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Chesapeake, Virginia facts for kids

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Chesapeake, Virginia
City of Chesapeake
Great Dismal Swamp Canal
Great Dismal Swamp Canal
Flag of Chesapeake, Virginia
Official seal of Chesapeake, Virginia
"One Increasing Purpose"
Location in the State of Virginia
Location in the State of Virginia
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Country  United States
State  Virginia
County None (independent city)
Founded 1963 (1919 as South Norfolk, 1634 as Norfolk County, Virginia)
 • Type Council-Manager
 • Independent city 350.95 sq mi (908.95 km2)
 • Land 338.51 sq mi (876.74 km2)
 • Water 12.44 sq mi (32.21auto279.26 km2)  2.9%
 • Independent city 249,422
 • Rank 90th in the United States
2nd in Virginia
 • Density 710.705/sq mi (274.4067/km2)
 • Metro
Time zone UTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 757 and 948
FIPS code 51-16000
GNIS feature ID 1496841

Chesapeake is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of the 2020 census, the population was 249,422, it is the second-most populous independent city in Virginia, tenth-largest in the Mid-Atlantic, and the 90th most populous city in the United States.

Chesapeake is included in the Virginia Beach–Norfolk–Newport News, VA–NC, MSA. One of the cities in the South Hampton Roads, Chesapeake was organized in 1963 by voter referendums approving the political consolidation of the city of South Norfolk with the remnants of the former Norfolk County, which dated to 1691. (Much of the territory of the county had been annexed by other cities.) Chesapeake is the second-largest city by land area in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the 17th-largest in the United States.

Chesapeake is a diverse city in which a few urban areas are located; it also has many square miles of protected farmland, forests, and wetlands, including a substantial portion of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Extending from the rural border with North Carolina to the harbor area of Hampton Roads adjacent to the cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach, Chesapeake is located on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. It has miles of waterfront industrial, commercial and residential property.

In 2011, Chesapeake was named the 21st best city in the United States by Bloomberg Businessweek. Chesapeake is home to the international Headquarters for Dollar Tree.


Norfolk County, Virginia (from 1895 map), existed from 1691-1963, now extinct

In 1963, the new independent city of Chesapeake was created when the former independent city of South Norfolk consolidated with Norfolk County. The consolidation was approved and the new name selected by the voters of each community by referendum, and authorized by the Virginia General Assembly.

Formed in 1691 in the Virginia Colony, Norfolk County had originally included essentially all the area which became the towns and later cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, and South Norfolk. Its area was reduced after 1871 as these cities added territory through annexations. Becoming an independent city was a method for the former county to stabilize borders with neighbors, as cities could not annex territory from each other.

The relatively small city of South Norfolk had become an incorporated town within Norfolk County in 1919, and became an independent city in 1922. Its residents wanted to make a change to put their jurisdiction on a more equal footing in other aspects with the much larger cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth. In addition, by the late 1950s, although immune from annexation by the bigger cities, South Norfolk was close to losing all the county land adjoining it to the city of Norfolk in another annexation suit.

The consolidation that resulted in the city of Chesapeake was part of a wave of changes in the structure of local government in southeastern Virginia which took place between 1952 and 1975.

The Chesapeake region was among the first areas settled in the state's colonial era, when settlement started from the coast. Along Chesapeake's segment of the Intracoastal Waterway, where the Great Bridge locks marks the transition between the Southern Branch Elizabeth River and the Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal, lies the site of the Battle of Great Bridge. Fought on December 9, 1775, in the early days of the American Revolutionary War, the battle resulted in the removal of Lord Dunmore and all vestiges of English Government from the Colony and Dominion of Virginia.

Until the late 1980s and early 1990s, much of Chesapeake was either suburban or rural, serving as a bedroom community of the adjacent cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach with residents commuting to these locations. Beginning in the late 1980s and accelerating in the 1990s, however, Chesapeake saw significant growth, attracting numerous and significant industries and businesses of its own. This explosive growth quickly led to strains on the municipal infrastructure, ranging from intrusion of saltwater into the city's water supply to congested roads and schools.


Chesapeake is located at 36°46′2″N 76°17′14″W / 36.76722°N 76.28722°W / 36.76722; -76.28722 (36.767398, -76.287405).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 351 square miles (910 km2), of which 341 square miles (880 km2) is land and 10 square miles (26 km2) (2.9%) is water.

The northeastern part of the Great Dismal Swamp is located in Chesapeake.

Diverse environment

Chesapeake is one of the larger cities in Virginia and the nation in terms of land area. This poses challenges to city leaders in supporting infrastructure to serve this area. In addition, the city has many historically and geographically distinct communities. City leaders are faced with conflicts between development of residential, commercial and industrial areas and preservation of virgin forest and wetlands. Within the city limits in the southwestern section is a large portion of the Great Dismal Swamp.

Adjacent counties and cities


Chesapeake is formally divided politically into six boroughs: South Norfolk, Pleasant Grove, Butts Road, Deep Creek, Washington, and Western Branch.

