Why we call it Chesapeake

Have you ever told someone out of town who’s never been to Tidewater that you live in Chesapeake and have them begin exclaiming jealousy at your good fortune to live along the seashore of the bay? And then see their confusion when you tell them Chesapeake doesn’t adjoin the bay at all, anywhere?

Well, back in 1963 when Norfolk County and South Norfolk merged, one of the problems was what to name the new city. The city founders held an election in which any name receiving a petition with 100 signatures could be put on the ballot.

It was obvious early on that “Chesapeake” was the mild favorite but it wasn’t a particular favorite of the leading politicians who hoped somebody would come up more of a zinger. Many of the politicos lived in Great Bridge and liked the name and the area and there was a mini boomlet for “Great Bridge” as the election approached.

One might think that naming a city would be important business to its citizens but only 1662 people bothered to vote. “Chesapeake” took 1274 of the votes. “Great Bridge” trailed in a distant second with 171 votes. Some of the names on the ballot received only 1 or 2 votes. Among the choices on the ballot that day were: Bridgeport, Chesapeake, Churchland, Glendale, Glennville, Gosport, Great Bridge, Norcova, Port Elizabeth, Sunray City, Virginia City, and Woodford.

Despite Chesapeake’s present land-locked location some distance from its namesake bay there is an old connection. Chesapeake formed part of the original Norfolk County grant that comprised much of tidewater and did indeed border the Chesapeake Bay. The oldest deeds from the original charter now reside in the Chesapeake Clerk’s office.


  1. Shenita says:

    Very interesting story… I think all of your stories are interesting! Keep it up!

  2. Randy Miltner says:

    Chesapeake Virginia is a wonderful city to live in! Thanks for the article, I enjoyed it!

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