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Rivah Visitor's Guide

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A bigger, better Maritime Museum rises from the ashes

“We are pleased with and grateful for how far we’ve come, but this is just the beginning.”
— Deltaville Maritime Museum president Bob LeBoeuf

by Bob LeBoeuf
President, Deltaville Maritime Museum

On July 18, 2012, fire largely destroyed the Deltaville Maritime Museum and the adjacent events pavilion. Understandably, everyone associated with the organization and facility was demoralized, but only briefly. Volunteers and employees probed through the ruins trying to salvage whatever we could, and the museum board began immediately to meet frequently to assess the situation and consider what to do.

Our insurance coverage was excellent as a result of an extensive policy review completed only weeks before the fire, and rebuilding donations poured in.

The Deltaville Deadrise exhibit, with models of the various stern configurations, is featured in the East Wing of the new museum along with other nautical artifacts.

About two months after the fire, we held our annual meeting in September 2012 under a tent, standing on gravel on the site of the old pavilion. Insurance settlement negotiations were protracted, but the results were outstanding. The board resolved to rebuild using only money in hand: insurance proceeds, rebuilding donations, and grants. Not one cent was to be borrowed. Our building committee had met at least once a week since the fire, and we continued to meet frequently until we hammered out a plan by late fall of 2012. The plan addressed events, the events pavilion, the park, infrastructure, the museum, and museum exhibits.

The board was determined to operate as normally as possible, in spite of the fire, and considering the strain rebuilding would put on our volunteers. Events continued virtually uninterrupted, with people often working around cleanup and building activities. Board members, museum staff, and a host of volunteers did a great job keeping the doors open and people coming. We estimate we had about the same number of visits (25,000 to 35,000) in 2013 as we did in previous years. That includes eight farmers’ markets, seven Groovin’ in the Park concerts, one fund-raising concert, and a CD release concert. 

The museum’s John Smith shallop “Explorer” was available for creek cruises at all of the farmers’ markets, and participated in the Blackbeard Festival in Hampton, the Holly Point Art and Seafood Festival, the Battle of the Hook Revolutionary War Reenactment, and the Urbanna Oyster Festival. 

The museum’s restored buyboat “F.D. Crockett” and her volunteer crew participated in 19 events, beginning with the Chesapeake Bay Buyboat Festival and Tour August 1-14, which included trips to Urbanna, Poquoson, Hampton, Smithfield, Norfolk, Cape Charles, and Tangier Island, and ending with fall events that included the Poquoson Workboat Races, the Holly Point Art and Seafood Festival, the Urbanna Oyster Festival, and the Irvington/Tides Inn Winter Wine Festival.  

The board had reached agreement relatively quickly on the design of the new events pavilion, and we began construction in early February 2013. We had the slab poured by a contractor, but volunteers (with an average age of almost 70 years) did the framing, roofing, siding and landscaping. Local businesses provided a crane and operator to set the roof trusses; a scissors lift for high inside work; and a backhoe for site work.

The versatile new Events Pavilion has two wings, one open and one enclosed. In front of the pavilion in the courtyard is the Make A Wish Fountain.

Progress was swift and exciting, and we largely completed the pavilion by September 1, 2013, just in time for us to hold our 2013 annual meeting in the new pavilion. The members were thrilled, and the community’s reception of the new pavilion has been overwhelming. With very little promotional effort on our part, the pavilion is being booked for weddings, reunions and other activities months in advance.

The fire had caused extensive damage to plants around the old museum building and the pavilion. This damage, as well as a desire to separate the pavilion from the museum, prompted us to rethink roads, trails, and plantings. We designated the area between the pavilion and the creek a vehicle-free pedestrian park and, thanks to substantial volunteer help, installed new gardens, walkways, and a fountain, and seeded newly-designated grassy areas. Visitors now can enjoy the new Dolphin Garden, East Pavilion Garden, South Pavilion Garden, Willow Garden, courtyard with its beautiful fountain, and the beautiful plantings around the new museum building. We also improved the trail in the woods west of Jackson Creek Road.

In parallel with work on the pavilion and our landscape work, we were planning and preparing to build the new museum. We were required to have a new site plan prepared, including an elaborate storm-water management plan. This process was tedious and expensive, but the result is an approved plan that should carry us well into the future. Implementing the storm-water plan was particularly disruptive. At times the park resembled a strip-mining site, but the system now is in, and most of the wounds have healed with little or no scarring.

Our old septic system was inadequate for our new facilities so we redesigned the entire system. We replaced the old tank and added two new ones, and we added a pump system and metering controls to meet code requirements. Much of our old electrical system was destroyed by the fire, so we took the opportunity essentially to repower the entire campus and all our buildings. Here again, we should have electrical power to carry us well into the future.

After much discussion, the board adopted a design for the new museum building that is reminiscent of the iconic Stingray Point Hotel. In the fall of 2013, we got our building permit, and with the help of a plethora of outstanding local contractors, we finished the building and received our occupancy permit in early June 2014. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it really is worth a trip to Holly Point to inspect this beautiful new structure and the surrounding grounds. 

The Pierwalk on Mill Creek has 310 feet of pile pier and another 150 feet of floating pier. It is home to the museum’s “F.D. Crockett” (above), the restored  Deltaville Deadrise “Cooper Hill,” and “Explorer,” the museum-built replica of Capt. John Smith’s shallop of 1608. The museum’s larger deadrise, “Francis Smith,” is seen just in front of the Crockett above.

Even while we were managing the construction work on the museum building, committees were meeting to design our new museum exhibits. The grand opening of the new museum on June 14 featured a very special exhibit, “John M. Barber’s Chesapeake-50 Years of Maritime Art.” The exhibit included 58 of John’s original works on loan from their owners, and it will run through mid-October.

A brief aside on John Barber: To support our rebuilding efforts, he painted a beautiful canvas featuring the “F.D. Crockett,” the steamer “Piankatank,” and Stingray Point Lighthouse, and granted us the right to sell prints of his work. Moreover, he championed the Barber Exhibit at the museum as a fundraiser for us, and has painted another oil that he has donated to us to raffle off to raise additional funds. Among all our many, many generous supporters, John stands out, and we extend to him our heartfelt thanks.

When the Barber Exhibit closes in mid-October 2014, we plan to install informative and attractive new exhibits quickly, and reopen with our permanent historic maritime exhibits in the fall of 2014.

The board cannot thank its many volunteers and contributors enough for their support during a trying, but ultimately spectacularly successful, two-year revival of the Deltaville Maritime Museum & Holly Point Nature Park. Without their support, the revival never would have happened. We are pleased with and grateful for how far we’ve come, but this is just the beginning. Opportunities abound for dedicated volunteers with myriad skills. Won’t you join us and help us continue to build something truly remarkable?

Deltaville Maritime Museum and Holly Point Nature Park is a non-profit organization at 287 Jackson Creek Road and on Mill Creek. Turn right off Route 33 across from the Shell Station to get there.

To find out everything you need to know about the museum and park, purchase event tickets, donate, volunteer or become a member, visit, email , or call 804-776-7200. The museum mailing address is P.O. Box 466, Deltaville, VA 23043.

posted 07.01.2014

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