Of the current boroughs, one, South Norfolk, was formerly a separate incorporated town and independent city for much of the 20th century. Within the other boroughs, a number of communities also developed. Some of these include:

  • Benefit (Pleasant Grove Borough)
  • Bower's Hill (notable as a major highway junction)
  • Buell
  • Camelot (Western Branch Borough)
  • Crestwood (Washington Borough)
  • Deep Creek (Deep Creek Borough)
  • Eva Gardens (Crestwood community, Washington Borough)
  • Fentress (Butts Road Borough)
  • Gertie
  • Gilmerton
  • Grassfield (Deep Creek Borough)
  • Great Bridge
  • Greenbrier (Washington Borough)
  • Hickory (Pleasant Grove Borough)
  • Hodges Ferry
  • Indian River (Washington Borough)
  • Mount Pleasant (Pleasant Grove Borough)
  • Northwest
  • Oak Grove
  • Oaklette
  • Portlock
  • South Norfolk (South Norfolk Borough)
  • Wallaceton


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


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 14,524
1800 19,419 33.7%
1810 22,872 17.8%
1820 23,936 4.7%
1830 24,806 3.6%
1840 27,569 11.1%
1850 33,036 19.8%
1860 36,227 9.7%
1870 46,702 28.9%
1880 58,657 25.6%
1890 77,038 31.3%
1900 50,780 −34.1%
1910 52,744 3.9%
1920 57,358 8.7%
1930 30,082 −47.6%
1940 35,828 19.1%
1950 99,537 177.8%
1960 51,612 −48.1%
1790-1960 Population as Norfolk County
Historical population
Census Pop.
1920 7,724
1930 7,857 1.7%
1940 8,038 2.3%
1950 10,434 29.8%
1960 22,035 111.2%
1920-1960 Population as the City of South Norfolk
Historical population
Census Pop.
1970 89,580
1980 114,486 27.8%
1990 151,976 32.7%
2000 199,184 31.1%
2010 222,209 11.6%
2020 249,422 12.2%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
USA Chesapeake city, Virginia age pyramid
Age distribution in Chesapeake

2020 census

Chesapeake city, Virginia - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010 Pop 2020 % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 134,251 135,679 60.42% 54.40%
Black or African American alone (NH) 65,204 70,885 29.34% 28.42%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 720 731 0.32% 0.29%
Asian alone (NH) 6,289 8,868 2.83% 3.56%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 147 312 0.07% 0.13%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 266 1,223 0.12% 0.49%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 5,626 13,900 2.53% 5.57%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 9,706 17,824 4.37% 7.15%
Total 222,209 249,422 100.00% 100.00%

Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.

2010 Census

As of the census of 2010, there were 222,209 people, 69,900 households, and 54,172 families residing in the city. The population density was 584.6 people per square mile (225.7/km2). There were 72,672 housing units at an average density of 213.3 per square mile (82.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 62.6% White, 29.8% Black or African American, 0.4% Native American, 2.9% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.2% from other races, and 3.0% from two or more races. 4.4% of the population were Hispanics or Latinos of any race. According to 2012 estimates 59.7% of the population is non-Hispanic white.

There were 69,900 households, out of which 41.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.7% were married couples living together, 14.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.5% were non-families. 18.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 5.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.79 and the average family size was 3.17.

The age distribution was: 28.8% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 32.3% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 9.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $50,743, and the median income for a family was $56,302. Males had a median income of $39,204 versus $26,391 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,949. About 6.1% of families and 7.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.7% of those under age 18 and 9.0% of those age 65 or over.

Points of interest

In popular culture

In 2015, in honor of the game's 80th birthday, Hasbro held an online vote in order to determine which cities would make it into an updated version of the Monopoly Here and Now: The US Edition of the game. Chesapeake, Virginia won the wildcard round, earning it a brown spot.


Top employers

According to Chesapeake's 2020 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and other sources (as indicated), the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Chesapeake City Public Schools 6,248
2 City of Chesapeake 3,927
3 Chesapeake Regional Medical Center 2,038
4 Walmart 1,783
5 Dollar Tree 1,292
6 Sentara Healthcare 1,478
7 Cox Communications 1,137
8 Tidewater Staffing 1,259
9 Capital One Services LLC 827
10 QVC 1,037
11 Food Lion 758
10 USAA 666
11 YMCA of South Hampton Roads 644
14 General Dynamics Information Technology 604
12 Commonwealth of Virginia 469
13 Home Depot USA, Inc. 470
15 Oceaneering International 449
16 Xerox HR Solutions, LLC 477
17 US Department of Homeland Security 511
18 Tecnico Corporation 521


Chesapeake is home to two Navy bases:

  • Northwest Annex, located in the Hickory area
  • NALF Fentress


Chesapeake City Public Schools is the local school district.



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The Chesapeake and Albemarle Railroad is a shortline railroad in Chesapeake.

Toll Road

Tolls in Chesapeake are currently limited to the Chesapeake Expressway, Veterans Bridge and the Jordan Bridge, but new ones may be imposed on some existing facilities to help generate revenue for transportation projects in the region.


