Colonial Beach, Virginia

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Colonial Beach is a town in Westmoreland County, Virginia, United States. The population was 3,228 at the 2000 census. Possessing the second largest beach front in the state, Colonial Beach was a popular resort town in the early to mid-20th century, before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge made ocean beaches on the Eastern Shore of Maryland more accessible to visitors from Washington, D.C. The family of Alexander Graham Bell maintained a summer home in Colonial Beach, the Bell House, which still stands today. Sloan Wilson, author of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, retired and died in Colonial Beach. George Washington, the first President of the United States, was born near here at what is now the George Washington Birthplace National Monument. As of 2007, efforts are underway to reconstruct the nearby birthplace of President James Monroe as a museum.

Contents

History

The town was first settled in 1650 by Andrew Monroe, the great-great grandfather of President James Monroe, as Monrovia.[3]

Colonial Beach emerged as a bathing and fishing resort in the late 19th century known as the "Playground on the Potomac." Prior to automobile travel, most visitors arrived by boat from Washington, D.C.[4]

The town was incorporated on 25 February 1892 and there was extensive construction of houses, summer cottages, and, hotels. Arguably the most famous of these structures is the Alexander Graham Bell house which still stands on Irving Avenue as the Bell House Bed and Breakfast.[4]

The area was at the center of the Potomac River Oyster Wars between Virginia watermen and the Maryland State Oyster Police that lasted from the late 19th century to the 1960.[5]

The town began to gradually decline as the automobile made travel to more distant ocean beaches more feasible. However, because gambling was legal in Maryland and the Maryland state line ends at the low-water mark of Virginia's Potomac River shore, from 1949[6] to 1958,[7] Colonial Beach offered slot machines in pier casinos extending into Maryland waters. This temporarily revitalized the town although it was sometimes called "the poor man's Las Vegas."[5] However, the piers burned in the 1960s in a devastating fire and the town continued to decline.[4]

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