How was the building saved from developers?
How does the historic icon become a museum?
It wasn’t easy! The dedicated citizens and the City of Virginia Beach worked together to ensure this irreplaceable part of our history would be preserved.
Now, during the current COVID-19 Crisis, it’s just as important to come together to make certain this very special nonprofit endures. On the National Register of History Places, the original 1903 building and museum houses a priceless collection of 1,800 artifacts and over 4,000 photographic images of the United States Life-Saving and Coast Guard Services along with the only exhibits in Hampton Roads that share the overall 20th Century history of the resort community of Virginia Beach.
At the center of the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, the museum also stands as a center of Virginia Beach community and culture. Please consider helping our small nonprofit weather this current storm.
After being vacated by the United States Coast Guard, the station was fenced for security and left empty. Many thought the building’s days were numbered as developers began considering the desirable 24th Street & boardwalk location for a new high rise resort hotel.
1973 – 1977
A true grassroots movement began among the residents of Virginia Beach to envision a new role for the structure. Residents organized and approached the City of Virginia Beach to save the already iconic oceanfront structure as an Arts Center or Cultural History Museum. Citizens and city officials thus explored how to save, restore, and preserve the historic structure for future generations to enjoy.
When the City of Virginia Beach took possession of the station, it owned the building, but not the land. It was decided to move the building about 100 feet to the south. Engineers chose to also turn the structure a full 90 degrees to the east. This allowed the station to rest within the narrow end cap of 24th Street, land the City already owned. It would be later that the City later acquired the adjacent land that is now the 24th Street Park. The park is now a central boardwalk location for concerts and events.
The historic building was moved in June of 1979 to its current location. Many residents gathered and applauded as work crews jacked, lifted, and slowly rolled the structure onto its newly poured foundation. A new era in the station’s long history had begun. This same year, the building was registered as a Virginia Historic Landmark and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
1979 – 1981
With the City agreeing the building would house a new museum, the structure underwent preservation and renovation for the next two years. The city, however, did not wish to own or operate the museum. A private non-profit organization was formed to oversee and maintain the museum’s collection and activities. This non-profit was incorporated in 1981 as the Virginia Beach Maritime Museum, Inc.
On July 1st of 1981, the 1903 building was opened to the public as the Virginia Beach Maritime Museum, Inc. Since this first month, visitors have enjoyed, and still enjoy, the history of the Life-Saving Service and Coast Guard, as well as the coastal history of the Virginia Beach area.