Virginia Beach, 1880–1900 (sample report)

This page shows a sample research report from Historicalfic: Historical Research for Fiction Writers. Every report is custom-designed to fit the research needs and budget of the writer, so if you don't find the type of report here that you're interested in, just contact Historicalfic to enquire further.

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Virginia Beach, 1880–1900

Research requests

Story's genre: Historical romantic suspense.

Setting: Virginia Beach, Virginia, some time between 1880 and 1900.

Author's requests: "Any information online about Virginia Beach during this period. I'd especially like to find a suitable house for my heroine to live in, a place for my hero to stay in while he visits Virginia Beach, and some dramatic event that will place my hero and/or heroine in danger. Maybe a sea storm? . . . I plan to visit Virginia Beach and would like to know which historical places I can see there."

Types of research: Links to electronic resources, digital research, and a list of research locations. Exclude subscription databases.

Researcher's note: I found a house for your heroine to live in: the only surviving Victorian beach cottage, the DeWitt Cottage. As for your hero's visit: The only hotel at Virginia Beach during this period, the Princess Anne Hotel, unfortunately burned down in the early twentieth century, but I was able to find information about it. Concerning a suitably suspenseful event, the stormy shipwreck of the Dictator (from Norway) is much remembered because a figurehead from the Dictator, called the Norwegian Lady, was used as a statue on the Princess Anne Hotel grounds for many years. Coastguards from the Seatack Life-saving Station in Virginia Beach were involved in what sounds like a highly dramatic rescue of some (but not all) of the crew and passengers. Perhaps your hero and heroine could become involved in the rescue?

If any of these links break in the future, you can use the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive to try to reach copies of the websites.

Archives and links

Virginia Beach Public Library's Digital Archives. A gold mine of information. I suggest that you search the archives by date and by topic.

A. Johnson Ackiss for etc. vs. E. H. Morrison. (Source: Virginia Memory, a digital archive from the Library of Virginia. A 1911 court deposition regarding Virginia Beach.) "Not only did this case provide a historical view of how livestock was treated in the city limits, it also provided a short history of the development of the summer resort community of Virginia Beach from the sale of the first deeds in 1887 through 1910. Also included in the case is a 'Map of Virginia Beach owned by the Norfolk and Virginia Beach Railroad and Improvement Company' showing the layout of the planned community—streets, lots, and railroad tracks." Right-click to see the images in full-view. Another version of the map. The map doesn't show what was actually built but what was planned.

Virginia Memory digital photographs. Alas, I can't figure out any way to easily locate the 19th-century photos in these collections; however, both of the search engines allow you to search by keyword.

VAGenWeb: Princess Anne County. GenWeb always has an interesting if eclectic mixture of links. I couldn't find much here that would be of interest to you, but just in case I missed something, here's the site.


Library of Congress catalogue: Virginia Beach.

Princess Anne County/Virginia Beach: Booklist on Local History. (Source: Princess Anne County / Virginia Beach Historical Society.) See also Resources and information about local history.

WorldCat: Virginia Beach.

Books and theses

The Beach: A History of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Third edition. The Virginia Beach Public Library, 2006. (Source: Internet Archive.) Downloadable e-book.

Castleberry, Amy Hayes. Virginia Beach. Then & Now. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2010. (Source: Google Books.) Book preview. Includes historical photos.

Chewning, Alpheus J. Virginia Beach in Vintage Postcards. Postcard History. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2004. (Source: Google Books.) Book preview. Includes historical photos (as you can tell from the title).

Hawkins-Hendrix, Edna. Black History. Our Heritage: Princess Anne County, Virginia Beach, Virginia. Virginia Beach, VA: Edna Hawkins-Hendrix, 1998. (Source: Internet Archive.) Downloadable e-book.

Souther, Jonathan Mark. Twixt ocean and pines: the seaside resort at Virginia Beach, 1880–1930. (Source: University of Richmond's Scholarship Repository.) Downloadable master's thesis from 1996. This thesis provides a large amount of information on early Virginia Beach that isn't available elsewhere.

Virginia Beach Historic Preservation Partnership. 50 Most Historically Significant Houses and Structures in Virginia Beach (PDF) [2008]. (Source: City of Virginia Beach.) Downloadable e-book. Photographs with brief descriptions, including dates.

Yarsinke, Amy Waters. Lost Virginia Beach. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011. (Source: Google Books.) Book preview. Includes historical photos.

