History of Virginia Beach
Cape Henry, located at the meeting point of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, was the site of the first landing of English colonists in the New World, in 1607. The first permanent settlement was established in the vicinity and called Jamestown. The area soon became a crucial point for British merchant ships. The governor of Virginia requested that a lighthouse be built to improve safety of the ships and one was in fact built in 1779. A new lighthouse was built in 1881 but the old one remained the symbol of Virginia Beach ever since and it is still featured on the city’s seal and flag.
In 1880, a clubhouse was established on the oceanfront in Virginia Beach, which marked the beginning of the city’s history as a resort town. Railroad reached Virginia Beach in 1883 and connected it with Norfolk and the famous Princess Anne Hotel was opened, with the railroad tracks going up almost to the lobby of the hotel.
The 1920s are the period of tremendous growth of Virginia Beach. After the boardwalk was completed and the Cavalier Hotel was opened, there was no doubt that the city would become a major East Coast beach resort. In 1963 the city annexed the nearby Princess Anne County and its population rose to 125,000. In 1990s, it became the largest city in Virginia, with diverse economy and ever-increasing tourism industry.
Geography and Climate
Virginia Beach is located in southeastern Virginia, in the Hampton Roads region, along the Atlantic Ocean coastline. It belongs to the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Statistical Area in which Norfolk functions mostly as a business and commercial center and Virginia Beach is the principal center of tourism, a resort district and a suburb. Virginia Beach occupies a total area of 497.3 square miles, half of which is water. Virginia beach has the world’s longest pleasure beach, according to the Guinness Book of Records.
The climate in Virginia Beach is humid subtropical. Winters are mild with rare and light snowfall and summers are hot, humid, with warm and pleasant evenings. The geographic position of Virginia Beach puts it outside the usual paths for both the storms and the hurricanes, although it was hit by Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
Virginia Beach Cityscape
The city has 210 parks. Some of the most popular ones are the Mount Trashmore Park, Great Neck Park, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, First Landing State Park, False Cape State Park and Munden Point.
According to the 2010 U.S. census, Virginia Beach has 437,994 inhabitants and the racial makeup is 64.5% non-Hispanic White, 19.6% Black or African American, 6.6% Hispanic or Latino of any race, 6.1% Asian, 0.4% Native American, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 4% two or more races and 2% some other race.
In 2010, the median household income was $48,705 and the per capita income was $22,365.
Economy of Virginia Beach
Tourism is a large part of the economy in Virginia Beach and a major source of revenue. Approximately 14,900 people work in tourism and the city gets 2.75 million visitors each year, providing $73 million in revenue. In addition to hundreds of hotels, motels, restaurants, bars and clubs, since 2005 the city also has a large convention center.
In addition to tourism, the city also has large military and agribusiness sectors. It is home to several U.S. Army facilities, including U.S. Navy’s NAS Oceana (the largest employer in Virginia Beach) and Training Support Center Hampton Roads, both considered to be the largest of their kind in the world.
Some of the companies with headquarters in Virginia Beach include Amerigroup, Christian Broadcasting Network, Operation Blessing International and U.S. headquarters of Stihl. Other large employers include Geico, VT and Navy Exchange Service Command.
Attractions, Culture and Events
Virginia Beach has many historic places and sites, most notably the Adam Thoroughgood House, the Cape Henry Lights, Bayville Farm, DeWitt Cottage, Adam Keeling House, Shirley Hall, Wolfhouse and many more.
One of the best museums in the city is the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center is also very popular both among the locals and the tourists. Some of the best performing venues in Virginia Beach are the Virginia Beach Amphitheater and the Sandler Center.
Virginia Beach was the home of Edgar Cayce, considered to be the father of the “New Age” movement. The Edgar Cayce Hospital for Research and Enlightenment is still open for public and features a large library with books on psychic matters.
The largest annual event in the city is the Neptune Festival, which attracts 500,000 visitors at the Oceanfront and some 300,000 visitors at the air show at NAS Oceana.
Virginia Beach has two universities: Regent University, founded by the Christian Evangelist Pat Robertson and Atlantic University, associated with Edgar Cayce’s New Age organization. The city also has campuses of Virginia Tech and University of Virginia, as well as the main campus of the ECPI College of Technology. Virginia Wesleyan College is technically located in Norfolk but most of its campuses are located in Virginia Beach.
Virginia Beach does not have its own airport and the entire Hampton Roads region is served primarily by Norfolk International Airport and Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport. The nearest Amtrak station is also in Newport News and Greyhound and Trailways are available in adjacent Norfolk.