The Fragile Balance: Man and Nature in Hampton

Syms-Eaton students in garden 1911-1912Opening Reception – June 8, 2013

Opening of Exhibit – June 8, 2013

Exhibit Closing Date – September 12, 2013

Exhibit Description – “Heaven and earth never agreed to frame a better place for man’s habitation”
--- Capt. John Smith, 1608

Man’s habitation of the land which we now call Hampton spans over 12,000 years. The favorable natural attributes – the sea and climate have facilitated the formation of an enduring occupation on these shores. The Virginia Indians cultivated the land, hunted the land, and plied the waters in their log canoes in search of fish and shellfish. The English established a permanent settlement in the early Seventeenth Century which by 1624 had the largest concentration of population in Virginia. During the first quarter of the Eighteenth Century, the town became a thriving tobacco port.

The waterways brought invading armies and navies to Hampton during the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. Fort Monroe, completed in 1834, was built to defend the strategic entrance to Hampton Roads Harbor at Old Point.
Nor’easters and hurricanes have shaped the coastline for centuries affecting the Hampton sandbar, flooding the town, and destroying the Grandview Lighthouse, but conversely the sea breezes and inviting waters have attracted prosperous hotels,
popular beach resorts, and noted Americans to enjoy the temperate climate.

Hampton was rebuilt following the Civil War with the seafood industry as it became one of the world’s leading producers of crabs and oysters. Countless men and women made their livelihood working on the water. Chesapeake log canoes and dead rise
workboats were crafted to harvest the bounty of our local tributaries. Because of this seminal connection to the sea, Hampton became known as “Crabtown”.

This exhibit will interpret the impact of the natural history on the formation of the town of Hampton and its environs.