The name Hampton Roads is centuries-old. The designation originated from the time when the area was still an English outpost that was struggling about 400 years ago. The name Hampton turns out to be granted to the area in honor of one of Virginia Company of London’s founders, Henry Wriosthesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, who was also an advocate for the colonization of Virginia. Elizabeth City was the area’s first administrative center in the colony. The city was named after King James I’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth. The city was formally designated as an administrative center in 1619 by the Virginia Company. The central town in the Elizabeth City was then known as Hampton while the waterway near it was referred to ass Hampton Creek or Hampton River. The Earl is also referenced in the north area across the bay, today known as the Eastern Shore—this area was known as Northampton. The area south to the James River became Southampton. Both the names are still in use up until today. The word “Roads” that makes up the area’s name refers to the safety that the port offers. It means an area of water that is partly sheltered nearby a shore which vessels can ride at anchor.
The Virginia General Assembly listed the Hampton Roads in reference to a channel that links the rivers of Nansemond, Elizabeth, and James with the Chesapeake Bay in 1755. Part of the reasons that makes Hampton Roads known as the largest harbor in the world is the presence of the East Coast port of the US in the northernmost area. This area is free of ice all throughout the year. Even during the winter of 1917—which was the coldest year on record in the US—this area remained ice-free. The area was originally known as Tidewater Virginia. But due to its popularity, it became (and still does today) more as Hampton Roads.
The area of Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA (as defined by the US Census Bureau) comprises 9 independent cities and 5 counties in Virginia in addition to two counties in North Carolina. Based on the definition of the MSA, it is safe to say that the borders of the Hampton Roads are not clearly aligned. Still, the term applies almost exclusively to the metropolitan area. According to Census in 2010, the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA has a population of 1,676,822, which is expected to grow into 1,716,624 residents in 2014.