Archival storm photos in new Hampton exhibit

Anybody worried about the impact of the wind, waves and rain that will be spawned by Tropical Storm Andrea this weekend should take time off to check out some of the archival photographs on view in a new Hampton History Museum exhibit.

Among the most arresting images included in "The Fragile Balance: Man and Nature in Hampton" is this iconic shot of the downtown flood waters that shut down Queen Street in the aftermath of the great hurricane of August 1933. Another picture from that famous storm shows the wave-battered remains of the Bayshore Hotel at Buckroe Beach, where much of the landmark building was literally chewed away by the surf.

My favorite is a seldom-seen view of waves crashing against the Old Point Comfort steamship wharf and the first Chamberlin Hotel during an unnamed storm that struck sometime around the turn of the century. When the wind blows just right, it comes straight in from the Atlantic, through the Virginia Capes and slams into Old Point, Buckroe and Grandview just like a runaway roller coaster, bowling up the water of the Chesapeake Bay before it.

Storms aren't the only attractions in the new show, which opens Saturday with special children's programs, including "Digging for Dinosaurs," as well as free admission. Among the other objects pulled from the museum's collection by curator J. Michael Cobb are a nice selection of artifacts from famed Rice's Fosil Pit and a stuffed bear from the days when Hampton and surrounding Elizabeth City County were largely rural.

The exhibit also includes an assortment of images documenting the town's long dependence on the surrounding waters and the seafood industry, particularly crabs and oysters.

"The Fragile Balance: Man and Nature in Hampton" runs through Sept. 15. 120 Old Hampton Lane, Hampton. 757-727-1610;

-- Mark St. John Erickson 


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