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125 Years of Memories

January 1, 2020 

 Dear Gentle Reader,  

Boy, I feel old, 125 to be exact.  I have stood here on the sands of Virginia Beach and watched time go by.  From horse and carriage to cars, surfboards and now Bird scooters (they really fly on those things!).  I have watched hurricanes and nor’easters pummel this shore, and sometimes my walls and floors.  Family and visitors have graced my doorstep, laughed in my parlor, sung by the piano, run up and down my stairs and gazed out the cupola on the roof.  Yes, times have changed.  So much so that my dear friend, Lady Em, has decided to publish my diary entries as blogs, not sure what that is. 

Today is the first of many entries for the de Witt Diaries, “the gentle musings of an old beach cottage on the sands of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront,” as Lady Em says. 

A little background on how I came to be.  I was built by Bernard Holland, the first mayor of Virginia Beach, in 1895 for his lovely bride, Emily, as a wedding present.  She was a dear girl.   They lived within my walls for several years, even had their first born, Walton, here.  Emily didn’t sleep well. The sounds of the waves kept her up at night, so  she convinced Bernard to sell me and build a larger home two streets west.  Cornelius and Cecile de Witt bought me, and, together with their seven children, they moved in.  That was one chaotic moving day.  More on that later.  The de Witt’s had an additional three children after they had moved in and the family lived here until the last remaining siblings, Julia, Caroline, Katrine and Harriet, sold me to the City of Virginia Beach in the late 1980’s.   

In the early 1990’s, the city was approached by the Virginia Beach Foundation and the Back Bay Wildlife Guild to renovate me and lease me as a museum.  Today, the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum and Shore Gallery Seaside Gifts occupy my rooms.  These two entities make sure life thrives within my walls and keep me quite entertained with their comings and goings.  I guess the saying, “If these walls could talk,” rings true. 

As Lady Em would certainly encourage if she were still here, please like and share this post so that others can revel in my history and delight in these stories. 

Till next time, 

DC (aka de Witt Cottage) 


Disclaimer:  Liberties may have been taken with historical facts for story purposes. 

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