11 AM - 5 PM
Children 12 & under Free
Newly renovated in 2011, the Museum preserves the people, culture, and heritage of Chincoteague. An 1866 First order Fresnel lens greets visitors in the front hall and at night winks back at the current light atop its former home on the Assateague Lighthouse. New exhibits display life on this island from before man to the present. There are 25 million year old wooly mammoth fossils and shell fossils. The shipwrecks and treasures exhibit features items found in the waters around the Island. The Guilded Age exhibit depicts life in the late 19th century when wealthy merchants owned large Victorian homes on the Island. A new acquisition that will delight visitors both old and young is the 1880 volunteer fire company hand pumper. Early sailing history comes to life in a models exhibit of vessels used on our bays, creeks, and channels. Videos of the oystering industry and the 1962 flood enhance exhibits featuring both. The Museum is open from April through Thanksgiving weekend daily, except Mondays. It is an easy stop going or coming from the Refuge just on the left as you head into the park.
PO Box 352, 7125 Maddox Boulevard
Chincoteague Island , VA 23336
Phone 1: 757-336-6117
Right around the corner, but out of this world!
Near Chincoteague Island discover what has been going on since 1945 at one of the oldest launch sites in the world. No spacecraft needed to have an asronauts-eye-view of the planets and moons at the new Science On a Sphere Theatre. A six-foot-diameter globe provides stunning visual effects from real scientific data. The animated sphere seems to float in space - just as an astronaut would see the Earth!
May 26-Memorial Day: CLOSED
June 5 - 30: Tuesday - Saturday 10 to 4
July 1 - August 31: Daily 10 to 4
September 1 - June 30: Tuesday - Saturday 10 to 4
Goddard Space Flight Center, Wallops Flight Facility, Building J-17
Wallops Island , VA 23337
Phone 1: 757-824-1344
Preserving the History of Saxis Island
Hours of Operation
10 AM - 3 PM
Call 757-824-4080 or
We are only 5 minutes away
The Saxis Island Museum is located next to the Saxis Post office
Saxis Island, which is actually a peninsula, is connected to the mainland by the Saxis Wildlife Management Area, a 5,500 acre network of pines, marshland and creeks. It is located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia on the Chesapeake Bay in North Accomack County. Captain John Smith and his crew were the first Europeans to view and map the coastline of the Saxis peninsula in 1608. At its peak, between 1910 and 1920, the population of Saxis was over 600. Its current population is 220.
The museum was created to help preserve the history of Saxis Island and to document the lives of the people that made a living on the island and in the surrounding waters of the Chesapeake Bay. While documenting the fading lifestyle of the Saxis Island watermen, the museum will help educate current and future generations on the dangers of misuse of the Chesapeake Bay and its ecosystems.
20264 Saxis Road
Saxis , VA 23427
Phone 1: 757-824-4080
Phone 2: 410-948-0555
Experience the Waterman's Life
The Tangier History Museum and Interpretive Cultural Center welcomes all to come and learn about the history of Tangier and its people and to aid in their interpretation. THMICC has a museum/visitors center, a walking history trail, a nature trail and water trails, with free use of kayaks and canoes. Come and learn about Tangier's special role in the history of aviation, our unique language and how we face the challenges of a rising Bay, a shrinking island and a dwindling population.
Opens: 11:00 AM
Closes: 4:00 PM
Museum is open mid-April to mid-October
Just call and ask!
16215 Main Ridge Road
Tangier Island , VA 23440
Phone 1: 757-891-2374