See studies by K. Poolman (1961), P. Padfield (1968), and H. F. Pullen (1970).
Chesapeake is an independent city located in the South Hampton Roads portion of the Hampton Roads region of eastern Virginia in the United States. One of the Seven Cities of Hampton Roads, Chesapeake was formed in 1963 by a political consolidation of the City of South Norfolk with the former Norfolk County, which dated to 1691.
Chesapeake is a diverse city with urban areas as well as many square miles of protected forests and wetlands, including a substantial portion of the Great Dismal Swamp. Extending all the way from the rural border with North Carolina to the harbor area of Hampton Roads adjacent to the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Chesapeake is located on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and has miles of waterfront industrial, commercial and residential property.
Formed in 1691 in the Virginia Colony, Norfolk County had originally included essentially all the area which became the towns and later cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, and South Norfolk, but had seen its area frequently reduced as these cities added territory through annexations after 1871. Becoming an independent city was a method for the former county to stabilize borders with neighbors, as cities could not annex territory from each other.
The relatively small City of South Norfolk had become an incorporated town within Norfolk County in 1919, and became an independent city in 1922. It was also motivated to make a change which would put it on a more equal footing in other aspects with the much larger cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth. By the late 1950s, although immune from annexation by the bigger cities, the most recent suit by the City of Norfolk against Norfolk County would have taken all of the county land adjoining South Norfolk.
The changes which created Chesapeake were part of a wave of changes in the structure of local government in southeastern Virginia which took place between 1952 and 1976.
Chesapeake's history goes far back into Virginia's colonial roots. The Intracoastal Waterway passes through Chesapeake. On the waterway, at Great Bridge where the locks transition from the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River to the Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal lies the site of the Battle of Great Bridge. This American Revolutionary War battle was responsible for removing Lord Dunmore and any other vestige of English Government for the Colony of Virginia during the early days of the American Revolution on December 9, 1775.
The Dismal Swamp Canal runs through Chesapeake as well. The site of this canal was surveyed by George Washington, among others, and is known as "Washington's Ditch." It is the oldest continuously used man made canal in the United States today and has been in service for over 230 years. The canal begins in the Deep Creek section of the city branching off from the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River. The canal runs through Chesapeake paralleling U.S. Highway 17 into North Carolina and connects to Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
Until the late 1980s and early 1990s, much of Chesapeake was either suburban or rural, serving as a bedroom community of the adjacent cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach with residents commuting to these locations. Beginning in the late 1980s and accelerating in the 1990s, however, Chesapeake saw significant growth, attracting numerous and significant industries and businesses of its own. This explosive growth quickly led to strains on the municipal infrastructure, ranging from intrusion of saltwater into the city's water supply to congested roads and schools.
Chesapeake made national headlines in 2003 when, under a court-ordered change of venue, the community hosted the first trial of convicted murderer Beltway sniper Lee Boyd Malvo for one of the 2002 terrorist-style attacks. A jury spared him a potential death sentence, choosing a sentence of "life in prison without parole" instead for the young man, who was 17 years old at the time of the crime spree. A jury in neighboring Virginia Beach sentenced his older partner John Allen Muhammad to death for another of the attacks.
See article Beltway Sniper Attacks
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 350.9 square miles (908.8 km²), of which, 340.7 square miles (882.5 km²) of it is land and 10.2 square miles (26.4 km²) of it (2.90%) is water.
The northeastern part of the Great Dismal Swamp is located in Chesapeake.
As of the census of 2000, there were 199,184 people, 69,900 households, and 54,172 families residing in the city. The population density was 584.6 people per square mile (225.7/km²). There were 72,672 housing units at an average density of 213.3/sq mi (82.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 66.87% White, 28.53% Black or African American, 0.39% Native American, 1.84% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.70% from other races, and 1.62% from two or more races. 2.05% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 69,900 households out of which 41.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.7% were married couples living together, 14.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.5% were non-families. 18.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.79 and the average family size was 3.17.
The age distribution is: 28.8% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 32.3% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 9.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 94.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $50,743, and the median income for a family was $56,302. Males had a median income of $39,204 versus $26,391 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,949. About 6.1% of families and 7.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.7% of those under age 18 and 9.0% of those age 65 or over.
