Hampton Roads is the name that has been given to the metropolitan area that is comprised of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and the surrounding smaller towns. This region is famous for the military installations that are present there, including bases for the Marines, the Army, the Navy, and the Coast Guard. In addition, NASA also has an operations center in the area. The reason that Hampton Roads has been chosen as the location for these bases is because its harbor on the Atlantic Ocean never freezes, thus creating a port that can be used at any time of the year.
The geographical formation of the Hampton Roads area comes from two rivers that empty into the Atlantic Ocean. The two rivers are the Elizabeth and the James. This convergence has created one of the world's largest natural harbors, known as Chesapeake Bay. Because the land area is so large, it actually stretches into one county in North Carolina as well as being home to many different Virginian counties and cities.
With so many uses, the harbor has played a critical part in American history for well over 400 years. The first European colonists came to the region in 1607 from England on the flagship, Susan Constant. The colonists were considered to be the first permanent settlement on the continent and eventually decided on Jamestown Island as their home. During the American Revolution, both the Craney and Norfolk Islands played a large role and the area was also a factor during the later War of 1812. In the course of the American Civil War, one of the most important battles was called the Battle of Hampton Roads and obviously took place in the area, highlighted by an epic fight between the two iron warships, the USS Merrimack and the USS Monitor.
In modern times, Hampton Roads has turned into a center for education, with the many military and academic institutions. There are several apprentice schools, including one of the very few in the country dedicated to the art of shipbuilding. In addition, there are also universities for technology, culinary arts, and general education. Many religious seminaries have also made Hampton Roads their home, with a number of Baptist Bible colleges and a center for theological studies.
In business concerns, there are many companies that have taken advantage of the benefits found from such a large harbor. Smithfield Foods, Dollar Tree, and Amerigroup all have their headquarters in the region. The economic boom of Hampton Roads has also seen the creation of a handful of modern shopping centers and malls. With over 1.4 million square feet, the Lynnhaven Mall is one that commands much attention from consumers. Other malls include the Pembroke Mall and the MacArthur Center.