Local city information for Hampton, VA
is an independent city in Virginia, and therefore not part of any Virginia county. One of the Seven Cities of Hampton Roads, it is on the southeast end of the Virginia Peninsula, bordering on Hampton Roads and Chesapeake Bay.
It's the sixth most populous city in Virginia, the most populous settlement with the name, and one of the oldest cities in the United States.
As of the 2000 U.S. census, the city population was 146,437, but the census estimate for 2005 showed that the city's population was down slightly to 145,579.
Hampton hosts Fort Monroe, Langley Air Force Base, NASA Langley Research Center, the Virginia Air and Space Center, and features a wide array of business and industrial enterprises, retail and residential areas, historical sites, and miles of waterfront and beaches.
In December 1606, three ships carrying men and boys left England on a mission sponsored by a proprietary company. Headed by Captain Christopher Newport, they sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to North America. After an exceptionally long voyage, they first landed at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay on the south shore at a place they named Cape Henry (for the Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, the elder son of their king).
During the first few days of exploration, they identified the site of Old Point Comfort (which they originally named "Point Comfort") as a strategic defensive location at the entrance to what became known as Hampton Roads, which itself is formed by the confluence of the Elizabeth River, the Nansemond River, and the James River, the longest in Virginia.
A few weeks later, on May 14, 1607, they established the first permanent English settlement in the present-day United States about further inland from the Bay along the James River at Jamestown. The area around Old Point Comfort became the site of several successive fortifications during the following 200 years.
Slightly south, near the entrance to Hampton River, in 1610, the Native American community of Kecoughtan was seized from the natives by colonists under Virginia's Governor, Sir Thomas Gates. The colonists established their own small town which came to be known as Hampton. (That forms the basis for Hampton's claim to the oldest continuously occupied English settlement in the United States). Hampton was named for Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, an important leader of the Virginia Company of London, for whom the Hampton River, Hampton Roads, Southampton County and Northampton County were also named. The area became part of Elizabeth Cittie in 1619, Elizabeth River Shire in 1634, and was included in Elizabeth City County when it was formed in 1643.
Shortly after the War of 1812, the Army of the United States built a much more substantial facility of stone at Old Point Comfort to become known as Fort Monroe in honor of U.S. President James Monroe. The new installation and adjacent Fort Calhoun on a man-made island across the channel) were completed in 1834.
Fort Monroe, Hampton and the surrounding area played several important roles during the American Civil War (1861-1865). Although most of Virginia became part of the Confederate States of America, Fort Monroe remained in Union hands. It became notable as a historic and symbolic site of early freedom for former slaves under the provisions of contraband policies and later the Emancipation Proclamation. After the War, former Confederate President, Jefferson Davis was imprisoned in the area now known as the Casemate Museum on the base.
To the south of Fort Monroe, the Town of Hampton had the misfortune to be burned during both the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War. From the ruins of Hampton left by evacuating Confederates in 1861, "Contraband" slaves (formerly owned by Confederates and under a degree of Union protection) built the Grand Contraband Camp, the first self-contained African American community in the United States. A number of modern-day Hampton streets retain their names from that community. The large number of contrabands who sought the refuge of Fort Jefferson and the Grand Contraband Camp led to educational efforts which eventually included establishment of Hampton University, site of the famous Emancipation Oak.
The original site of the Native American's Kecoughtan Settlement was near the present site of a Hampton Roads Transit facility. To the south of present-day Hampton, a small unrelated incorporated town also named Kecoughtan many years later and also located in Elizabeth City County was annexed by the City of Newport News in 1927, and now forms part of that city's East End.
Long a town in Elizabeth City County, Hampton became an independent city from Elizabeth City County on March 30, 1908 , although it remained the county seat and continued to share many services with the county. On July 1, 1952, following approval of voters of each locality by referendum, the City of Hampton, the incorporated town of Phoebus and Elizabeth City County were all politically consolidated into a single independent city under the name of Hampton. It was the first of a series of political consolidations in the Hampton Roads region during the third quarter of the 20th century.
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