Hotels at Point Comfort/Fort Monroe

this version of The Chamberlin hotel has been a landmark at Point Comfort since 1928 (Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel in background)
this version of The Chamberlin hotel has been a landmark at Point Comfort since 1928
(Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel in background)
Source: National Archives, An aerial view of the Chamberlin Hotel (1982)

Starting in 1822, even before Fort Monroe was completed, a hotel has operated at Point Comfort. The first Hygeia Hotel was built in 1822. Customers came from both officers and their families and tourists seeking a comfortable resort, including Presidents Andrew Jackson and John Tyler.

That hotel was torn down in 1862, when Fort Monroe decided to minimize non-military visitors. Removal also improved the field of fire upstream, towards the James River shipping channel. The second Hygeia Hotel was torn down in 1902 after the Spanish American War, when the Federal government revoked permission to use the land.1

the first Hygeia Hotel, located between Fort Monroe and the James River shipping channel, was removed in 1862 during the Civil War
the first Hygeia Hotel, located between Fort Monroe and the James River shipping channel, was removed in 1862 during the Civil War
Source: Library of Congress, Fortress Monroe, Old Point Comfort, & Hygeia Hotel, Va. in 1861 & 1862--The key to the South

the second Hygeia Hotel, torn down in 1902
the second Hygeia Hotel, torn down in 1902
Source: Round About Jamestown (p.29)

Other hotels on Point Comfort have included two incarnations of The Chamberlin hotel. The original was built in 1896, after the US army issued a 50-year lease. That building burned in 1920, but the replacement building that opened in 1928 is still a landmark on Point Comfort. The lease was renewed in 1966 and again in 2002.2

Getting fresh water at Point Comfort was a challenge. The Hygeia Hotel brought drinking water by boat from Norfolk, then dug wells on the mainland at the Soldier's Home in Hampton. Fort Monroe tried digging a deep well during the Civil War, but found only saline water and stopped digging at 907 feet in 1869. Another government well drilled in 1902 reached crystalline bedrock at 2,240 feet, but was also unable to find fresh water.

In 1896 The Chamberlin drilled a well 945 feet deep, but it produced the "saltiest and most mineral-ized water yieled by any flowing well in the Norfolk-Newport News area." The water was used only for flushing, because the well water contained too much iron and other minerals for use in boilers, laundry, or bathing. After the Hygeia Hotel was removed in 1902, The Chamberlin used the old wells on the mainland at the Soldier's Home in Hampton for cleaning purposes, but distilled the water offered to customers for drinking.3

prior to construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad to Newport News and then Point Comfort after the Civil War, there was no railroad on the Peninsula
prior to construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad to Newport News and then Point Comfort after the Civil War, there was no railroad on the Peninsula
Source: Library of Congress, Map of Virginia, Maryland &c., seat of war, compiled from the latest maps, 1861l

Tourist traffic rather than military requirements triggered construction of a railroad spur to make Point Comfort the eastern terminus of the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Railroad. The Hampton Branch was built from Newport News to connect with a new station in Hampton in 1882. The station was named after Harrison Phoebus, who managed the Hygeia Hotel. (The town of Phoebus, incorporated in 1900, merged into the city of Hampton in 1952.)

The C&O built a trestle across the creek in 1890 to service tourists going to the Hygeia Hotel and The Chamberlin. Passenger rail traffic declined after World War II, and the line was abandoned in 1960.4

The Chamberlin closed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks resulted in greater security at Fort Monroe, limiting public access. After the decision in 2005 to close the military installation, the Chamberlin was rehabilitated and reopened in 2008 as a retirement home for "waterfront senior living."5

the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad crossed Mill Creek on a trestle to reach the Hygeia Hotel and The Chamberlin
the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad crossed Mill Creek on a trestle to reach the Hygeia Hotel and The Chamberlin
Source: Library of Congress, Map of Elizabeth City County, Virginia

the Hygeia Hotel was expanded/modified multiple times, starting with the first version in 1863
the Hygeia Hotel was expanded/modified multiple times, starting with the first version in 1863
Source: Hygeia Hotel

Hygeia Hotel between 1876-1881
Hygeia Hotel between 1876-1881
Source: Hygeia Hotel

the Hygeia Hotel had steamboat access to many locations on the Chesapeake Bay
the Hygeia Hotel had steamboat access to many locations on the Chesapeake Bay
Source: Hygeia Hotel

Links

the second version of the Chamberlin Hotel, shown here during the 1930's, was converted into a retirement home after the 2001 terror attacks triggered increased security on military bases
the second version of the Chamberlin Hotel, shown here during the 1930's, was converted into a retirement home after the 2001 terror attacks triggered increased security on military bases
Source: Fort Monroe Online Heritage Project, 2nd Chamberlin ca 1930s casemate museum

in the 1800's, tourists arrived by steamboat at Point Comfort
in the 1800's, tourists arrived by steamboat at Point Comfort
Source: Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Arrival at Fortress Monroe (p.661)

References

1. "Fort Monroe ," City of Hampton, http://www.hampton.gov/index.aspx?NID=1912 (last checked December 23, 2014)
2. "The Architectural Heritage of Fort Monroe," National Park Service, 1987, p.31, http://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/nnps/fort_monroe.pdf; "The History of the Chamberlin," The Chamberlin, http://www.historicchamberlin.com/about-the-chamberlin/chamberlin-history/ (last checked January 11, 2015
3. William Bullock Clark, Benjamin LeRoy Miller, Edward Wilber Berry, Thomas Leonard Watson, "The Phys-iography and Geology of the Coastal Plain Province of Virginia," Bulletin, Virginia Division of Mineral Resources, No. IV, 1912, pp.99-104, p.162, https://books.google.com/books?id=XSwQAAAAIAAJ (last checked December 26, 2014)
4. "Harrison Phoebus left his mark on tourism, town," Newport News Daily Press, September 24, 2006, http://www.dailypress.com/news/dp-34912sy0sep24-story.html (last checked January 11, 2015)
5. "The Architectural Heritage of Fort Monroe," National Park Service, 1987, p.10, http://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/nnps/fort_monroe.pdf; "The History of the Chamberlin," The Chamberlin, http://www.historicchamberlin.com/about-the-chamberlin/chamberlin-history/; "Chamberlin Hotel," Virginia Department of Historic Resources, National Register of Historic Places nomination form, 2007, p.5, http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/registers/Cities/Hampton/114-0114_ChamberlinHotel_2006_NRfinal.pdf (last checked December 23, 2014)

Old Point Comfort became a resort as welll as the site of a lighthouse and Fort Monroe, while plans for resort development at New Point Comfort ended after storms washed away much of the peninsula (but the lighthouse at New Point Comfort survived)
Old Point Comfort became a resort as welll as the site of a lighthouse and Fort Monroe, while plans for resort development at New Point Comfort ended after storms washed away much of the peninsula (but the lighthouse at New Point Comfort survived)
Source: Library of Congress, Carte de la Virginie et du Maryland


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