The Indian meaning of the name is “beautiful land across the water,” and Chincoteague Island from a distance presents this aspect. On closer view, however, the town of Chincoteague displays all the problems of a too-popular summer resort. Today it is the Eastern Shore's largest town. Settled c. 1700 and known in lore as the lair of pirates, the town grew slowly and was extremely isolated until the 1870s, when the railroad arrived, and then 1922, when an automobile causeway opened to the mainland. Fires, overbuilding, and intense development have destroyed many notable buildings. The older section of downtown, and especially Main Street, has an assemblage of turn-of-the-twentieth-century structures of some interest. Among new buildings, the most significant is the U.S. Coast Guard Berthing Facility (1997, Hanbury Evans Newill Vlattas). Lighthouse shapes serve as stair towers, and the overall blocky form takes its cue from earlier Coast Guard stations.
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