Buckroe Beach is one of the oldest recreational regions in Virginia. In 1619, the “Buck Roe” plantation was designated for public use for the newly arrived English settlers sent by the Virginia Company of London. By 1637, however, the plantation was converted into a commercial tobacco farm. After the Civil War, Buckroe became a fishing camp used by both black and white fishermen. In 1890 a group of Hampton Institute administrators purchased eight acres of beachfront on Chesapeake Bay to provide a place for student exercise and the location of a hotel which could host out-of-town guests. Led by Frank D. Banks, the administrators pooled their funds to build a four-room cottage they ambitiously named the Bay Shore Hotel.
As word spread, this rare Atlantic coast resort open to African Americans soon drew visitors from as far away as New York and Georgia on summer weekends. By 1925 this summer vacation destination grew to include the now seventy-room Bay Shore Hotel, a pavilion, amusement park, and boardwalk along its 275-foot waterfront. By 1930, Bay Shore Beach and Resort, as it was now called, rivaled all-white Buckroe Beach Amusement Park and in fact the two facilities sat side by side with a fence separating the properties that extended across the beach and into the Chesapeake Bay.
Just before World War II one local transportation company extended its tracks and trolleys to Phoebus, the community that included Bay Shore Beach and Resort, to encourage more white and black visitors from nearby Hampton, Newport News, and other Tidewater cities to come to the beach area. With a growing number of visitors including servicemen and their families during World War II, the beach area was increasingly built up and eventually annexed to Hampton in 1952.
Like other black east coast beaches, Bay Shore Beach was on the circuit for locally and nationally prominent black musicians from Cab Calloway to James Brown, who played before illegally integrated audiences (as white fans climbed over the fence to see their favorite