From Waters to Mariners’, The Making of a Lake

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Did you know Virginia has only two natural lakes? The rest are man-made, including our very own Mariners’ Lake! It holds the title as the first, and the oldest, project started on the grounds of The Mariners’ Museum Park. Before the purchase of the land surrounding it, The Mariners’ Lake was a salt marsh creek called Waters Creek, sometimes incorrectly referred to as Watts Creek. You can learn more about that, here! Apart from the vision of creating a maritime museum, Archer Huntington (our founder and owner of the Newport News Shipyard) and his wife Anna Hyatt (renowned sculptor), wanted to create a wildlife sanctuary. They also wanted a place to display several of Anna’s sculptures. The rural setting and proximity to the Shipyard helped to make this spot the ideal location. You can read more about why this area was chosen, here.

Although our official birthday is June 2nd, planning for the Lake and Park began months prior. In December of 1929, internal memos show that land acquisition was already being discussed and negotiations had started. In a memo from Homer Ferguson, President of the Newport News Shipyard, to Archer Huntington:   Read more

The “Waters” in Water’s Creek

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It’s been a big announcement week here at The Mariners’ Museum and Park. This will be the fifth, or sixth, English, name change for the water running through the Park. If you didn’t see the CEO’s announcement of name change earlier this week, check it out here. But today, I wanna throw it way, way back and talk about the origin of the water’s first English name (notice that I am clarifying this first name as “English” because the Native Americans living in the area most definitely had a different name for the water before English settlement in the early seventeenth century). 

In 1624, 100 acres of land around Water’s Creek, seven miles up the James River from Newport News Point, was patented to Edward Waters; although there is evidence that Waters and his wife had been living on the land for five years prior. While he was not the only Englishman granted land near this water, he was the first, and therefore, the namesake. And while calling the water “Waters lake” or “Waters water” would sound kinda silly and redundant; Edward Waters has a really cool maritime history, making him easy to interpret in relation to the Museum’s mission.    Read more

A Great Plan Creates Great Plants

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The Mariners’ Museum Park was meticulously planned out. Early goals of the Park included a wildlife sanctuary and a tree of each species found in Virginia. Land purchases began in March of 1930 and lasted for three years until 44 parcels had been purchased, ultimately equalling over 820 acres, to make these dreams a reality. Our original Park extended from the James River shoreline to modern-day Jefferson Avenue. 

As the land purchases were completed, work began on the roads to access the Park. As you can see from the map above, all roads were on the edges of the Park except for Warwick Boulevard, then named only Route 60. Both Archer Huntington, the founder of our Museum and owner of the Newport News Shipyard, and his wife Anna Hyatt, renowned sculptor, thought to keep all roads on the exterior of the Park enhanced its beauty and created a true wildlife sanctuary.   Read more

Why Newport News? Why 1930? Building a Museum and Park

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Today, Newport News is over 119 square miles and has a population of over 179,000 people, making it the fifth most populous city in Virginia. That is certainly nothing to sniff at, but, in 1930, Newport News did not extend southeast from Skiffes Creek. It was a concentrated area – only 4 square miles – centered around Newport News Point. The rest of the area that is now Newport News was various villages in Warwick County. Personally, I care most about Morrison (the area where the Museum and Park are), but Hilton, Stanely, Denbigh, ya know all those neighborhoods that still exist, were there, too   Read more

Happy Birthday to The Mariners’ Museum and Park!

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Did you know that our most beloved Museum and Park were incorporated, born, let’s say born, on June 2, 1930? We’re old. 90 years old, next week, to be exact! Our body – buildings and grounds – may be a little worn, but they’ve been well taken care of over the years by our loving Museum team. Our inners – our object and living collections – are strong … and maybe growing a bit (our trees are definitely taller!). Our brain – the staff and volunteers – is sharp, and our heart – our fantastic communities, members, donors, and YOU! – could not be stronger, healthier, or more supportive. 

Upon incorporation, our charter stated that we were to be:   Read more