One of the next Daybooks we’re working on at HRNM is about the World War I Navy in Hampton Roads. This Daybook will be published in time for the World War I Symposium that the MacArthur Memorial is running in partnership with HRNM and Old Dominion University’s History Department (November 14-15, 2014). We will periodically preview snippets of our planned articles on the blog as we commemorate the centennial of the Great War. To that end, one of the articles I’m working on right now is about the development of Naval Station Norfolk.
The Jamestown Exposition Company used the farmland of Sewell’s Point to mount its large world’s fair in 1907, on the 300th anniversary of the landing at Jamestown. After the Jamestown Exposition ended and the Great White Fleet began its around-the-world trip, Norfolk residents began a campaign to make Sewell’s Point into a naval base. Congress’s Committee on Naval Affairs heard their arguments as early as 1908.
|The first page of the official report from the Committee on Naval Affairs, 1908.|
Jamestown Exposition Attorney Theodore Wool wrote a pamphlet he called Reasons, in which he outlined the reasons he believed the Navy should purchase Sewell’s Point. These reasons included the deep anchorages of the Chesapeake Bay and the fact that it is normally ice-free; the availability of vacant land that the Navy could use for expansion; Virginia’s mild climate that supported year-round military operations; and the fortuitous existence of transportation networks in the area—both railroads and maritime.
|Page one of Theodore Wool's Reasons|
It took ten years and the United States’ entrance into the First World War for the federal government to purchase Sewell’s Point for Naval Operating Base Hampton Roads (later to be named Naval Station Norfolk). NOB Hampton Roads started with 474 acres and has now grown to over 6,000. Naval Station Norfolk is the largest naval base in the world.