Exmore is a quiet rural town of just under 1,500 residents nestled in the heart of Virginia’s Eastern Shore peninsula. Its advantageous location, midway between the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and the Virginia-Maryland line, has made Exmore an important transportation and commercial hub since its founding.
Today, Exmore is home to more than 150 businesses and services, large and small, including three manufacturers serving national and international markets. Its reputation as a business-friendly service town continues to stimulate growth here. Currently, Exmore is the largest town in Northampton County and ranks as the 117th largest municipality in the state.
Lankford Highway (Route 13), the main artery for traffic flowing north and south, divides the town east and west with residential neighborhoods and commercial properties on both sides. Exmore’s downtown shops and administrative buildings are easily accessed by a convenient on and off loop connecting the state highway with the original route 13, now Main Street.
Exmore is also home to three national hotel brands, accommodating thousands of visitors each year. But this is not a seasonal tourist town. It is a relaxed, year around community with a laid-back charm that is reminiscent of earlier life on the shore with traditional family values, courteous people, and warm hospitality. Everyone is welcome here.
Residents are proud of Exmore’s reputation as an unpretentious “working man’s town” and of its commitment to diversity and inclusion. There’s a genuine sense of community. This is a place where the mayor and vice-mayor serve free hot dogs to families at Town Socials; where police officers dress as the Easter Bunny to entertain kids in the Town Park and where the Town Manager’s door is always open.
Exmore is a citizen-centric town. Decisions are based on the best outcome for the people who live and work here. Over the past decade, excellent management and oversight, enlightened leadership reenforced by long-term thinking, have keep taxes stable and the town’s budget balanced and positive.
While deeply rooted in tradition, Exmore nurtures entrepreneurial thinking and creativity, with the first co-working and entrepreneur space on the Eastern Shore and a pipeline filled with innovative projects ready for development. The future looks bright.
If you’re looking for a great place to raise a family, with positive neighbors, a safe environment (thanks to an outstanding police presence); a wholesome community where business can thrive and where residents and business owners have a voice in shaping policy—welcome to Exmore.
The Shore's Hometown
WELCOME TO EXMORE
HISTORY OF EXMORE
“The railroad is a reminder of Exmore’s vibrant, competitive and continuously evolving township economy” ~ Robert Duer, Town Manager
Exmore was officially incorporated as a Town in 1950, however the community was named and shaped in the late 1800s with the coming of the railroad. Its historical roots go much deeper.
In 1661, John Cobb, an Englishman who arrived on the Eastern Shore in 1642, received a land grant of six hundred acres extending from the upper end of Nassawadox Creek into the center of what would become downtown Exmore. For more than two hundred years, the area that now encompasses Exmore was farmland, stretching from the current village of Willis Wharf to Belle Haven.
The arrival of the railroad in 1884 transformed the community---and the entire Eastern Shore. Exmore was designated as the first stop in Northampton County for the New York-Pennsylvania-Norfolk Railroad, and the town was officially “born”.
Until the railroad, Exmore’s distance from water transportation forestalled the activity and growth experienced by neighboring harbor towns. Once the railroad was placed down the spine of the Eastern Shore, ready to carry produce from local farms to the large consumer markets north in Philadelphia and New York City, new economic and social ecosystems emerged. Exmore became a lively center of commerce for the Eastern Shore’s abundant potatoes, cabbage, onions, and other produce as well as for the burgeoning tourism industry focused on the lavish hotels and sports clubs of the barrier islands.
During the late 1800s and 1900s Exmore became a business and shipping center for area farmers who depended on the railroad to get their produce to market so the town became filled with wagons and trucks loaded with fresh fruit and vegetables. The inland community of Exmore was thriving. Banks and other infrastructure developed around the train depot.
On December 12, 1884, just months after the completion of the railroad, the first post office opened on Smith Avenue (now Bank Avenue). The first bank was erected on the corner of Main Street and Smith Avenue, leading to the renaming of Smith Avenue to Bank.
