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A Vast Resort: 1895

A Vast Resort: 1895

Hampton Roads, Virginia, circa 1895. "Hygeia Hotel, Old Point Comfort." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative by William Henry Jackson. View full size.


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What appears to be a shotgun in the closer of the two launches is probably a line-throwing gun. They were used in rescue situations or to pass a line to another vessel.

At least some of this still exists

Believe it or not, at least one thing visible in the photo still exists, though from the closest street view you would not see it; this picture was taken from a now no longer existing jetty, and would be some thirty feet out in water. The Street View car, therefore, was some 6o feet off from the right angle and location to recapture the view.

I believe the street on the left is Ingalls Road, and the intersection just barely discernible on the left would be with Fenwick Road; none of the buildings VISIBLE are still there, but there are building hidden by the Hygeia Hotel that are. However, barely discernible in the distance on the right is the Old Point Comfort Lighthouse, along with a water tower [Gotta correct myself: the object on the far right that appears to be a watertower... isn't. It's an observation tower, now replaced with a more substantial tower, that rests on one corner of the fortress walls. I looked again and realized my error for calling it a water tower, since it's the exact same location as the more recent WWII era tower. And the outer gun line appears to have been built for WWII, not WWI.]; the Lighthouse is still there, along with other building which MAY be in the right side of the hotel, but the resolution there is too fuzzy for me to ascertain for sure (there are residences that date back that far on the stretch that should be visible, but some of the buildings visible on the extreme left may have been razed to make way for the outer gun line of Fortress Monroe, which is external to the historical Fort with it's moat and was build during WW1).

The site of the hotel itself is now Continental Park, with a small pavilion; immediately to the left (and it would have been in the picture if it had existed) is the location of the current Chamberlain hotel. On the other hand, the beaches have now moved significantly to the right and somewhat around the curve of the island; there are concrete breakwaters in this are of the island today.

Interestingly, if you use Google Earth to zoom in, you can still see some echoes of the Hygeia in the natural patterning of the grass growth in the park, as it grows slightly differently where the ground was disturbed for the buildings foundations, some 115 years after the hotels removal.

Naphtha Launches

This pair of beautiful launches are propelled by naphtha boilers. They are not "steam launches" - the working fluid is a hydrocarbon rather than water.

The rationale of using naphtha rather than water as the working fluid is that a passenger-carrying steamboat must, by law, have a licensed engineer.

Note the beautiful flowing lines of their hulls. These were among the most lovely pleasure boats ever built.

Pirate Ship?

I look forward to an explanation of what appears to be a shotgun on the front seat-sea creatures?

Naphtha Launches

Appears to be a pair of them at the dock:

I think we saw some others down in Florida

Didn't burn down

But seven years after this photo:

"Rarely has anyone changed the landscape in Hampton Roads as dramatically as Secretary of the Army Elihu Root when he signed a Sept. 1, 1902 order authorizing the razing of the Hygeia Hotel."

-- Newport News Daily Press.

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