Gloucester. It’s all right here. Family, community, neighbor, tradition.
Chief Powhatan knew it when the natural beauty of this place inspired the Algonquin Indians to establish their capital, Werowocomoco, here. It set the stage for Pocahontas to meet Capt. John Smith.
Today, the more than 36,000 residents who call Gloucester home know it, too. More than 80 percent of them own their home, choosing to live in a region where the crime rate remains well below average.
Gloucester’s location on the Middle Peninsula of Virginia makes it the northern most county of the booming Hampton Roads, Va. metro area. The local Economic Development Authority, the Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Association and Main Street Preservation Trust encourage business expansion and the arts.
Its 500 miles of shoreline features unparalleled boating access to the Chesapeake Bay for fishing and recreation. Festivals celebrating the people and nature of Gloucester populate the year. The oldest operating village in Virginia continues to attract shoppers and diners to its Main Street and Gloucester’s main thoroughfare, U.S. Route 17, offers access to it all.
With the rich history, industrious and friendly people and a wealth of natural beauty, residents and visitors alike have discovered that the land of the life worth living is right here in Gloucester.
Here’s what you can look for when planning a trip, or contemplating a move, to the county this year.
the great outdoors
The Gloucester Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department manages a wide variety of parks, from the fishing lake and hiking and riding trails of Beaverdam to the fields of Woodville Park and the beach and fishing pier of Gloucester Point.
Beaverdam is a 635-acre reservoir lake constructed in 1990 to provide drinking water to Gloucester. The surrounding property today features nearly 10 miles of trails, a boat ramp, rental boats and canoes, a playground and nature shows and educational programs.
• The tagline “one county, five rivers, unlimited fun” perfectly summarizes the Gloucester Blueways Trails, a system of five separate water trails that leads kayakers and canoers along Gloucester’s 40 miles of five tidal rivers, dozens of navigable creeks and a lake. Visit www.gloucesterblueways.org to download trail maps.
• Located in Ordinary off of Bray’s Point Road, Woodville Park is a 100-acre nature park featuring wetlands and woodlands, athletic fields, a walking trail and memorial gardens. Named a Best New Facility – Parks, Playgrounds, Blueways, Greenways & Trails by the Virginia Recreation and Park Society, the park continues to expand thanks to the help of the county, residents and volunteers.
• Drive over the George P. Coleman Memorial Bridge nearly any time of day and look down toward the Gloucester Point Beach and Fishing Pier. Chances are, no matter what
the hour, someone is out there. That’s how popular a spot it has become since 1998 when Gloucester received a grant to expand the pier at Gloucester Point jutting out into the York River. No fishing license is needed thanks to the sponsorship of local businesses. Fishermen report catching croaker, spot, flounder, striped bass and
• From the Bulb Shoppe to the acres of gardens, a stroll through Brent and Becky’s Bulbs is worth the trip for any visitor (or for any resident who hasn’t made their way out there). These internationally recognized and award winning bulb growers showcase their own gardens on their property and offer courses and education on developing personal gardens throughout the year.
From flowers to wine to recreating the Renaissance, Gloucester loves a good outdoor festival to bring families, residents and visitors together to learn and celebrate. Here’s a snapshot of a few on the docket for 2014.
• Nothing says festival in Gloucester like the Annual Daffodil Festival. Gloucester’s not called the Daffodil Capital of the World for nothing. Just ask the hundreds of thousands of people who have attended since the festival’s inception. The 28th Annual Daffodil Festival will be held this year April 5 and 6 and will welcome spring with a parade around the Courthouse Circle, all day entertainment, guided tours of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs and their internationally known daffodil gardens, local fare, artisans and a Fun Run hosted by the Gloucester Rotary Club that draws more than 400 runners of all ages. The “LOVE” sculpture from the Virginia Tourism Corporation will be positioned in front of the Museum of History this year for great photo opportunities and decorated with Daffodils by Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.
• Gloucester will toast the Middle Peninsula Saturday, Oct. 18 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. when its 5th Annual Gloucester Wine Festival kicks off at the gardens of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. Hosted by the Gloucester Chamber of Commerce, the annual wine festival has grown each year and now attracts more than 1,000 guests, top wineries from across the state and live musical entertainment. In Gloucester, the wine festival is more than about wine. It’s a celebration of a growing industry across the state, a toast to the community and a showcase event of what Gloucester has to offer.
• Come to Gloucester to enter a world of myth and legend. Seriously. Gloucester’s Renaissance Festival will make its seventh appearance Oct. 25 and 26 with its “All Hallow’s Eve” theme, featuring merchants, performances, living history, activities and masquerade.
Gloucester’s courthouse region along Main Street touts itself as the oldest living village in the state of Virginia. Shopping centers, mixed use communities and all the newest urban plans are replicating what Gloucester has had for centuries – a Main Street featuring educational institutions, a lawyers row, service professionals, government offices, boutique shopping, markets, restaurants, and more. Gloucester Main Street’s secret? In addition to active business owners and philanthropic minded residents, a Main Street Association and Main Street Preservation Trust that invests not only in the façade and interior improvements of the businesses along the corridor through a competitive grants program, but also in their future growth by offering business coaching, guidance, marketing support and a promise to help them do more than just survive.
The Village organizations also host some incredible events that entice residents and visitors to make their way down to Main Street.
• Weekly summer farmers markets, running every Wednesday June through August.
