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First historical marker commemorating Virginia Green Book site unveiled in Hampton

Four people are standing in front of a new historical marker in Virginia. The historical marker is gray and discusses the Bay Shore Hotel.
Laura Philion
Colita Fairfax (from right), Helen Phillips Pitts and others stand in front of a new historical marker commemorating Hampton’s Bay Shore Hotel. The marker, which was unveiled Thursday, is the first in Virginia connected to the Green Book, a guidebook for Black travelers.

Read the original story on WHRO's website.

Helen Phillips Pitts grew up visiting the beach at Bay Shore. But her memories aren’t all positive.

“Looking out there, where that white fence is — a wire fence going down into the water, which was supposed to keep the Black people on one side and the white people on the other side,” Phillips Pitts said.

She stood Thursday on the site of the old Bay Shore Hotel, near the beach where she used to swim with friends.

Next to that white fence is a new historical marker to commemorate Bay Shore’s meaning to the community. The hotel and beach were included in the Green Book, a travel guide for Black vacationers across the country. On the other side of that fence was Buckroe Beach, reserved for the city’s white residents. Investors in Bay Shore sought to give Hampton’s Black residents a similar vacation spot during segregation.

Officials said the Bay Shore marker is the first of many that will showcase more than 300 Green Book sites in the state.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin unveiled the marker alongside state delegates and city leaders.

“I do hope that Virginians and Americans, friends from around the world who are traveling, will stop ... at this marker, and they will fully take in what the Green Book meant and continues to mean,” Youngkin said.

Phillips Pitts’ grandfather was one of the original investors in the Bay Shore Hotel, which served Black visitors from 1898 to the 1970s.

Phillips Pitts spent all but three years of her life in Hampton. She’s in her 70s now, and though the hotel is long gone, she says the new marker means history won’t go unnoticed here.

“It’s about doggone time somebody realized that Bay Shore was important — and who it was important to,” she said.

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