The Town of Cape Charles is located in Northampton County on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The Town is situated on a small peninsula, bordered by the Chesapeake Bay to the west, King’s Creek to the north and Old Plantation Creek to the southeast. With a land area of 2,817 acres and a population of approximately 1,000 residents, Cape Charles is the largest of Northampton’s five incorporated towns in terms of both land size and population. Since its inception in 1886, Cape Charles has evolved into a dynamic town capable of meeting the needs of a diverse array of residents, visitors, and businesses.
While significant new development has occurred in recent years, Cape Charles also has one of the best collections of historic buildings of any community on the Eastern Shore. The Town strives to preserve this rich architectural heritage. An architectural survey that identified historic properties in the Town led to the listing of the Cape Charles National Register Historic District in 1989. In 1997, the Town adopted a Historic Preservation Plan and in 2001 adopted Historic District Guidelines. A Historic District Review Board administers the guidelines and oversees new construction and renovations in the Town’s Historic District.
There are many excellent examples of Victorian, Colonial Revival, Craftsman, and Neo-classical styles of homes in the Historic District. The oldest houses, dating from the 1880s to the early 1900s, are found in the center and eastern sections of the Historic District.
Most commercial land uses are concentrated in the historic downtown area along four blocks of Mason Avenue between Peach Street and Harbor Avenue, and along the first blocks of Strawberry Street and Peach Street where they intersect Mason Avenue. This downtown commercial core is characterized by the historic character of the buildings. Commercial activity consists of retail and service establishments and specialty shops catering to local and regional customers as well as tourists and visitors. Historic buildings make up the north side of Mason Avenue, while across the street is the railroad area and two retail stores. Sidewalks line the north side of Mason Avenue. The commercial area has historically developed with brick facades and a pedestrian orientation.
In 1992, the Town annexed 2,191 acres of land from Northampton County. Most of the property was owned by Brown and Root. Part of the property was also owned by Bayshore Concrete, a major manufacturer of prestressed and precast structural components. The annexed land’s proximity to the Chesapeake Bay and other nearby amenities made the area a prime location for a new residential community. In 1998, the Brown and Root property was sold to Baymark Construction for the creation of the Bay Creek development. Two large tracts of land, consisting of 1,750 acres surrounding the original Town, are currently being developed. As of July 2007, Bay Creek has completed approximately 10% of 3,000 planned residential units. Two upscale golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have also been constructed, as well as a marina and commercial areas.
An abundance of natural resources exist in Cape Charles. Critical wildlife habitats, such as wetlands and natural areas, are present within the Town’s boundaries and nearby. In addition to serving an important ecological function, the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are important to the local economy and lifestyle. The Town’s concern for its natural resources is illustrated by projects such as the recent beach replenishment and the careful usage of ground water.
Today, Cape Charles is governed by a Mayor and Town Council, and is served by a Town Manager and 32 employees. The fiscal year 2008-2009 budget is approximately 2 million dollars. Town services include public water and wastewater treatment, a five officer police force, a library, public works, and financial and administrative staff. As Cape Charles enters a new era of revitalization, the Town seeks to preserve its historic character while growing to meet the modern needs of its citizens. Please browse the Town web site to learn more about Cape Charles.