Friday, August 31, 2012

The Kingdom by the Sea

There is one more thing about Old Point Comfort worthy of note,
 and that is the history of hotels** and resorts on the Point.
The first hotel was The Hygeia, named after the Greek goddess of health.
No doubt its developers believed in the curative effects of "taking the waters,"
a centuries-old practice for improving health.
However, initially the Hygeia, built in 1822,
housed construction workers helping to build Fort Monroe.
But the illustrious also enjoyed the comforts of the Hygeia.
Paul Clancy, who writes about local history for The Virginian-Pilot newspaper,
says that Edgar Allen Poe purportedly wrote 
his somber elegiac "Annabel Lee" 
while staying at the original Hygeia.

**Photos of the Old Point Comfort hotels are at the Authority site below.

The original Hygeia Hotel was torn down during the Civil War in 1862,
in order to take advantage of the site for military defense.
But soon, in 1868, a bigger and grander resort hotel stood in its place.
To accommodate water views and sea breezes,
the new Hygeia Hotel had three levels of verandas 
and a mansard roof with multiple dormer windows.
By the late 1800s, it had earned the nickname, "The Great Southern Resort." 

While the new Hygeia was dazzling guests, another hotel was constructed nearby.
This was the Chamberlin Hotel, built in 1896
to accommodate resort guests and military officers.
As a "modern" hotel, it offered guests the luxury of electric lights.
Unfortunately, buildings of the era were particularly vulnerable to fire,
and the Chamberlin was no exception, burning to the ground in 1920.
By1928, another Chamberlin Hotel graced the waterfront,
 but over the decades, its success was on again, off again.

Here's the Chamberlin as it looked on my recent visit to Fort Monroe:

I attended a conference there in the 1970s,
 and it was beginning to show its age and a hint of shabbiness.
Even so, having lunch in the grand dining room, 
I looked through the massive palladian windows with their ornate moldings
and was swept away by the magnificence of the place.
And just for a second,  I was in Poe's "kingdom by the sea."
Sources and Links to Photos:

The following site has photos of the Chamberlin, 
now an upscale apartment complex for seniors,
 after its recent refurbishment:

No comments: