Open by Appointment
A rare survivor of penal architecture of the colonial period, this building was constructed in 1782. The small brick structure was originally built as a jailer's residence. In 1824 iron bars, oak batten doors, and locks were added when it was converted into a "gaol" for debtors, a purpose it served until 1849.
Accomac , VA 23301
Phone 1: 757-678-5183
Hike the Light!
The Assateague Lighthouse is approximately 1/4 mile away from Chincoteague Island and visitors can drive there from Chincoteague in about 5 minutes. Some people elect to rent bicycles or walk along the trail that leads from Chincoteague over to Assateague Island. The trail is maintained by the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service at Assateague Island. Visitors to the Maryland side of Assateague can drive to this area in about an hour. The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is home of the lighthouse.The lighthouse was constructed in 1833 at a cost of approximately $55,000. It has twin rotating lights that flash one after the other from a height of 154 feet above sea level. The lights can be seen 19 miles out to sea. The Assateague Lighthouse stands 142 feet high with a base that measures over 27 feet in diameter.
The Assateague Lighthouse is an active navigational aid and is in the National Register of Historic places. In 1933 the lighthouse was converted to be electrically operated and it's first light was a candle lantern. The Assateague Lighthouse has warned passing ships and local waterman of the shallow waters off Assateague for many years.
Artists are showcased in the Lighthouse oil shed on a rotating schedule from April through October.
PO Box 917
Chincoteague Island , VA 23336
Phone 1: 757-336-3696
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
Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Audio Tour
Learn about the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel while you cross it!
Go to www.CBBT.com. In the upper right hand corner, click on the three horizontal lines, which will pull up a drop-down menu. Click on Activities. At the very bottom of the list, click on iPod tour. You will see the option to listen to the tour heading either north or south. They are not exactly the same, but the information is. Although it says that you can download the tour, if you click on the link on your Smartphone or tablet, you can listen to it while you travel across the Bay Bridge Tunnel. Be sure to start the tour just after you go through the toll plaza.
32386 Lankford Highway
Cape Charles , VA 23310
Phone 1: 757-331-8920
Phone 2: 757-331-2960
The site of the former Arlington and the Custis Tombs is on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in an almost obscure setting. It is the resting place of John Custis II and his grandson, John Custis IV. The location is in lower Northampton County, less than 4 miles south of Cape Charles. When traveling U.S. 13 south, turn right on Arlington Road, which is Rt. 644, and follow the signs to Custis Tombs. The road can be a bit deceiving and the road to the tombs is on a hard left hand turn, where you would keep straight instead of taking the turn. If you miss it you will come out to the Kiptopeke State Park Rd., very near the entrance gates. Turn around and try again. Not so long ago, the site was almost deserted, sitting on a knoll overlooking Old Plantation Creek. Today there are homes built in close proximity to the tombs, so the road has been improved from what was a simple dirt road. Until the last few years it's unlikely that the site drew much attention, or had many visitors. But there is a very significant story in history here.
John Custis II built a mansion near the bank of the creek, on a plantation that once numbered over 1000 acres. He named the mansion Arlington. It was a working plantation and acquired considerable wealth from its crops, particularily tobacco. When John Custis II died the estate was inherited by his grandson, John Custis IV. By the early 1900's little or nothing was left standing of Arlington or it's surrounding buildings. Only the tombs remained. Presently, there are archeological diggings taking place on a small section of property where buildings once stood.
John Custis II's great grandson (the third one), whose name was George Washington Parke Custis, owned property on the Potomac River near Washington. He named the property Arlington as a tribute to the family's former home in Virginia. This very plantation later became Arlington National Cemetery.
Custis Tomb Road, Arlington Plantation
Cape Charles , VA 23310
Three hundred years reflecting the continuity of government can be found in Eastville, Virginia on the Northampton County Court Green. It includes the 1731 Courthouse, which is one of only a handful of colonial courthouses that survive in Virginia; the brick Clerk’s Office dating to the late 18th century , which is a rare example of an early clerk’s office with a flagstone floor and vaulted masonry ceiling; and a Debtor’s Prison (ca. 1815) has been called the state’s best remaining example of its type and is essentially unchanged. The Debtor's Prison is a brick building with a heavy door, double-barred windows, and hand-wrought spiked nails.
The old Courthouse, Clerk's Office, and Prison form a remarkable assemblage of early Virginia Court buildings. The complex is distinguished by original fittings and furnishings. The Clerk's Office contains legal records dating from 1632.
