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One Woman's Opinion

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Urbanna Is Changing

Urbanna, Va.— Has everyone else noticed how much Urbanna is changing? The provincial waterfront town, we who were not born here but summarily saw and fell in love with, is becoming a sophisticated, upscale community geared to welcome, entertain and accept money for wares and services from well-heeled tourists.

At the same time the town is holding onto its historical past. It sponsors the popular Farmers’ Market during summer months, annual Oyster Festival every November, has restored the Old Tobacco Warehouse as a local museum and visitor center to feature town history, and even attracts a Chesapeake Bay Buyboat Gathering each summer, which honors Urbanna’s rich past.

I like the blending of the old and the new. The remodeling of the old Taylor Hardware Store where I used to buy vacuum cleaner bags when owned by the Taylor family is an example of how old Urbanna has blended with the new. It has been converted to house Cross Street Coffee, where I recently sat with my family and enjoyed panini sandwiches while watching the dear small town characters go by. The new Taylor building also houses a real estate office and jewelry store.

The Urbanna Town Marina offers dock space to visiting yachtsmen and provides an excellent site to host waterfront concerts and other activities. A schooner is even available now for charter. Compass Quay offers overnight accommodations on Urbanna Creek, which is fast becoming extremely exclusive waterfront.  Other business activities that reflect the town’s new interest in the upscale customer is the Garden Club, Chesapeake Inn with its smart boutique rooms, and the annual spring festival in town, Art on the Half Shell.

by Mary Wakefield Buxton
In case the visiting tourist becomes ill while in Urbanna, we will soon have the new Bon Secours facility on the property of the old Urbanna Lumber Co., which moved to Saluda. The old lumber store once provided materials for an addition to my first home in Urbanna. And should a tourist be interested in high fashion, there’s bound to be a fashion show scheduled at Cyndy’s Bynn to feature all the latest styles.

The latest addition to town is the art gallery “L’Arte du Monde,” which is right in the heart of town. It opened this month with a reception. The name of the store, which lends to the ear more than just a whiff of French, illustrates just how rapidly Urbanna is evolving to accommodate a more sophisticated shopper.

It was fun to stop by and look at all the wondrous objets d’art for sale on commission in the store. “Most of this display represents one man’s collection,” said co-owner Elaine Berry as I strolled along the aisles. I was drawn to the many oriental objects displayed: an antique hand-carved wooden chest of drawers, a hand-painted screen of waterfowl, a stunning, large oil painting of four Chinese concubines, a hand-carved wood and semi-precious stone chess set with jade figures, various statues of Buddha in many poses, dolls, oriental fans, Chinese porcelain, a stone statue, and more lovely selections.

I love the changes in town, but I am glad the “old Urbanna” is still very much evident at such favorite haunts as Bristow’s Store, with its splendid creaky wooden floors and smell of yesterday’s general store that still lingers on into this century, Nimcock Gallery, Marshall’s Drug Store with its old-fashioned lunch counter that attracts a mostly native crowd that convenes each day to share the latest news, and Virginia Street Cafe. All of these stores add real character to this town.

I never want us to lose our small-town ambiance. As Rosegill and other high-priced properties are developed, I know the future will deliver more well-heeled citizens from the North with big city tastes—and they will demand more services.

But we must keep—no matter how upscale we become—the blended history, traditions, unusual tolerance, innate friendliness, provincial charm and underlying attraction of our native people who have lived and worked here for generations.

If we want to remain the old Urbanna we love so well, we foremost must be careful about raising town taxes. Urbanna citizens are taxed twice, once by the Town of Urbanna and again by the County of Middlesex.

The power to tax is the power to destroy. The very town charter that grants Urbanna the right to tax its citizens “twice” could eventually change Urbanna into a town in which, heaven forbid, only the rich can afford.


posted 10.22.2009

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