News Flash

Hampton History Museum

Posted on: October 13, 2020

Streetcar Book Release and Open House - Saturday, November 14, 11 am-3 pm

SQUARE Streetcar in Phoebus 1916

Hampton’s Streetcar 390 Project Hosting Open House and Book Signing on November 14

Hampton’s Streetcar 390 Project will host an Open House and Book Signing on Saturday, November 14, 2020, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The public is invited to view the progress on the restoration of the historic trolley and to celebrate the release of the book, The One That Survived: The Story of Streetcar 390 and the Era of Streetcar Service on the Lower Peninsula. The event is free and open to the public at 57 Patch Road on Fort Monroe.

The One That Survived: The Story of Streetcar 390 and the Era of Streetcar Service on the Lower Peninsula, written by Greg Siegel, covers the 70 years of streetcar service in Hampton and Newport News along with the Streetcar 390’s journey from delivery in 1917 to its return in 2017.  Siegel also serves as the chair of Hampton’s Streetcar Project, an all-volunteer group steering the efforts to restore the trolley. Copies of the book will be available for $20.

At the event, an Amazon gift card raffle will be held to raise funds for the restoration. Five winning tickets will be drawn and prizes will range in value from $50 to $500.  Tickets will be on sale for $5 each or 6 tickets for $25. The raffle is sponsored by Dr. Michael Hutchings Hampton Family Dentistry.

During the event, members of the Streetcar 390 Project will be on hand to answer questions about the history of the car and their use on the Peninsula, and the restoration. According to the 390 Project committee chair and book author, Greg Siegel, “The 390 Project is not just about restoring the last car from the area, but is also about preserving the streetcar history and its link to the growth of Hampton and Newport News.” Siegel goes on to say, "The speed of the restoration will depend on fundraising. The more money raised, the faster the project can be completed. We hope at this event to raise funds to keep the restoration moving forward.”

To ensure the safety of attendees, face masks and social distancing will be required. Capacity restrictions on the number of attendees allowed in the building will also be practiced. After arriving on Fort Monroe, follow the signs to the event location. The Hampton History Museum, City of Hampton and the Hampton History Museum Association are partners with the Streetcar 390 Project. After restoration, plans call for the streetcar to be placed in a custom-built pavilion in Downtown Hampton that will become a part of the Hampton History Museum.

Follow Hampton's Streetcar 390 Project on Facebook for the latest updates. For more information call the Hampton Visitor Center at 757-727-1102.

Image: Postcard of car 67 in Phoebus, Virginia, c. 1916. This streetcar was purchased from Jackson and Sharp Wilmington, Delaware in 1899. This car was originally an open car and was remodeled for the influx of population during World War I. (Hampton Roads Postcard Club)

A Brief History of Hampton’s Streetcar 390
Built in 1917 and delivered to Hampton in 1918, the 390 was in use until January 1946. It was one of 20 remaining streetcars running before all streetcars were discontinued in favor of buses.

The 390 was built by the J.G. Brill Company of Philadelphia, PA. The car was of the type called a semi-convertible. This model featured windows that opened completely to let the air flow throughout the car making for a more comfortable ride for passengers than other models of the era. When the 390 arrived in Hampton it was 8’6” wide and 46’7” long, and could carry 52 seated passengers and approximately 47 standing, although this number was often exceeded during peak periods.

After it was pulled from service, the 390 was sold to John and Mary Anderson for $100. It was moved to their Grafton property in York County, where the couple turned the car into their home where they lived until 1977.

While returning to Baltimore from Virginia Beach with his family in the summer of 1977, one of the members of the Baltimore Streetcar Museum noticed the streetcar along the side of Route 17, and stopped to inquire about it. The semi-convertible model was once common in Baltimore, but the museum did not have one in its collection. Arrangements were made to have the car donated to the Baltimore Streetcar Museum.

The 390 has been sitting at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum since then. The museum periodically performed restoration work on the car over the years, but decided in 2013 to offer

the 390 to Hampton to bring it back home. The 390 was welcomed back to Hampton with a ceremony on August 2, 2017.

Restoration and Display
The trolley’s return for restoration was spearheaded by Hampton’s Streetcar 390 project with support from the Hampton History Museum and the City of Hampton. The facility where the restoration will take place is provided by the Fort Monroe Authority. Restoration work will be done by Keith Bray, who has restored a number of streetcars for organizations around the country, with support from a group of volunteers. 

After restoration, plans call for the streetcar to be placed in a custom-built pavilion in Downtown Hampton that will become a part of the Hampton History Museum. The pavilion will be not just home to the 390 but will act as a learning venue featuring a multi-media display that will take visitors on an exciting ride though Hampton during the 1930’s. Along with this, there will be interactive displays about how the streetcar system functioned and how it shaped the physical and cultural development of the Lower Virginia Peninsula.

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