Yarsinke, Amy Waters. Virginia Beach: A History of Virginia's Golden Shore. The Making of America. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2002. (Source: Google Books.) Book preview. Includes historical photos.

Yarsinke, Amy Waters. Virginia Beach: Jewel Resort of the Atlantic. Images of America. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 1998. (Source: Google Books.) Book preview. Includes historical photos.


From Cape Henry to Currituck Beach including the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal. U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, 1899. (Source: North Carolina Maps, hosted by the University of North Carolina.) See also the 1885 and 1892 versions, as well as the 1878 version, which, remarkably, marks the hotels that didn't yet exist.

Virginia Beach historic maps. (Source: City of Virginia Beach.)

U.S. Geological Survey maps: 18911902.

U.S. Office of Coast Survey maps: 1878. 1880. 1882. 1886. 1890. 1892. 1895a. 1895b. 1899a. 1899b. (Source: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.)


C-SPAN Cities Tour - Virginia Beach: History of Cape Henry. (Source: YouTube.)

C-SPAN Cities Tour – Virginia Beach: Old Coast Guard Station(Source: YouTube.)

C-SPAN Cities Tour - Virginia Beach: "Princess Anne County and Virginia Beach: A Pictorial History". (Source: YouTube.)

DeWitt Cottage

Note: The spelling of this cottage is different in various sources.

National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: de Witt Cottage [PDF]. (Source: Virginia Department of Historic Resources.) Includes a floor plan of the cottage. See also other historic sites at Virginia Beach. I've e-mailed separately to you the information sent to me about the cottage's history from the current owners.

The Norwegian Lady, the Dictator, and Seatack Life-saving Station

Foss, William O. The Norwegian Lady and the Wreck of the Dictator. (Source: Amazon.) Book.

The Norwegian Lady. A website devoted to the topic.

The Norwegian Lady, Moss. (Source: Geocaching, a game site where participants can post photos.) Moss's Norweigan Lady is the Norwegian sister to the Virginia Beach statue. Includes over a thousand photos.

Pouliot, Richard A., and Julie J. Pouliot. Shipwrecks on the Virginia Coast and the Men of the United States Life-Saving Service. Centreville, MD: Tidewater Publishers, 1986. (Source: Internet Archive.) Downloadable e-book. Describes some shipwrecks that were handled by the Seatack "surfmen."

See also Virginia Beach Public Library's Digital Archives for related photos.

Princess Anne Hotel

The Princess Anne Hotel, Virginia Beach, Va. Norfolk & Virginia Beach R. R. Co., [1888]. Various online sources credit the publisher as Hosford & Sons from New York City, but this credit isn't in the booklet itself. (Source: Internet Archive.) Downloadable e-book. An illustrated booklet from the owners of the hotel.

[Princess Anne Hotel, Virginia Beach, Va.]. Detroit Publishing Co., [between 1900 and 1910]. (Source: Library of Congress.) Two photographs.

Princess Anne Hotel menus: 1897, 1898, and 1900. (Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.) See also Virginia Beach Public Library's Digital Archives for related photos and for this lovely series of staff memos from the Princess Anne Hotel.

Places to visit

Atlantic Heritage Wildfowl Museum. Housed in the only remaining building from Virginia Beach's nineteenth-century waterfront: the DeWitt Cottage. The museum includes a small exhibit on historical Virigina Beach.

Colonial National Historical Park: Cape Henry Memorial. Just up the coast from Virginia Beach (and now part of the city). You can visit the nearby historical lighthouses, the sand dunes (which were around in the nineteenth century), and the memorial cross for the landing of the English folk who went on to settle Jamestown.

First Landing State Park at Cape Henry. Another chance to visit Cape Henry. More sand dunes, as well as trails and historical displays.

The Norwegian Lady. A replica of the nineteenth-century statue.

Virginia Beach Surf & Rescue Museum. Formerly called the Old Coast Guard Station, this is housed within the 1903 station that replaced the 19th-century Seatack station at Virginia Beach. The following cached pages give information on the museum's offline archive and library, but it would be best for you to call ahead, since the museum is in the midst of renovations as I write this.

Virginia Beach Public Library. I've linked to information on their local-history library.

Mariners' Museum. Located in nearby Newport News. It's a major maritime museum, in case you have a more general interest in that topic. Its library claims to have "the largest maritime history collection in the Western Hemisphere." The library is currently closed as I write this but may be open when you take your trip; you can enquire to check. Note that they have some of their collections online, including one on the Chesapeake Bay; the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay is just a few miles from Virginia Beach.