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Toano-Burnt Ordinary Virginia–Center of commerce and industry

imageBY FREDERICK BOELT- James City County Historical Commission

The Friends of Forge Road and Toano (FORT) have recently produced another pamphlet about that area of the County. There is documented evidence that there was an ordinary (which is a tavern or eating house) and a general store located at the cross-roads of the Stage Road (Route 60) and Old Forge Road as early as 1760. This area gradually grew to be a regular stop on the stage route, and a trade center for this part of the County. With the coming of the railroad in 1881, truck farming came into its own with transportation to distant markets becoming readily available. By the early twentieth century, the village of Toano had become a thriving center of commerce and industry, offering support for the necessities of this farming venture.

A copy of the pamphlet has been added to the Historical Commission’s website. Read about how the name of the village was changed from Burnt Ordinary to Toano. In the early 1900s, Toano had general stores, hotels, offices for doctors and lawyers, two banks, a drugstore, and even a weekly newspaper. There were saw mills and a brick yard in the surrounding area, and soon, canning and barrel factories began operation to accommodate the farmers’ needs. In 1908, Toano High School opened as the premier educational facility of a three county area.

Unfortunately, after World War II, the area began to fall from its “glory days.” The high school was closed, and the widening of Route 60 in the 1960s removed almost all of the businesses on the west side of the road. The Wedgewood Dinner Theater kept the cultural community going for a while longer, but finally moved to Hampton. Late in the twentieth century, there was a bit of a revival for the area with the development of commerce and industrial parks. Early in the twenty first century, a Community Character Area Study and Guidelines were adopted by the Board of Supervisors with the hope of a structured enhancement of this area. Learn more about Toano over the last several centuries by visiting the Historical Commission’s website.

Download the full Toano/ Burnt Ordinary history brochure here

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