Chesapeake is served by the nearby Norfolk International Airport in the City of Norfolk with commercial airline passenger service.

Within the city limits, Chesapeake Regional Airport is a general aviation facility located just south of Great Bridge. Also within the city, is the Hampton Roads Executive Airport located near Bowers Hill and the Hampton Roads Beltway. This airport caters to private airplane owners and enthusiasts. East of Great Bridge, NALF Fentress is a facility of the U.S. Navy and is an auxiliary landing field which is part of the large facility at NAS Oceana in neighboring Virginia Beach.

River and Ports

The Intracoastal Waterway passes through Chesapeake. Chesapeake also has extensive frontage and port facilities on the navigable portions of the Western and Southern Branches of the Elizabeth River.

The Dismal Swamp Canal runs through Chesapeake as well. The site of this canal was surveyed by George Washington, among others, and is known as "Washington's Ditch". It is the oldest continuously used man made canal in the United States today and has been in service for over 230 years. The canal begins in the Deep Creek section of the city branching off from the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River. The canal runs through Chesapeake paralleling U.S. Highway 17 into North Carolina and connects to Elizabeth City, North Carolina.


Five railroads currently pass through portions of Chesapeake, and handle some intermodal traffic at port facilities on Hampton Roads and navigable portions of several of its tributary rivers. The two major Class 1 railroads are CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern, joined by three short line railroads.

Chesapeake is located on a potential line for high speed passenger rail service between Richmond and South Hampton Roads which is being studied by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. A new suburban passenger station near Bowers Hill would potentially be included to supplement a terminal in downtown Norfolk.


  • I-64 / I-464 / I-664 / US 13 / US 17 / US 58 / US 460 / SR 168

  • Future I-87

Chesapeake is served by U.S. Highways 13, 17, 58, and 460. Interstate 64, part of the Hampton Roads Beltway, crosses through the city, Interstate 464 is a spur which connects it with downtown Norfolk and Portsmouth at the Berkley Bridge, and Interstate 664, which completes the Interstate loop from the Western Branch section of Chesapeake through the city of Newport News and into the city of Hampton.

State Route 168 is also a major highway in the area. It includes the Chesapeake Expressway toll road.

Chesapeake is the only locality in the Hampton Roads area with a separate bridge division. The city's Department of Public Works, Bridges and Structures division has 51 full-time workers. The city maintains 90 bridges and overpasses. Included are five movable span (draw) bridges which open an estimated 30,000 times a year for water vessels.


Hampton Roads Transit buses serve the city of Chesapeake as well as other cities in the Hampton Roads Area.


Water and sewer services are provided by the city's Department of Utilities. Chesapeake receives its electricity from Dominion Virginia Power which has local sources including the Chesapeake Energy Center (a coal-fired and gas power plant), coal-fired plants in the city and Southampton County, and the Surry Nuclear Power Plant. Norfolk headquartered Virginia Natural Gas, a subsidiary of AGL Resources, distributes natural gas to the city from storage plants in James City County and in the city.

The Virginia tidewater area has grown faster than the local freshwater supply. Chesapeake receives the majority of its water from the Northwest River in the southeastern part of the city. To deal with intermittent high salt content, Chesapeake implemented an advanced reverse osmosis system at its Northwest River water treatment plant in the late 1990s. The river water has always been salty, and the fresh groundwater is no longer available in most areas. Currently, additional freshwater for the South Hampton Roads area is pumped from Lake Gaston, about 80 miles (130 km) west, which straddles the Virginia-North Carolina border along with the Blackwater and Nottaway rivers. The pipeline is 76 miles (122 km) long and 60 inches (1,500 mm) in diameter. Much of its follows the former right-of-way of an abandoned portion of the Virginian Railway. It is capable of pumping 60 million US gallons (230,000 m3) of water per day. The cities of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach are partners in the project.

The city provides wastewater services for residents and transports wastewater to the regional Hampton Roads Sanitation District treatment plants.

Notable people

  • Eddie Butler, professional baseball player
  • Clarence Clemons, musician
  • Michael Cuddyer, professional baseball player
  • Kenny Easley, member of NFL Hall of Fame
  • Randy Forbes, former U.S. Representative
  • DeAngelo Hall, professional football player
  • Percy Harvin, professional football player
  • Frank Hassell (born 1988), basketball player
  • Grant Holloway, 110 m hurdle world champion
  • Patrick Jones II, professional football player
  • Ashton Lewis Jr. NASCAR driver
  • Mizkif, Twitch streamer
  • Alonzo Mourning, professional basketball player
  • Omos, former college basketball player, professional wrestler for WWE
  • Jay Pharoah, comedian
  • Chris Richardson, singer
  • Ricky Rudd, NASCAR driver
  • Mike Scott, professional basketball player
  • Don Shipley, Retired Navy Seal and YouTube Star
  • Scott Sizemore, professional baseball player
  • Ben Smith, 2015 CrossFit games champion
  • Darryl Tapp, professional football player
  • Justin Upton, professional baseball player
  • Melvin Upton Jr., professional baseball player
  • David Wright, professional baseball player
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