Image of ruins found at the Wash Woods Ghost Town

Wash Woods Ghost Town

Wash Woods is a ghost town located off the coast of the Atlantic in Virginia. Town legend states that shored shipwrecked survivors of the Atlantic Graveyard were the ones who found Wash Woods. Evidently, the storms and ocean waves frequent the eastern coastal region that constantly washed away early settlements, suggesting the name of Wash Woods. Even the False Cape, the area of Virginia where the town is located, demonstrates the ever-changing weather.

Wrecked ships that washed ashore built structures in the town with its lumber, seen with cemetery and church remnants. Part of the church’s steeple, one of the few partially remaining structures, shows the use of various wooden pieces from those wrecks. Due to the age of the cypress wood from the church steeple, the origin of the town is in the 16th or 17th century. By the 1800’s, the community consisted of a church, school, and graveyard, with roughly 300 people living in the area.

Founded by Shipwreck

The Graveyard of the Atlantic constantly took victims to her watery grave. It wasn’t until the devastating shipwrecks of the USS Huron and the Metropolis (all within a few miles of False Cape) that Wash Woods would be on the map. In the 1840s, the United States Congress created the Newell Act, which would build lifesaving stations across the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. These stations helped provide rescue to save the survivors of shipwrecks. Wash Woods Station in 1883, previously named Deal’s Island Station, provided volunteers to man the station. In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Act to Create the Coast Guard, merging the Revenue Cutter Service with the Life-Saving Service into the United States Coast Guard. Two years later, the lifesaving station at Wash Woods became the Wash Woods Coast Guard Station.

False Cape and Wash Woods diminished as sea currents changed, which began the town’s abandonment in the early 1900s. Thirty years later, the Chesapeake–Potomac Hurricane lay waste on the Mid-Atlantic. This storm was one of the most damaging hurricanes in United States history, and the final push for Wash Woods. This hurricane was a category 4 storm flooded the area, destroying the town and the lifesaving station. The town was quickly abandoned, leaving only a skeleton of Wash Woods behind.

False Cape and Wash Woods would become the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in 1938, connecting with False Cape State Park in 1966. The state park still provides access to Wash Woods today. Its cemetery and steeple are the only remaining images of this mysterious town. The history mostly remains unknown, serving as a ghostly reminder of lives lost to the treacherous Atlantic Ocean.

Learn More

To learn more about the Graveyard of the Atlantic, visit the 6 Feet Below the Waves Exhibit!

To learn more about Wash Woods visit:

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