Hampton Roads History – Hilton Village’s Colony Inn

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Newport News Shipbuilding, ca. 1919.  The Mariners’ Museum.

The Washington Naval Treaty’s impact on the Newport News Shipyard was devastating. Several major naval construction contracts were canceled, and the yard’s workforce dropped from 14,000 to 2,200. This had a significant impact on the new Garden City movement community Hilton Village. Newport News Shipyard Chairman of the Board Henry Edwards Huntington had a particular interest in Hilton Village. He purchased the entire village from the US Shipping Board and offered individual houses for sale by single buyers. He completed a variety of improvements; yet, only 240 homes were occupied in 1924.

Eddie Steps In

Henry “‘Eddie”’ Huntington decided to use his Newport News Realty Company to revitalize Hilton and construct the Colony Inn. The inn was built at the intersection of Warwick Road and Main Street. It replaced a 1918 officers’ club serving Camp Hill and Camp Morrison and incorporated 10 existing Hilton houses, five on each side of the road. J. Philip Keisecker, manager of the shipyard’s real estate office, had suggested to Eddie Huntington that an inn be established in Hilton Village. Kiesecker believed an inn would offer a quaint and inviting respite for travelers “that would also establish good public relations between the Shipyard and the community.”   Read more

A Look at the Unknown and Hope for the Future: The Artwork of Shipyard and Museum Staff Artist Thomas C. Skinner

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CRUISER USS PORTSMOUTH AT PIER, oil on canvas 1945, by THOMAS C. SKINNER 1956.47.04

Thomas Catlett Skinner’s office was a loft overlooking the dry dock at the Newport News shipyard.  Frequently he would gather his tools and wander through the yard, stopping to observe and document the many scenes unfolding before him.  A vat of molten steel.  Red hot metal beams being bent into shape.  Yards of canvas transformed into sails.  The welcome respite of a lunch break.  The intensity of a foreman’s face.  A ship being refitted for the next voyage.  Scenes that were rarely seen by anyone outside the shipyard and activities that many people never knew existed.

Skinner’s tools were paint, pencils, canvas and paper.  His loft workspace shook with the unending pounding from riveting hammers and vibrations from heavy machinery.  And when he set up his easel beside the piers, dry docks and workers, he was surrounded by noise and dirt and exposed to the fickleness of the weather.   Yet despite the adversity, he created amazing drawings and paintings that transport the viewer back in time.  His body of work contains striking, colorful images that make it easy to imagine all the noises in the shipyard, the sound and feeling of waves acting on a ship and the harsh sounds of battle. Today, as part of our 90th Anniversary celebration, we take a look at the Mariners’ Museum staff artist, Thomas Skinner, some of his work, and its importance.   Read more