Of the current boroughs, one, South Norfolk, was formerly a separate incorporated town and independent city for much of the 20th century. Within the other burroughs, a number of communities also developed. Some of these include:
The growth of Chesapeake and its predecessors has been fueled by its location and transportation considerations. These continue to be major factors.
Funding for additional and replacement highways, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure is one of the major issues facing Chesapeake and much of the Hampton Roads region in the 21st century, as infrastructure originally built with toll revenues has aged without a source of funding to repair them or build replacements.
Tolls in Chesapeake are currently limited to the Jordan Bridge and the Chesapeake Expressway, but new ones may be imposed on some existing facilities to help generate revenue for transportation projects in the region.
Within the city limits, Chesapeake Regional Airport is a general aviation facility located near Bowers Hill and the Hampton Roads Beltway. South of there, NALF Fentress is facility of the U.S. Navy and is an auxiliary landing field which is part of the large facility at NAS Oceana in neighboring Virginia Beach.
Five railroads currently pass through portions of Chesapeake, and handle some intermodal traffic at port facilities on Hampton Roads and navigable portions of several of its tributary rivers. The two major Class 1 railroads are CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern, joined by three short line railroads.
Chesapeake is located on a potential line for high speed passenger rail service between Richmond and South Hampton Roads which is being studied by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. A new suburban passenger station near Bowers Hill would potentially be included to supplement a terminal in downtown Norfolk.
Chesapeake is served by U.S. Highways 13, 17, 58, and 460. Interstate 64, part of the Hampton Roads Beltway, crosses through the city, Interstate 464 is a spur which connects it with downtown Norfolk and Portsmouth at the Berkley Bridge, and Interstate 664, which completes the Interstate loop from the Western Branch section of Chesapeake through the City of Newport News and into the City of Hampton.
Chesapeake is the only locality in the Hampton Roads area with a separate bridge division. The city's Department of Public Works, Bridges and Structures division has 51 full-time workers. The city maintains 90 bridges and overpasses. Included are five movable span (draw) bridges which open an estimated 30,000 times a year for water vessels.
The Jordan Bridge was built in 1928 and operates with major weight restrictions. Replacing the bridge is not being considered. Cost estimates linger in the $200 million range, too much for a bridge that carries about 7,500 vehicles daily and far fewer on weekends. Motorists pay a 75-cent toll that is used to pay for repairs.
Although ten years newer, replacing the Gilmerton Bridge (built in 1938) on Military Highway is a more urgent need. A four-laned structure on a primary highway with much heavier traffic volume than the Jordan Bridge, the Gilmerton Bridge has suffered rust, cracked concrete and other problems. Much like the Jordan Bridge, the end of its useful life is also near. Replacing the Gilmerton Bridge has been a goal for Chesapeake for many years. In October, 2007, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reported that the city had accumulated $142 million in state and federal funding, enough to start building the replacement bridge some time in 2009.
See also Transportation section of article Hampton Roads.
The Virginia tidewater area has grown faster than the local freshwater supply. Chesapeake receives the majority of its water from the Northwest River in the southeastern part of the city. To deal with intermittent high salt content, Chesapeake implemented an advanced reverse osmosis system at its Northwest River water treatment plant in the late 1990s. The river water has always been salty, and the fresh groundwater is no longer available in most areas. Currently, additional freshwater for the South Hampton Roads area is pumped from Lake Gaston, about west, which straddles the Virginia-North Carolina border along with the Blackwater and Nottaway rivers. The pipeline is long and in diameter. Much of its follows the former right-of-way of an abandoned portion of the Virginian Railway. It is capable of pumping 60 million gallons of water per day(60MGD). The cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach are partners in the project.
The City provides wastewater services for residents and transports wastewater to the regional Hampton Roads Sanitation District treatment plants.
Chesapeake, Virginia is also the hometown for the following baseball players: BJ Upton of the Tampa Bay Rays; his brother, Justin Upton, right fielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks;Michael Cuddyer of the Minnesota Twins and Michael E. Mitchell, outfielder, for the Asheville Tourists/Minor League "A" Team of the Colorado Rockies. BJ Upton graduated from Greenbrier Christian Academy in Chesapeake. Justin Upton, Michael Mitchell, and Michael Cuddyer are graduates of Great Bridge High School.