yorktown, virginia: my hometown

Wednesday, August 22:  Yorktown, with its tiny population of 220 people (2000 census), is the county seat of York County, Virginia.  Its claim to fame is the siege and subsequent surrender of British General Cornwallis to American General George Washington on October 19, 1781 in the American Revolutionary War.  Cornwallis’s surrender to a combined American and French force in the Siege of Yorktown led to the end of major hostilities in North America.

Cornwallis Cave: where Cornwallis hid during the Revolutionary War??

According to Remember Yorktown, Cornwallis’s cave, located along the water front, is reported to have been the hiding place of Cornwallis during the siege at Yorktown during the Revolutionary War in 1781.  However, the York County Historical Committee says that contrary to the legend that describes this as Cornwallis’ hiding place at the end of the 1781 siege, it was probably used by a British gun crew to defend the river from the French Fleet. The site is National Park Service property.

the Yorktown Victory Monument

The Yorktown Victory Monument was authorized by Continental Congress, October 29, 1781, just after news of the surrender reached Philadelphia.  Actual construction began 100 years later and was completed in 1884.  The original figure of Liberty atop the victory shaft was severely damaged by lightning.  A new figure replaced it in 1956. The shaft of Maine granite is 84 feet tall; Liberty adds another 14 feet.

a ring of figures on the Yorktown Victory Monument
a view of the York River & one of the schooners from the hilltop where the monument stands

Yorktown also figured prominently in the American Civil War (1861–1865), serving as a major port to supply both northern and southern towns, depending upon who held Yorktown at the time (Wikipedia: Yorktown, Virginia).

the inviting Hornsby House Inn in historic Yorktown

Yorktown has a lot of historic houses including the Hornsby House Inn, a bed & breakfast that has been recently renovated.  It looks similar in style to many houses in the town. (Hornsby House Inn)

Side view of the Hornsby House Inn

I grew up in York County, not Yorktown proper, but as a child and teenager, my friends and I spent a lot of time at Yorktown Beach and on the Yorktown Battlefield, at the Yorktown Pub, on boats on the York River, and at Nick’s Seafood Pavilion, a landmark restaurant until it was damaged severely in a hurricane.  Every year on October 19, Yorktown Day, we went to the town to participate in the festivities, to gawk at the French sailors who came to town, and to eat Brunswick Stew.

this is the park at the far east end of Yorktown Beach where we had our senior class picnic. One of the schooners from the dock is sailing on the York River.
the Yorktown Pub

There are lots of great things to see in Yorktown.  The town is part of the national treasure known as the Historic Triangle of Yorktown, Williamsburg and Jamestown.  Yorktown lies at the eastern end of the Colonial Parkway, built between 1930 and 1957, which links the three communities, shielding drivers from views of commercial development; a major effort has been made to keep traffic signs and other modern roadside items to a minimum, and to make essential signs unobtrusive. There are often views of wildlife in addition to York River panoramas at several pull-offs.

Yorktown Beach with the George P. Coleman bridge in the background
Yorktown Beach in the direction of where the York River empties into the Chesapeake Bay
Yorktown Beach
Yorktown Beach with the fishing pier and Amoco Oil Refinery in the distance
Sea grasses and the George P. Coleman Bridge
Yorktown
Don’t break the rules!

The Yorktown Victory Center, which is the American Revolutionary War museum, shows our country’s evolution from colonial status to nationhood through thematic exhibits and living-history interpretation in a Continental Army encampment and 1780s farm.  People can visit the Yorktown Battlefield, Moore House, Nelson House, Custom House and Grace Episcopal Church.  If you want to visit Yorktown, please see: Historic Yorktown.

an evening in yorktown with dear friends

Tuesday, August 21:  Today I drive Sarah back to Richmond since she has to work, and then I head another hour right on down the road to Yorktown to meet two of my oldest and dearest high school friends for dinner.

the fountain in front of Riverwalk in Yorktown

Yorktown is my hometown in the Tidewater area of Virginia.  It’s about 3 hours southeast of where I live in northern Virginia.  Louise and Charlene are two of our group of 4 high school friends; we jokingly called ourselves the Fearsome Foursome.   We have remained fast friends to this day and have followed each others’ lives throughout 40 years!

The Schooner Alliance, 105 feet tall, on the left, and the 65 foot tall Schooner Serenity on the right
Schooner Serenity
Schooner Serenity ~ the place to go for a pirate cruise!
Schooner Alliance
the George P. Coleman Bridge, crossing from Yorktown to Gloucester

We meet at Riverwalk, a restaurant overlooking the York River.  We sit down outdoors under an awning, but it starts sprinkling the minute we sit down.  Raindrops start falling on our heads because the awning is not waterproof.  So we move inside, where we shiver and freeze under air conditioning set to sub-zero temperatures!

me with Louise
Charlene, me and Louise

No matter.   We have fun catching up with each other, as if a year hadn’t passed between our last meeting.  The food is mediocre at best, but the wine makes it palatable.  Louise tells about her son Larry who is now serving in Korea.  Charlene talks about her grandchildren.  We talk about people we have known our whole lives and then about Charlene’s work, Louise’s retirement, and my time in Oman.  After dinner, we take a walk along the river, talking and strolling and admiring the York River, the beach and the George P. Coleman Bridge.

the George P. Coleman Bridge as the sun goes down

The George P. Coleman Bridge is a 3,750-foot-long double-swing-span bridge built in 1952 with 2 lanes, connecting York and Gloucester Counties.  For two years ending in 1996, it was widened to 4 lanes.  The bridge has movable spans which allows ships to go upriver to military installations including the Naval Weapons Station and Camp Peary. The bridge was named after George P. Coleman, the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Highways from 1913 to 1922.

the bridge all lit up and reflecting on the York River

We grew up in this place.  We sunbathed on the sandy strip of beach, we ate at the Yorktown Pub, we sipped on limeades from the drugstore that is no longer in existence.  We celebrated birthdays and graduations at Nick’s Seafood Pavilion, which was ruined in the last hurricane and then demolished.   We flirted with boys, slathered on coconut oil, frisked about in the water.  We hopped on friends’ motorboats or motorcycles when they dropped by the beach and cruised on the river or on the roads through the little historic town of Yorktown.  We have memories of this place, and even though it’s changed more than we believe it should have, we can walk along and recognize enough to reminisce.

Riverwalk Landing all lit up at night

It’s always a great thing to spend time with long-time friends, people who will be in your life until the day you die…. 🙂