The presence of a post office required the town to have a name. Exmore was chosen, and the logic behind that choice is still debated. Some say the town was called “Xmore” because it was the tenth station south of the Delaware State line. The theory is that an early railroad-man pulled into the station, tooted his whistle, and announced “X more to go!” referring to the number of stations before reaching Delmar, Delaware, a significant point in the journey. Others contend the name references Exmoor in England. Although Exmoor, England and Exmore, Virginia have little geographically in common, settlers often named new communities or regions after their native areas. In fact, there is a town named Cheriton, right in the middle of Exmoor Forest in England, and Cheriton, Virginia about twenty-five miles south of Exmore, was also created by the railroad, although the name had been in use before 1884.
One of the first large structures in town, and Exmore’s first lodging accommodation, was Shield’s Hotel. It was built near the depot on what is now the corner of Bank and Front Streets prior to 1920. A second hotel, the Central Hotel, was located on Willis Wharf Road. The Exmore Hotel was torn down in the early 1950s. The Central Hotel was cut in half and became two houses currently standing on Occohannock Road.
Exmore’s first appearance in a local newspaper was on June 27, 1885. The entry read, “A rumor is current in our community that a party from the North has bought 150 acres of land, part of the farm on which Exmore is located, at $5000.”
There are no further entries disclosing who the party was or what they did with the land. They may have been the men described in the newspaper’s second reference to Exmore on October 24, 1885: “A new storehouse has been recently opened at Exmore Station, by Messrs. Smith and Willis, and the members composing the firm being popular and competent businessmen, their venture cannot fail of success.”
Benjamin Doughty is credited with having been the first to realize Exmore’s possibilities as a trading center and in the 1880s opened the town’s first store. Ewell Nottingham opened the second business, another store, at approximately the same site now occupied by the former Ocean Bay Mall. Also among Exmore’s earliest merchants were Lewis and Robbins, whose names became synonymous with the town’s early years.
A visual reminder of Exmore’s commercial past sits on the corner of Main Street and Wills Wharf Road. Benjamin’s Department Store. The three-story brick structure dates to around 1910 and is one of two buildings in Exmore listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was commissioned by John W. Chandler, a local produce broker and large county landholder and operated by Harry Benjamin, a member of a successful merchant family in the area during the early 20th century, when the shore region’s economy was primarily agricultural and produce.
An important layer of modernity was added in 1932 with the opening of U.S. Route 13, the world’s first divided highway. Automobile travel plus a robust ferry system connecting the Eastern Shore with cities across the Chesapeake Bay generated a second wave of prosperity. Exmore played a lead role in the processing as well as the transport of local produce. In 1938, Delany Food, Inc. opened in Exmore and grew into one of the largest frozen food plants on the East Coast. Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi operated bottling plants in town.
By the 1950s, downtown Exmore was the undisputed transportation nexus for the entire Eastern Shore. There were large stores, two movie theatres, places to eat and specialty boutiques. Each day, eight intercity buses stopped in Exmore’s downtown. People from other towns traveled to Exmore by train to shop.
In 1964 the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel opened to traffic, allowing spontaneous and quick access to the Eastern Shore, and providing a convenient short-cut for traffic traveling to northern destinations. A widened U.S. 13 now ran in a 74-mile straight line down the middle of the peninsula, bypassing downtown centers. Businesses along Main Street began to close. The pace of economic growth stalled.
Today Exmore is experiencing a renaissance, with new businesses opening downtown; one of multiple commercial areas. Along U.S. Route 13, there are three national hotel chains and a shopping plaza anchored by Food Lion and Ace Hardware. The town is home to New Ravenna, America’s premier designer and manufacturer of stone and glass mosaics, and one of the largest employers on the ESVA. A co-working entrepreneurial space on Main Street is nurturing innovation and business startups. The future looks bright.
EXMORE OF TOMORROW
Exmore is proud to be a community of individuals from all backgrounds and walks of life who come together to make our beautiful Town a great place to live, work, play and visit. From Town Socials to community events in the park, to volunteer initiatives, everyone believes in doing their part.
Check in on our Projects page to learn more about some of the ideas that are being developed.