Hopewell lies on the confluence of two historic rivers - the Appomattox River and the James River - approximately 20 miles south of the state capital of Richmond and 100 miles south of Washington DC. The town (or 'city', as it is known in the US) is home to approximately 22,000 inhabitants, around a third of the size of Ashford.
In 1607 under the sponsorship of the Virginia Company of London, three ships sailed from England to the New World. Aboard the ships were 107 labourers and gentlemen who went on to form the first permanent English speaking colony in America. Twenty eight years later, Ashford Resident Francis Epes, then an Ensign, was recorded as being aboard a ship named Hopewell that sailed from England to the New World.
On landing at what is now known as City Point on the outskirts of Hopewell, Epes purchased and named Epes Island on the James River. Epes travelled to and from Hopewell a number of times in subsequent years, and in 1635 was given a grant of 1,700 acres of land alongside the James and Appomattox rivers by King Charles I. Tradition states that he named his plantation Hopewell after the ship which first took him to Virginia.
Due to its location, Hopewell is home to a number of important industries, including chemical plants, an enthanol plant and paper mill. This industry has enabled the city to go through a period of regeneration, particularly around its waterfront area, and is now home to a number of popular restaurants. The town is also well known for its collection of Sears Catalog Homes and Aladdin Kit Homes, many of which can be seen on self-guided tours.
The city is home to three elementary schools, a middle school and a high school, as well as a 1920s theatre, The Beacon. This once hosted major stars of stage and screen in its heyday as a performing arts centre, and latterly a movie theatre. However, in 1981 the theatre closed and was abandoned, but recently re-opened as a multi-purpose arts centre following a multi-million dollar regeneration programme.
Just outside Hopewell lies City Point, most famous for its connections to the American Civil War. It was here at Appomattox Manor that Union Army General Ulysses S Grant had his headquarters during the Siege of Petersburg between 1864 and 1865. To serve the Union army, two huge military installations were built—a supply depot and the Depot Field Hospital. During that siege, City Point was one of the busiest ports in the world. In March 1865, President Abraham Lincoln met at City Point with Generals Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman aboard the River Queen in an unsuccessful attempt to broker peace and end the Civil War. Grant's headquarters at Appomattox Manor form part of the National Park Service's Petersburg National Battlefield Park. The adjacent City Point Historical District is a registered National Historical Landmark.