The History of the Chamberlin
The Chamberlin’s Timeline
The Chamberlin Hotel boasts a rich and colorful history. Located within the nation’s oldest military base, Fort Monroe, the original hotel to occupy the Chamberlin site was called The Hygeia. Named after the Greek goddess of health, the Hygeia offered well-heeled guests the opportunity to experience a refreshing and invigorating vacation.
Built on this magnificent spot surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay, the Hygeia opened its doors in 1820. The hotel welcomed a steady stream of important visitors, including Edgar Allen Poe, who recited “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee” on the Hygeia’s porch in September 1849, just one month before he died.
After serving as a hospital during the Civil War, the Hygeia was torn down. Another hotel was placed on the site, followed closely by the first Chamberlin Hotel.
After a fire in 1920, the beautiful and dramatic Chamberlin Hotel still standing today was built in its place. In its earliest days, the hotel drew visitors with promises of an ideal climate, due to the cool Chesapeake breezes.
The indoor swimming pool was described as “so perfectly ventilated and radiant with sunlight that you are really bathing out-of-doors.” The formal dining room provided breathtaking vistas of the Chesapeake Bay, treating travelers to a feast for the eyes, as well as the palette.
Today, The Chamberlin is proud to offer residents the same breathtaking views, the same delicious, waterfront dining opportunities, and enhanced services for health, recreation, and wellness.
Building on the tradition that began with the Hygeia in 1820, the Chamberlin is proud of both its history and its innovation as a premiere senior living community.
During the late 1990’s and into the beginning of the new millennium, the once grand Chamberlin Hotel began to decline as a vacation destination. The tragic events of September 11, 2001 in Washington, D.C. and in New York City caused the security at Historic Fort Monroe to increase dramatically. For The Chamberlin, this necessary increase in security meant the end of its life as a hotel.
However, a group of investors saw a vibrant and exciting future for the hotel. In 2002, the group signed a contract to purchase the historic building and negotiated a land lease with the local Corps of Engineers and Pentagon officials, as the army owned the land on which the hotel sits. With an exciting new vision, and with increased interest from the surrounding community, the investment group began planning the renovation and renaissance of this majestic architectural treasure to offer exceptional waterfront senior living in Hampton Roads.
After the decision had been made to renovate The Chamberlin, a team of experts in historic renovation was assembled. Bob Burns, lead architect with Commonwealth Architects, joined the team, bringing his extensive experience in historic building revival to the table. An attorney and an accounting firm—both with extensive knowledge of the historic tax credit process—proved to be invaluable. Federal and State Tax Credits were secured through the Department of Historic Resources and the National Park Service in order to complete the renovations on the historic components of the building.
In Summer 2008, The Chamberlin began a new life, born out of exceptional vision, solid experience, and a healthy respect for the past.