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train no longer stops here, but you should.
Modern-day Exmore is a town that has reinvented itself, for little remains
to indicate the impetus behind its beginnings.
original Exmore sprung forth in 1884 with the coming of the railroad.
Exmore Downtown Revitalization Project has breathed brand new life
into the heart of Exmore. Irene Boyd lets Charles Antrim of
Prestige Painting know she approves of his latest job on a
downtown store's facade.
to the opening of the
and Norfolk Railroad (known as the “Nip ’n N”), most of the villages
were located along the water’s edge. There, steamships made regular
runs, loading up with fresh produce and seafood bound for the northern
as the plan to connect
with the northern cities took shape, it was decided the rails would be
laid parallel to the Shore’s main highway, today known as U.S. Route 13,
. Naturally, stations had to be located along the
rail line and, before long, towns began to develop around many of those.
One of those was Exmore Station.
how the town got its name remains a mystery, although two theories remain
is that Exmore was the tenth stop for the trains headed south from the
state line, thus there were “X more” stations to go.
lesser-held theory, at least locally, is that the town got its name from a
the truth, the name stuck, and by 1948 when the town was officially
formed, Exmore was well ingrained as the name of the village.
in 1889, however, the area was still mostly undeveloped. That’s when a
young man by the name of John W. Chandler, a produce broker from nearby
, saw the opportunity to expand his business and his holdings, and began
purchasing land around Exmore Station.
also purchased a tract of land for a homeplace, having constructed on the
site what is reputedly the first house in the town, a stately Queen
Anne-style located on what is now
owned by Joe and Dot Ortelli, the Chandler House is presently undergoing a
loving restoration. It is one of only two structures in the town listed in
the National Register of Historic Places. Gazing at the home through the
branches of the equally old magnolia trees, one can imagine the original
owners standing on the porch of the stately home, watching wagonload
after wagonload of fresh produce make its way through town to the waiting
rail cars and an abandoned station house stand at the site of what
was once a bustling train station.
while still situated amid some of the most fertile land the Commonwealth
has to offer, Exmore is no longer an agricultural center, with modern-day
marketing having replaced the strawberry auctions of old and trucking
having long ago replaced rail as the means of shipment. However,
while the train no longer stops here, reminders of that era remain, from
the abandoned station and railcars along the tracks to the restored
buildings from the town’s earliest days.
a while, it seemed Exmore’s fate was to be just a faded reminder of the
past; however, the hard work and dedication of recent town leaders have
led to a resurgence of business and residential interest in the town.
Utilizing a Department of Housing
and Community Development
block grant, as well as Virginia Department of Transportation Enhancement
and Rural Development
Community funds, downtown Exmore
has been transformed from a timeworn remnant of its heyday to a
sparkling example of the value of preservation. New
street lighting, walkways, parking facilities and landscaping make Exmore
a most pleasant place to stroll and shop. Many stores now feature new
facades, fresh and bright, yet reminiscent of the era that gave birth to
the town. History abounds in the shops along
, which has evolved into a virtual paradise for antique collectors from
Marsh, proprietor of Exmore's Antiques & Craft Emporium, is
always ready to share her expertise as well as a laugh.
visit to the County Way Mercantile is a step back in time to the general
stores of old. Next door, Exmore’s Antique & Craft Emporium offers
antiques, collectibles, and works by local artists and craftsmen. Toward
the southern end of
, collectors will delight in the finds at Antique Addicts and, in season,
connoisseurs in the fresh offerings at the Exmore Farm Market. Just a tad
farther south is the famous Exmore Diner, a 1940s facility that found its
to Exmore – by rail, of course. There, down-home cooking and
hospitality are always the specials of the day.
Starbucks hasn’t found its way to the Shore yet, there’s really no
need, for the aromas that waft down
from the Yellow Duck Café and Bakery are incomparable. One
block over, a private revitalization project not only saved one of the
town’s largest structures, it also became its largest employer.
got its start as a cottage industry creating custom mosaics. The company
now enjoys international fame while providing employment for scores of
area residents in a converted clothing factory. Other artisans also make
their living in the area. The folks at Glass Expressions offer not only
retail sales and custom work, but also classes in the art of stained-glass
the way, in the area’s largest shopping center, visitors can find even
more original creations at the Smile Gallery & Gift Shop, where a
half-dozen local artists display their unique works. And, like most
communities, the folks of Exmore depend heavily on their churches as not
merely centers of worship, but also of community.
Baptist is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
its size, the Exmore area boasts a full dozen churches, ranging from
, now celebrating its 100th year, to the relatively new Victory
Pentecostal Church of Deliverance.
has one of the largest congregations in the area. It’s located in the
eastern section of the community, next door to
, one of
’s award-winning educational facilities. Also located in Exmore are
, providing a choice in educational opportunities. Almost a religion in
itself is the pride many locals take in being
“Eastern Shoremen,” evidenced by a local saying that proclaims
“There’s no life west of the
.” These days, there is also little human
life to be found east of the shoreline; however, that was not always the
years gone by, the barrier islands that protect the main
peninsula from the ravages of the sea were once home to a hale-and-hardy
stock of Shore folk. One of the descendants of those folks, Capt. Rick
Kellam of Exmore, has made it his mission and vocation to ensure the
history of those island settlements is preserved. A founder of the
located a few miles south of Exmore, Kellam loves to share his knowledge
of area history with all who will listen. Also an expert on local flora
and fauna, a visit with Capt. Kellam can be an education in itself.
no longer ply their trade at the wharves along the Shore. And the trains
that run through the area are too busy hauling their freight to stop at
places like Exmore. Undaunted, however, Exmore’s leaders have refused to
let the town go the way of the island settlements, and the future looks
bright for the hamlet.
fact, there are even plans for the Nip ’n N’s descendant, the Bay
Coast Railroad, to establish an excursion service among some of the
Shore’s old railroad towns.
one’s saying just how many station stops there’ll be, but you can bet
one group of folks is in there lobbying for at least “X More.”