Boats and Bridges
Boats and then bridges not only formed Chincoteague Island's lifelines to the mainland, they changed the island's way of life.
Beginning around 1881, after several years of irregular service by other boats, the steamboat Widgeon began to sail daily from a dock near this spot. Passengers and cargo shuttled back and forth to Franklin City's railroad terminal on the mainland. The trickle of occasional tourists and sportsmen to the island became a steady flow.
After 1922, when John B. Whealton completed a causeway across the Channel Narrows and marshland, automobiles and trucks supplemented and then replaced the Channel ferries. Water from the mainland wells flowed through pipes snaked along the causeway. And the flow of visitors turned into a torrent, encouraging new stores, restaurants, and lodging.
Grand Opening Washout
A ribbon cutting by the Governor went well. A parade and mid-day feast kept all attendees in a celebratory mood. But a down pour on the afternoon of November 15, 1922, turned the newly opened causeway into a quagmire. Ninety-six cars, including the Governor's,
A big man with a large task, "Aleck" Alexander served as the engineer in charge of causeway construction.
Postcard of the Chincoteague Toll Road and Bridge Opening, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 1922.
The Widgeon was the first regular ferry to the island, but not the last. The side-paddle steamer Chincoteague, placed in service near the end of the 19th century, earned the nickname "Old Faithful." It seldom missed a scheduled run between Chincoteague and the mainland, even in winter.
Ferries, like this one photographed in 1912, carried mail as well as passengers and cargo until 1923 when trucks replaced the mailboat.
When Archie Jones brought the first automobile to the island, the town council passed an ordinance that set the speed limit at eight miles per hour and required drivers to come to a full stop upon meeting any team of horses that "shows signs of being scared."
The gasoline powered Manzanita traveled between Chincoteague's North Dock and the mainland in 25 minutes, faster than any other scheduled ferry.
The Chincoteague arrived at the Railroad Dock, a cluster of buildings that once crowded the island'swestern shoreline.
The bridge over the Chincoteague Channel, left circa 1922, bottom circa 2000.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Bridges & Viaducts • Railroads & Streetcars • Roads & Vehicles • Waterways & Vessels.
Location. 37° 56.055′ N, 75° 22.616′ W. Marker is in Chincoteague, Virginia, in Accomack County. Marker is on Main Street just west of Mumford Street, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 4077 Main St, Chincoteague Island VA 23336, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. You Had to Keep On (here, next to this marker); So Terribly Helpless (here, next to this marker); Misty of Chincoteague (a few steps from this marker); Chincoteague Island Library (a few steps from this marker); Telegraph here (within shouting distance of this marker); Chincoteague's Front Door (within shouting distance of this marker); Dollars from Decoys (within shouting distance of this marker); Fish So Fine (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Chincoteague.
Credits. This page was last revised on January 19, 2021. It was originally submitted on January 19, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 34 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on January 19, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.