Saturday, December 9, 2023

Within A Day: Phoebus and Fort Monroe

Dog Beach at Fort Monroe. (WYDaily/ Ben Mackin)

PHOEBUS — In Hampton Roads it is hard to throw a rock without hitting something that is of some significance to American history. In this region, that rock could his things dating back to before the American Revolution. With nearly 80 different places around the Peninsula on the National Historic Register, it is easy to overlook some really fascinating places.

For example, Phoebus and Fort Monroe are the perfect examples of hidden gems within Hampton Roads. Nestled at the very end of the Peninsula, Phoebus is the very last exit before the traffic comes to a standstill at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT) on Interstate 64.

Even if Phoebus is not your intended destination, pulling off the interstate and grabbing a bite to eat at any one of the local eateries or breweries or shopping at the boutiques scattered throughout the area is way more preferable than sitting in the grueling tunnel traffic.

This corner of Hampton has something for everyone. 400 years worth of history, a vibrant restaurant and brewery scene, boutiques and shops selling everything from wine to antiques.

The remnants of Battery DeRussey, one of Fort Monroe’s coat artillery emplacements. (WYDaily/Ben Mackin)

Fort Monroe, which was first settled in 1609 and was an active military post, most recently for the U.S. Army, until 2011, is packed with historical markers and sites. Inside the fortress is the Casemate Museum, which spares no detail as it presents the fort’s four centuries worth of history.

From the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in 1619, to its different roles during the Civil War, up through its evolution of the coastal artillery defenses in the 19th and 20th centuries. The remnants of this latter end of its military life still standing, constant reminders of how vital “Freedom’s Fortress” was to the defense of the Chesapeake Bay and the nation as a whole.

When the army vacated Fort Monroe, it opened several miles of beach up to the general public. Being inside the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, there are no real waves to speak of, but if you park yourself on Dog Beach for awhile, you will probably get to see a massive U.S. Navy carrier or destroyer lumber by in all its majesty or a massive cargo vessel making its way to the Port of Virginia. Visitors seeking to do some body surfing will get their wish for a few minutes as the wakes from these ships washes ashore.

Oozlefinch Beers & Blending. (WYDaily/Ben Mackin)

Outside the beaches and historic attractions, both Phoebus and Fort Monroe are teeming with restaurants and night life. Going back to the era of both World Wars and all the points in between, Phoebus earned the nickname, “Little Chicago,” on account of its many bars  and speakeasys.

While the stores and shops located on and around Mellen and Mallory streets have changed hands over the years, one can tell by just looking at the buildings that they were witness to all kinds of people and their stories.

These days, Phoebus is host to most any style of food or drink you might be in the mood for. Whether it is upscale eateries like Baker’s Wife Bistro, Mango Mangeaux and Fox Tail Wine Bar. If a casual experience is what your after, check out the Phoebus Dive Bar, El Diablo Loco Cantina & Tequila Bar or Fuller’s Raw Bar. Also, don’t forget Scratch Bakery to satisfy your sweet tooth.

If libations are what you are after, check out Oozlefinch Beer & Blending on Fort Monroe or Sly Clyde Ciderworks. Both establishments brew their own product and have ample space to sit and watch the world go by as you sip your drink.

1865 Brewing Co. is slated to open in the coming months. It’s website says it will be a full service coffee shop, working brewery and juice bar.

Whatever it is that you are after, Phoebus and Fort Monroe are likely to have it. The best part is that you can do it without having tangle with the HRBT. In fact, you can sit on the deck at The Deadrise, cocktail in hand in hand, and wave to the poor souls sitting in traffic on the HRBT.



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