... well almost.
When Wayne McLeskey purchased the property that would become Chesopeian Colony in 1955, there were four existing homes — only one of which he bought. Today, the land McLeskey didn't develop, and its three houses, have changed significantly. First, there are now nine houses. Of the original three, only one has remained relatively similar in the view from the street, one has been demolished, and one house remodeled to the point of being almost unrecognizable. This article addresses the stories of the people who first lived there and how the land ownership changed and evolved over time to become a part of the Chesopeian Colony we know today.
The West Family
Before becoming Chesopeian Colony the peninsula was known by cartographers as West Point, named after John William Casper West, the landowner. That name likely did not exist before the late 1920s; however, it still appears on some maps today. J.W. Casper West was born in 1881 in his mother's hometown of Culpepper, VA. His father, William A. West, Jr, was born in Cornland, Norfolk County (now Chesapeake), VA. (Cornland is located between Hickory and the Dismal Swamp.) The West family had been southside residents for at least four generations, but claim ancestry back to the early years of Jamestown. William A.'s older brother, John T. West, was the Superintendent of Norfolk County Schools from 1870 to (at least) 1900 (except one term, 1882-86). The John T. West Elementary School was built in Norfolk in 1906, began offering high school classes in 1911, and in 1914 became the first accredited high school for blacks in Virginia (perhaps in the entire South). It became so popular that the high school was relocated in 1917 and was replaced by the newly constructed Booker T. Washington High School in 1924. The John T. West Elementary School continued as an elementary school until it closed in 1980. It was placed on the historic register, but demolished in 2006.
|Cadet Casper West|
(VPI “Bugle” 1902)
Casper's bride was Adelaide Drewery Woodhouse, born 1883 in Princess Anne County. She was descendant from some of the earliest and best known families in the County, e.g., Woodhouse, Keeling, Cornick, and Land. Addie's father, Johnathan Woodhouse IV, was the President of the Princess Anne and
Virginia Beach Telephone Co, and the VP and GM of the Standard Electric Supply Co.. Addie was fourth of eight children, the first to marry, and the first to move out of the family home on Duke St in Norfolk. After the wedding Addie and Casper lived on Court St in his parents Portsmouth home — recently vacated by their deaths. By 1911 they would move to Westover Ave in Norfolk and have the last three of their four children: Elizabeth Frances, Clara, Adelaide, and the youngest, William Casper. By 1920 the family lived at 623 Baldwin Ave along with both of Addie's parents and a live-in housekeeper, Rosa Wheeler. The Wests would continue to live at this address for more than 20 years. The main offices for Casper's businesses were in downtown Norfolk, Addie would teach school, and their youngest child would not graduate Maury High School until 1935.
623 Baldwin Ave (2014)
The white brick home at 665 Chesopeian Point was
built in 1922, and is clearly the oldest home
in the neighborhood.
In 1909 Casper purchased a 98 acre tract of land that would later become the north end of Chesopeian Colony. According to Virginia Beach tax records a house was constructed on the Point in 1922 — that being the white brick house that later became McLeskey's home. This estate was known to the family as “Westwood”. The 1922 date roughly corresponds to the completion of the new Virginia Beach Blvd which significantly improved (and shortened) the transportation route to Norfolk. City directories at the time, however, indicate that the Wests maintained their primary residence in Norfolk on Baldwin Ave until about 1946. Thus, Westwood was likely used as a summer home. The house was not painted white until at least the 1940s. The original house was smaller and a natural red brick color. Additions were built and, because Addie needed a wheelchair in her later years, an elevator was installed.
The Adams Family
The Adams House
Built in 1939 (664 Chesopeian Point)
and the house was built. Howard and Sarah had lived in several
(Purdue “Debris” 1908)
(The lake was created sometime after 1929.) The added land would offer a buffer against any future development and maintain the solitude to which they had undoubtedly become accustomed.
After McLeskey began developing the surrounding property, minor changes were made in the Adams' west property line to accommodate a new road, and the bulk of the underwater land was donated to the City for drainage and boat basin. In 1959, a year after Howard's death, Sarah subdivided the property into Parcel 'A', 3.7 acres for her residence, and 'Other' (being the remainder). I guess she decided a buffer was no longer necessary, since Chesopeian Colony was developing into a neighborhood she didn't mind living next to. In 1964 Sarah sold the 'Other' parcel to Ronald Chadwick Austin and his wife, Aleene Janice Austin. Sarah died in August 1966, and her property was sold. Still today, this remains the largest single parcel in the neighborhood. It is interesting to note that the development of Chesopeian Point did not begin until 1966, the year Sarah died. Could this have been out of respect to her privacy? I don't know, but I'd like to think so.
The Austins did not build on the land they had purchased, but instead sold it in 1967 to Anna V. DeAngelo who immediately subdivided it into Parcels 'B' and 'C'. Parcel 'C' was sold in 1968 to Anna D. Marshall, and a house was built in 1971 (652 Chesopeian Point). Harry and Anna DeAngelo would eventually build a house on Parcel 'B' in 1972 (650 Chesopeian Trail).
History of the Adams Property
The Other West Family
|Annie & Bill West|
1940s @ Ocean View Park
Although they moved into a new house, Annie and Bill's marriage did not last. Somewhere around early 1951, Annie packed up the kids and moved in with her parents in Birchwood Gardens. Well, that's not exactly correct, since Birchwood Gardens did not exist in 1951. Annie moved in with her parents on the 90+ acre farm that would later be sold to become Birchwood Gardens. Today, the south
loop of a street named Croonenbergh Way marks the approximate location of the farmhouse. (You would think the developers could have at least spelled their name correctly.) Annie would move on to become a school teacher and would later remarry two more times.
Bill & Ginny West
In 1952 Bill married a redhead named Virginia Lee Bonney. “Ginny” and Bill were 7th cousins, 1x removed. Sometime between 1951 and 1954 Bill would build a new house, north of the first, at what would become 328 Chesopeian Trail. This was Ginny and Bill's home, but the first house would always be known as “Our House” to Bill's children. This second house no longer exists. It was demolished in 2002 and the land subdivided. Bill West died in 1983, followed by Ginny in 2009. The following illustration provides a history of the evolution of the Bill West property into the Chesopeian Colony of today.
The Bainbridge Family
In October 1955 Bill West subdivided and sold “Our House” on 1.4 acres to Walter Bainbridge. This lot is nearly equivalent in size to the former McLeskey home site, making those two the second and third largest parcels in the neighborhood today.
Walter Herbert Bainbridge (a.k.a. “Bain” to his USC&GS coworkers) was born in 1897 in Big Spring, Texas. He graduated from the University of Texas in 1922 with a degree in civil engineering. He had a 34 year career with the U. S. Coast & Geodetic Survey (now a part of NOAA). While on assignment in Hawaii in 1927, he and a coworker were missing the "girls they left behind," and “after lengthy correspondence and involved arrangements, the girls arrived with their trunks full of trousseau and wedding finery” (NOAA History, Profiles in Time, C&GS Biographies). Transportation records indicate his future bride arrived on 16 July 1927, and, I expect, they were married shortly thereafter. It was a double wedding in the home of the Surveyor General of the Islands. Bain married a very brave 20-year-old Willie Karnes Hayes from Cross Plains, Tennessee. After a two-year honeymoon in Hawaii and while in transit to an east coast assignment on a ship out of Norfolk, the couple paused in Texas just long enough to deliver their son, Walter Jr.
(ODU Photo Collection)
Bain's career would take him from San Francisco (1923-1926) to Hawaii (1927-29) to Norfolk (1930-33) to Seattle (1938-45) to Portland (1949-51) again to San Francisco (1952-1954 with 6 months in Alaska) and back to Norfolk in 1954. He would serve on nine of USC&GS ships. (Presently there are 19 active ships in the NOAA fleet.) His later tours in Portland and San Francisco were at the rank of Commander, and he was the field office District Supervisor. He was promoted to Captain and in May 1954 returned to Norfolk to served as the District Supervisor until 1957 when he retired from the Government. Bain would go on to become an engineering professor at Old Dominion College/University in the 1960s.
Walter Jr., a.k.a. “Red” Bainbridge, began competing in ice figure skating while the family was living in Seattle. He was quite good and loved the sport; so he ultimately turned pro. As a teenager he took up ice dancing, and with partner Lois Waring won the US Championships in 1947, 48, & 49. (They finished 2nd in 1946.) The pair won the North American Championships in 1947 & 1949 (Wikipedia). In late 1947 the US Figure Skating Association invited them to the 1948 Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland to demonstrate the sport of ice dancing, which was almost unknown at that time. England and Belgium were the only countries represented in the sport (Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc., mystateline.com).
Bain and Willie continued to live in Chesopeian Colony until their deaths in March 1987. Walter Jr. and his wife, Patricia, sold the property in 1988. Red would never live there.
So, how did the Bainbridges find the house in the relatively remote pre-Chesopeian Colony. Was it simply by chance or did they have a connection to the West family? Surprisingly, there was a link.
The Morton Family
Cadet Jeremiah Morton
(VPI “Bugle” 1928)
CDR Morton's survey crew on Saipan
(NOAA's Historic Coast & Geodetic Survey Collection)
In 1952 the Mortons moved from Seattle to Norfolk where Jere initially attended the Armed Forces Staff College. Following that assignment, the Mortons continued to live in Norfolk in the Bayview area. Casper West died in April 1953, and sometime afterward the Morton family moved into Westwood. Bett managed the affairs of her parents estates. Jere was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and made trips to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD. However, his prognosis was not good, and, together with the associated physical and psychological challenges, would lead to his retirement on 31 Jul 1954. Upon retirement CDR Morton was promoted to the honorary rank of Captain — a practice in effect from 1925 to 1959 for officers that had been specially commended for performance of duty in actual combat. Jere served with the Marines in WWII and received a bronze star for his role in the assault on and capture of Saipan, Marianas Islands. A newspaper article at the time labeled Morton's survey crew “Sniper Bait” (see picture above). Then, just thirty-eight days into his retirement, Jere walked out of Westwood, down the dirt road that would become Chesopeian Trail, and shot himself. Jere died 14 days after his 48th birthday. Five months later the property was sold to McLeskey.
- The first house was built on the West Point peninsula in 1922, but the first full-time residence was the second house built in 1939. It would be another ten years before the third house was built, and six years later McLeskey would buy the surrounding property.
- Only the West family owned property at the time of McLeskey's purchase. Bainbridge would buy later the same year, but was in residence for about a year before the first family would move into the new neighborhood.
- Four of the five adult male residents before 1956, excluding McLeskey, were graduate civil engineers. Each would marry only once. All five would die while living on the property.
- All of the deceased residents before 1956 (male and female), including McLeskey, are buried at the Eastern Shore Chapel Cemetery with the single exception of Annie Croonenberghs.
- The West family was connected to the property in one other significant way
— to be revealed at a later date.