16404 Courthouse Road
Eastville , VA 23347
Phone 1: 757-331-4689
Eyre Hall is one of Virginia’s finest and best-preserved colonial homes. Approached by a long, old-fashioned cedar-lined lane, the house overlooks Cherrystone Creek. Thomas Eyre landed at Jamestown in 1622 to take up patented land on the Eastern Shore in 1623. Eyre descendants have owned land in the lower portion of Northampton County continuously for 12 generations. Littleton Eyre (great-grandson of Thomas) purchased the present site of Eyre Hall and in 1760 built the original gambrel-roofed portion.
The gardens are among the oldest in the country, circa 1800. Ancient boxwood and gnarled crape myrtles tower over the traditional swept paths, all enclosed by a wall of brick brought as ballast from England. On the sunny side, English-style mixed borders add color, and opposite is the family graveyard and romantic orangery ruin from 1819.
3215 Eyre Hall Drive
Cheriton , VA 23316
Phone 1: 757-331-1660
GHOTES is a group of folks who share an interest in the GENEALOGY AND HISTORY OF THE EASTERN SHORE of Virginia. A few goats slip over the fence into MD occasionally, and that's okay with us. Their ancestors did it first.
GHOTES MEMBERS COMMUNICATE VIA A SMALL NON-PUBLIC MAILLIST. We send messages to a central server that, in turn, distributes the message to all of the ghotes members. Messages are usually about genealogical information. We ask questions of the group and answer ones that we can. Sometimes questions of history or place or custom or event are asked or information shared. We have also added a new Forum Section to this web site, which is also designed to post questions and answers. The forum is open to everyone who visits the web site.
SHARING is a key value that ghotes members, also known as goats or ghotes themselves. Members are expected to ask for help and give some in return. Some of our ghotes are experienced genealogists, and we have several members who have developed very large bases of information. Others are rather new to the field. These less experienced genealogists, who temporarily may be, or think they are, limited in their own information resources, are expected to comment on general issues as well as to volunteer to help with look-ups, data entry, or other activities. Even new genealogists have information that is valuable to others. An old letter, family bible page, or photo can be very informative and highly prized.
Since the ghotes maillist took shape, late last year, members have found many a cousin--live ones--in the group. This is been an unexpected reward that our cousins seem to enjoy tremendously. And ghotes certainly don't seem to think of themselves merely as subscribers to an internet maillist.
PO Box 92
Craddockville , VA 23341
Phone 1: 540-239-0985
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)
The Nature Conservancy
Brownsville's birding and wildlife trail offers visitors an introduction to the Virginia Coast Reserve.
½ Hour before sunrise
to ½ Hour after sunset
For visitor safety
During the deer hunting season
(October through early January)
the Preserve closes at 3:00 p.m.
Birds and other wildlife abound at Brownsville Preserve
From the boardwalk and trails traversing this historic farm, you may see deer, fox, raccoons, blue herons, bald eagles, wild turkeys and many other species of birds. The Conservancy manages Brownsville to enhance bird habitat, and the farm serves as headquarters for the Virginia Coast Reserve.
Until the Conservancy purchased Brownsville in 1978, the farm had remained in the Upshur family since 1652.
At one time, the owner ran a castor-oil mill on the property. From his wharf on Brownsville Creek, he also shipped huge loads of corn to New York and New England via chartered vessels.
According to Whitelaw's Virginia's Eastern Shore, Mr. Upshur added a frame wing onto the family's 1806 three-story brick home because of the many relatives who lived there. He is claimed to have said, "There is no place to put the sole of my foot." Today, the historic Brownsville house is used to accommodate occasional guests and for special events.
11332 Brownsville Road
Nassawadox , VA 23413
Phone 1: 757-442-3049
Phone 2: 757-442-5418 (Fax)
Pear Valley is typical of early Chesapeake Bay settlement homes built and used by yeomen, who were small landholders. Ring-tests were conducted on the lumber used to build the house, and results date the structure to about 1740.
Pear Valley, a historic one-room, wood-frame home in Northampton County, has been named to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Department of the Interior called Pear Valley “an excellent, rare surviving example of the distinctive form of architecture that developed in the Chesapeake Bay region, illustrating how early settlers in the colonies adapted to their new environment.”
Northampton Branch of Preservation Virginia says that Pear Valley, though apparently a simple structure, contains many refined details that might not be apparent to the average visitor.
The site is not open to the public, and can be toured only by prior arrangement. Call to schedule a visit.
Pear Cottage Drive, Wilsonia Neck
Machipongo , VA 23405
Phone 1: 757-331-4689