• Annual Blues and Brews event that brings together top musical acts and microbrew beers.
• Free community trick-or-treating along Main Street.
• Shopping and dining events, like ladies nights, sidewalk sales and restaurant weeks.
LIVING HISTORY, EXPERIENCING HISTORY
Gloucester’s deep roots and storied history is celebrated each day through the efforts of archaeologists, historians and volunteers working to keep the history of the community alive.
• Gloucester’s Historic Court Circle on Main Street is the oldest living village in Virginia. The 1766 Colonial Courthouse is the oldest courthouse still in use and the 1823 Debtor’s Prison is one of only three remaining in the state. The Gloucester Visitors Center, housed in the 1896 Roane building, is open seven days a week for guest tours of the other 19th century buildings. The circle also includes a Civil War Trails designation for the 1862 raids on the Courthouse, the 1893 monument to the Confederate fallen and a monument to James Daniel Gardner, an African American Union Officer and the only Gloucester citizen to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
• The brick ruins of Rosewell, arguably one of the finest mansions built in the American colonies, sits on the bank of the York River. It was here that Thomas John Page and Thomas Jefferson, who attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg together, began exploring “what lay ahead of the emerging nation in which they would play a role,” according to the Rosewell Foundation. Today, the Rosewell ruins features a visitor’s center, gift shop and is available for events.
• Directly across from Gloucester Point Beach, on the other side of the Coleman Bridge, lies Tyndall’s Point where Revolutionary War fortifications guarded the strategic entrance to the York River. One of Gloucester’s two Civil War Trails sites are also located here as the early fortifications were revitalized during the Civil War and World War I. Historical markers give even more details of this landmark of national historical significance.
• The Fairfield Foundation believes not only in the power of archaeology to help a community understand its roots, but also in the power of digging in the dirt. Literally. The Fairfield Foundation, named for the plantation near Rosewell where it does a significant amount of work, works to help preserve the physical elements of the past throughout the community and educate the public. They feature frequent public dig days and other opportunities to help capture history from across the Middle Peninsula. The Center for Archaeology, Preservation and Education (The CAPE!) at the former Edge Hill Service Station on Main Street will be its new home, headquarters and regional preservation center and archaeology lab open to the public.
• Gloucester’s Museum of History is located in the Historic Botetourt Building on Main Street, featuring exhibits highlighting life in the community circa 1800s, original Civil War-era oil paintings and artifacts from the Battle of the Hook, the pivotal Revolutionary War military engagement that took place at Gloucester Point and paved the way
to American victory at Yorktown.
Edgar Degas said art is not what you see, but what you make others see. In Gloucester, the arts are celebrated with all the senses and on a community level, making even the finest of arts accessible to every resident, every visitor.
▪ Thanks to the Cook Foundation, each summer, the Virginia Symphony travels to Gloucester and performs a free outdoor concert for the entire community in the Village area of the Courthouse region. The event is set for May 31 this year. Get there early. It’s become so popular, some folks arrive hours ahead to tailgate.
▪ Gloucester Arts on Main, Inc. – called GAMi – is located along Main Street and aims to provide a place for art-making, art education and art exhibition. GAMi hosts a new
opening exhibit on the first Fridays of each month and encourages the community to come out and support the featured artists. GAMi also offers ongoing classes working with a variety of mediums.
SHOP & DINE
From the sea to the shore and from unique gifts to boats and tractors, a trip to Gloucester for fine foods and shopping sprees can easily be planned out. Starting out along the main U.S. Route 17 corridor and rolling through the Main Street shopping district, visitors can find everything from boutiques to big box offerings. Stop to fuel up at the plethora of dining options throughout the county, from Thai to Mexican and regional seafood to classic American.
Gloucester’s award winning schools offer both technical classes as well as a college preparatory curriculum. Gloucester is also home to a pre-k through eighth
grade independent day school – Ware Academy – and Rappahannock Community College and the College of William and Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS).
It’s true. There’s no way you could visit Gloucester and see everything offered in the community in one day. So stay awhile. Or at least the night.
• The Comfort Inn and Hampton Inn, located just off of U.S. Route 17, features more than 150 rooms combined and award-winning service.
• Looking to go the bed and breakfast route? The Inn at Warner Hall, George Washington’s great-great grandfather’s estate, is a beautifully restored waterfront mansion and one of the most elegant and historic inns on the East Coast. The North River Inn features English-style country houses, set amid lovely gardens and pastoral landscapes, all along the North River and Toddsbury Creek waterfronts.
Gloucester is the birthplace of Walter Reed, the U.S. Army physician who led the team to defeat yellow fever, and it’s his name that graces the local hospital, part of the well-regarded Riverside Health System. Other health care providers in town make Gloucester a competitive, well-supplied market.
• Riverside’s range of medical services offered in Gloucester are anchored by the Riverside Walter Reed Hospital, which opened in 1977 and has grown into a 67-bed acute care facility that provides comprehensive services and state-of-the-art technology to the communities of the Middle Peninsula.
• The Sentara Gloucester Medical Arts facility combines the quality care of Sentara doctors with the convenience of a one-stop health campus featuring everything from primary care physicians and specialists to a wide variety of other services, including imaging, digital mammography, pediatrics, and dental care.
• Independently owned practices – like Tidewater Physical Therapy – round out the offerings on the Middle Peninsula, providing residents with top choices for their medical care.