Hampton Roads comprises the eastern end of the Lower Peninsula, including Williamsburg, Jamestown Island, Yorktown, Newport News, and Hampton and the counties of James River and Yorktown. The area is bounded by the James River on the south, the York River on the north, Chesapeake Bay and Hampton Roads on the east, and Charles City and New Kent counties on the west.
Historically, this part of Virginia is one of the most important areas in the country. Jamestown was the site of the first successful English settlement in North America, and Williamsburg served as the second capital of Virginia and is doubly important for its twentieth-century restoration. At Yorktown, Lord Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington, ensuring the establishment of the United States of America. Hampton University is among the oldest institutions of higher learning for African Americans. Many other buildings and sites are also significant.
The early landscape of the Native Americans and the English settlers has largely disappeared. It can be glimpsed in some places, such as Carter's Grove, and along certain stretches of the rivers, but overall the land has been dramatically transformed, largely in the last sixty years. Although shipbuilding and shipping clustered around Newport News and Hampton, much of the peninsula remained agricultural until c. 1940. World War II and the Cold War brought large permanent military installations to the area. Other industries and commerce arrived, with attendant growth and sprawl. The city of Hampton took over Elizabeth County in 1952, and the city of Newport News consolidated with Warwick County in 1958.
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