City Point, the oldest part of Hopewell, was founded in 1613 by Sir Thomas Dale. City Point’s location on a bluff overlooking the James and Appomattox Rivers has been an important factor in Hopewell’s history for almost four centuries.
The tiny colonial village of City Point saw a Revolutionary War skirmish fought on its banks. Later, in 1864-1865, General Ulysses S. Grant directed the 10-month Siege of Petersburg from the grounds of Appomattox Plantation. This historic home is now part of the City Point Unit of Petersburg National Battlefield.
Hopewell was developed by the DuPont Company of Wilmington, Delaware in 1914. This company first built a dynamite factory and then switched to the manufacture of guncotton during World War I.
Although DuPont left Hopewell after the war, many manufacturing giants have since located in the city. These companies include: Honeywell, Evonik Industries, Smurfit-Stone and Hercules.
Products as diverse as the first automatic dishwasher, the first Kraft paper and cardboard boxes, china and artificial silk have been manufactured in Hopewell.
Since its founding, Hopewell, named after an English ship, has continued its British ties by twinning with the City of Ashford, Kent, England.
Hopewell has received the Governor’s Clean City Award and is noted for its landscaping and beautification.
Soldiers posing for historic war photo
- early 1600s – English settlement at “Bermuda City,” somewhere between City Point and Broadway Landing-as many as 119 people according to John Rolfe.
- 1700s – Tobacco warehouses at City Point.
- 1781 – Part of Benedict Arnold’s expedition of British troops passes through City Point.
- Early 1800s – City Point becomes a port of entry with a U.S. Customs office. The area’s post office moves to City Point from across the river at Bermuda Hundred.
- 1826 – Town of City Point is incorporated (the lot at 500 Prince Henry Street is within these old town limits).
- 1836-1850s – City Point Railroad Company forms and soon begins to operate one of the nation’s earliest lines, between City Point and Petersburg.
- 1840 – Town population 300.
- 1862 – Union naval officers are ambushed after coming ashore to give medical aid to civilians. Small skirmish with Confederate soldiers occurs.
- 1864 – General Butler’s Army of the James occupies the area. Commanding General Ulysses S. Grant sets up his headquarters at Appomattox Manor. As the Union army lays siege to nearby Petersburg, City Point temporarily becomes one of the busiest seaports in the entire world. Union army also sets up a 6,000 bed hospital.
- 1865 photo of waterfront, City Point, Virginia (now Hopewell).
- 1864, 1865 – Presidential visits from Abraham Lincoln.
- 1870 – City Point becomes a small town again, with only 300 residents.
- late 1800s – Short-lived sturgeon packing plant.
- 1910 – Population still about 300.
- 1912 – E.I. DuPont de Nemours Co. buys 800 acres at nearby Hopewell Farms. Seeking to build a dynamite plant, the company is attracted by the good deep port and rail facilities.
- 1914 – DuPont buys 1600 acres of the Eppes estate and builds the largest guncotton plant in the world: instant boom town.
- 1915 – Fire destroys 300 buildings; quick rebuilding. 40,000 employed in Hopewell.
- 1916 – City of Hopewell incorporated.
- 1918 – End of World War I; guncotton plant shuts down.
- 1920s – Other industries, such as artificial silk (Tubize) and chemical manufacturing (ANCO, now Allied Chemical) replace DuPont.
- 1942 – Camp Lee, next to Hopewell, has military population of 45,000.
- 1980 – Hopewell population 23,400.
DuPont facility circa 1912
Making the American Dream Work:
A Cultural History of African Americans in Hopewell, Virginia
A compact collection of historic sites and personal stories illuminate life for African Americans in the city of Hopewell. Its location, at the confluence of the Appomattox and James Rivers, twenty-four miles southeast of Richmond, enabled its predecessor, City Point to become a thriving trade center. Hopewell’s history spans 400 years and includes Algonquian-speaking Indians, Europeans and Africans. Despite wars, disasters, the influx of enslaved people, military personnel and immigrants, City Point and later the city of Hopewell has endured and in fact embodies the pursuit of the American Dream. This study illustrates how a disenfranchised and discriminated group of people have continually pushed themselves and others to actualize and enjoy all that the American Dream has come to symbolize. In 2004 the Hopewell city council commissioned the African American oral history project. During the spring and summer of 2005, the author, Lauranett Lee, Ph.D., interviewed twelve citizens ranging from former students and teachers, school administrators and ministers, as well as parents and community volunteers who shared their stories. In addition, eight state and nationally recognized historic landmarks highlight Hopewell’s cultural history. They are: Kippax Plantation Archaeological Site, Appomattox Manor, Weston Manor, City Point National Cemetery, City Point Historic District, Downtown Hopewell Historic District, Beacon Theatre, and Hopewell Municipal Building. Two maps, one of the precinct wards and another of the historic sites, as well as an index enable readers to easily locate boundaries, markers and subject matter. In addition to images of the interviewees, twenty-eight photographs enliven the text. The endnotes and bibliography provide information for further study.
For a copy of Making the American Dream Work: A Cultural History of African Americans in Hopewell, please contact the Office of Intergovernmental & Public Affairs at (804) 541-2270.