Town of Kecoughtan, Virginia

It is a common place in Virginia history to say that what was once Elizabeth City County became today’s independent City of Hampton and what was once Warwick County became today’s independent City of Newport News. There are a couple exceptions to this however, where land that was, in the mid nineteenth-century Elizabeth City County passed into today’s Newport News.

The first was a realignment in 1882 which gave land to Warwick County around Newport News Point which was becoming the eastern terminus of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. Warwick County was very narrow at this point because it was originally drawn to be just the high bank of the James River not the marshy land behind it that drained to Hampton Roads or to Back River. This realignment was extended only as far up the Peninsula as 80th Street, leaving Newport News today with a section that is only a half-mile wide.

A second realignment came in 1926 when the Town of Kecoughtan in today’s Elizabeth City County was annexed by Newport News. The town extended about .6 miles along Hampton Roads and roughly .5 miles inland. The annexation made sense because the town developed as a suburb of Newport News, yet in the coming decades so would the neighboring areas, so then the boundary in the middle of Pear Avenue seemed arbitrary. These two screen shots from the “Historical County Boundaries of Hampton Roads” by the Hampton Roads Planning Commission show how Newport News grew from the Kecoughtan annexation. (Note: unfortunately other maps on this page backdate the 1882 county line to the colonial period.)

The town’s major public buildings were the privately-owned Elizabeth Buxton Hospital on Chesapeake Avenue, Elizabeth City County’s Woodrow Wilson School on Hickory Avenue, and the town’s own town hall and fire station on Popular Avenue. According to a map preserved by the Hampton History Museum, Two lots were reserved on Popular Avenue for the town’s own buildings. My understanding is that the building pictured below served as both the fire station and, on the upper level, the town hall. This simple Art Deco building was transferred to the City of Newport News in 1926 as a fire station, but has long since been converted into a private residence.

109 Poplar Avenue, Newport News, Virginia. Former Town of Kecoughtan public building, photographed August 2022.

The fact that Kecoughtan was the name of the Native American settlement that preceded Hampton is well known, but the fact that Hampton’s Kecoughtan Road is so named because it was the road through Elizabeth County between the City of Hampton and the Town of Kecoughtan is now largely forgotten.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.