Colonial Beach, Virginia

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Colonial Beach, Virginia
Pier and Riverboat Off Track Betting, Restaurant, and Lounge.
Pier and Riverboat Off Track Betting, Restaurant, and Lounge.
Official seal of Colonial Beach, Virginia
Nickname(s): Golf Cart Town, Playground on the Potomac
Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia
Coordinates: Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Country United States
State Virginia
County Westmoreland
Founded 1892
 • Total 2.8 sq mi (7.4 km2)
 • Land 2.6 sq mi (6.7 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.6 km2)
Elevation 120 ft (36 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 3,542
 • Density 1,362.3/sq mi (528.7/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 22443
Area code(s) 804
FIPS code 51-18400[1]
GNIS feature ID 1493549[2]

Colonial Beach is a town in Westmoreland County, Virginia, United States. The population was 3,542 at the 2010 census. Possessing the second-largest beachfront in the state, Colonial Beach was a popular resort town in the early to mid-20th century, before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge made ocean beaches on the Eastern Shore of Maryland more accessible to visitors from Washington, D.C. The family of Alexander Graham Bell maintained a summer home in Colonial Beach, the Bell House, which still stands today. Sloan Wilson, author of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, retired and died in Colonial Beach. George Washington, the first President of the United States, was born near here at what is now the George Washington Birthplace National Monument. As of 2011, the James Monroe Family Home Site, birthplace of President James Monroe, now has a small monument to him. A museum is planned for the future.[3]


The town was first settled in 1650 by the great-great grandfather of President James Monroe, as Monrovia.[4]

Colonial Beach emerged as a bathing and fishing resort in the late 19th century known as the "Playground on the Potomac." Prior to automobile travel, most visitors arrived by boat from Washington, D.C.[5]

The town was incorporated on 25 February 1892 and there was extensive construction of houses, summer cottages, and hotels. Arguably the most famous of these structures is the Alexander Graham Bell house which still stands on Irving Avenue as the Bell House Bed and Breakfast.[5]

The area was at the center of the Potomac River Oyster Wars between Virginia watermen and the Maryland State Oyster Police that lasted from the late 19th century to the 1960s.[6]

The town began to gradually decline as the automobile made travel to more distant ocean beaches more feasible. However, because gambling was legal in Maryland and the Maryland state line ends at the low-water mark of Virginia's Potomac River shore, from 1949[7] to 1958,[8] Colonial Beach offered slot machines in pier casinos extending into Maryland waters. This temporarily revitalized the town although it was sometimes called "the poor man's Las Vegas."[6] However, the piers burned in the 1960s in a devastating fire and the town continued to decline.[5]

Entrance to the Colonial Beach Municipal Pier

The town is ranked fifth safest place to live in Virginia by Safewise.


Colonial Beach is located at Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.[9] in the northwestern part of Westmoreland County in Virginia's Northern Neck. A short 90 minute ride to Washington D.C. and the States Capitol Richmond, it is aligned on a northwest-southeast axis along the shoreline of the Potomac River which bounds the town to the northeast. The southern part of the town forms a peninsula which ends just above Monroe Bay and divides Monroe Creek from the Potomac. Just to the north of town is the community of Potomac Beach and the mouth of Rosier Creek. Inland from Colonial Beach lie the settlements of Monroe Hall, near the birthplace of President James Monroe, and Maple Grove.

Hotel in downtown Colonial Beach

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 2.8 square miles (7.3 km2), of which, 2.6 square miles (6.7 km2) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) of it (8.80%) is water. The town's 2.5 miles (4.0 km) of beaches are second in length only to those of Virginia Beach in the Commonwealth of Virginia.


Colonial Beach is served by Virginia State Route 205, a spur of which bisects the town as State Route 205Y (Colonial Avenue). The town is accessible by boat and is the last deepwater port for pleasure boats going north on the Potomac River.[10]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 453
1910 721 59.2%
1920 1,093 51.6%
1930 928 −15.1%
1940 1,105 19.1%
1950 1,464 32.5%
1960 1,769 20.8%
1970 2,058 16.3%
1980 2,474 20.2%
1990 3,132 26.6%
2000 3,228 3.1%
2010 3,542 9.7%
Est. 2014 3,541 [11] 0.0%
U.S. Decennial Census[12]

As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 3,228 people, 1,437 households, and 863 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,246.7/sq mi (481.4/km2). There were 2,030 housing units at an average density of 784.0/sq mi (302.7/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 79.21% White, 16.95% African American, 0.09% Native American, 0.62% Asian, 1.64% from other races, and 1.49% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.38% of the population.

There were 1,437 households out of which 24.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.9% were married couples living together, 15.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.9% were non-families. 34.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.77.

Houses on the Colonial Beach waterfront

In the town the population was spread out with 22.0% under the age of 18, 6.3% from 18 to 24, 23.2% from 25 to 44, 26.0% from 45 to 64, and 22.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females there were 82.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 77.6 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $31,711, and the median income for a family was $38,080. Males had a median income of $30,000 versus $19,535 for females. The per capita income for the town was $19,991.20 About 23.0% of families and 25.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 45.7% of those under age 18 and 16.6% of those age 65 or over.

Notable natives and residents


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Colonial Beach has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.[13]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Leggitt, Richard, "Blues Fest" Brings Thousands to the Beach," The Westmoreland Journal, 26 June 2013
  4. William J. Burnham, Mary K. Burnham, Bill Burnham. Rediscovering America: Exploring the Small Towns of Virginia and Maryland. Hunter Publishing, 2003. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-58843-319-0
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Town of Colonial Beach: History at the official town website. Retrieved 5 November 2008.
  6. 6.0 6.1 William J. Burnham, Mary K. Burnham, Bill Burnham. Rediscovering America: Exploring the Small Towns of Virginia and Maryland. Hunter Publishing, 2003. p. 136. ISBN 978-1-58843-319-0
  7. "Slots on Piers Evade Law In Virginia." Washington Post. 23 July 1949.
  8. "Supreme Court Refuses to Review Maryland Ban on Potomac Casinos." Washington Post. 25 February 1959.
  9. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. William J. Burnham, Mary K. Burnham, Bill Burnham. Rediscovering America: Exploring the Small Towns of Virginia and Maryland. Hunter Publishing, 2003. p. 137. ISBN 978-1-58843-319-0
  11. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Climate Summary for Colonial Beach, Virginia

External links