History & Vision

History of the Hampton History Museum

The roots of the Hampton History Museum extend back some five decades. In 1952, Margaret Sinclair, a local teacher, put together a small display of artifacts, photographs, and documents at the old Syms-Eaton School downtown. This very modest beginning led to a larger downtown storefront exhibit, then to a modestly sized building on Mercury Boulevard in 1966. Adjacent to this Syms-Eaton Museum was a reconstructed Kecoughtan Indian village, a favorite destination for school field trips over the years. The museum itself was nationally recognized for its inclusion of Native American and African American themes throughout its exhibits.


Around the time of the nation's Bicentennial, the Hampton Heritage Foundation sponsored archaeological digs in the downtown area, followed by a series of exhibits of the artifacts. About ten years later, during the 375th anniversary of the city's settlement, the Junior League of Hampton Roads sponsored an exhibit of photographs from the collection of Christopher Cheyne and his son, who were Hampton photographers from the 1890s through the 1960s. It was clear from the attendance that the people of Hampton were interested in their past and city fathers took note.

Formation of an Association

An enthusiastic group of citizens assembled to form the Hampton History Museum Association and began seeking support for a permanent facility. Buoyed by a positive feasibility study funded by City Council, the Association, made up entirely of volunteers, undertook the tasks of producing a design for the building as well as raising the funds to construct it. Using a public-private partnership, the Association was able to produce an impressive two story structure on Old Hampton Lane open to the public on May 3, 2003.

View Hampton History on Video

Access videos on various topics related to Hampton's History.

Past Museum Events

Browse through the museum's past events: