The Northampton County town of Cape Charles was laid out in 1883-1884 at the southern terminus of the New York, Philadelphia, and Norfolk Railroad. The town owes its existence to its harbor, which, following dredging, enabled the railroad company to transport loaded cars by barge across the Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk. The town developed quickly and became the largest community on Virginia’s Eastern Shore at the turn of the 20th century. The buildings that comprise the Cape Charles Historic District were constructed on a twenty-seven-block grid dominated by a central park from which four landscaped streets extended. The remarkably intact architectural fabric ranges from small vernacular workers’ housing of the 1880s to early-20th-century architect-designed commercial, residential, and municipal buildings. The preservation of the town’s historic character was prompted by the cessation of freight and passenger ferries across the bay in the 1950s. Development was arrested and Cape Charles became frozen in time.
Additional documentation on the Cape Charles Historic District was submitted to the National Register in 2019. This updated nomination provided more current information about the district’s physical condition and history, based on a recent comprehensive survey of the district, and included new research into the district’s historical significance.
[NRHP Accepted: 4/23/2019]
Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark