Holland Island: Once a Busting Fishing Village, This Island Eroded and Sunk Into the Chesapeake Bay

This Once-Bustling Fishing Village Sunk Into the Chesapeake Bay Over the Course of a Century

This Once-Bustling Fishing Village Sunk Into the Chesapeake Bay Over the Course of a Century

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Jan. 28 2016 12:30 PM

This Once-Bustling Fishing Village Sunk Into the Chesapeake Bay

4641189746_904c4d59ab_b
The last house on Holland Island in 2010.

Photo (cropped): baldeaglebluff/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world’s hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook and Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter.

A town can change a lot in 100 years. In the case of the settlement on Chesapeake Bay’s Holland Island, the land itself can disappear.

Once one of the most populated islands in the bay, Holland Island was first settled in the 1600s and grew to a community of around 350 people by 1910. There were dozens of homes, a post office, a schoolhouse, and a church. Most of the townspeople were fishermen, spending their days out on the water, casting fishing nets or dredging for oysters. Somewhat ironically, the water that provided the community’s livelihood would also be its undoing.

Advertisement

After hundreds of years of continuous settlement, erosion began to take a significant toll on the west side of the island beginning in 1914. Stubbornly rising sea levels continued to eat away at the silt and clay shoreline in the coming years, forcing a mass exodus. The last remaining family moved off the island in 1918.

Once it became clear that the tide could not be contained, many of the buildings on Holland Island were torn down and reassembled on the mainland. The local church, for example, was relocated to Fairmount, Maryland, in 1922. As the island continued to sink from solid ground to marshland and from marshland to open water, soon only one structure remained—a two-story house that at high tide seemed to rise directly from the water. It crumbled following a storm in November 2010, leaving the island just barely discernible—patches of marsh and debris. By 2012, Holland Island had eroded completely. Although nothing can be seen from the surface, the town is still down there, its homes and graveyard somewhere under the bay’s lapping waters.

Submitted by Atlas Obscura contributor The Minx.

More wonders to explore:

Atlas Obscura is the definitive guide to the world's wondrous and curious places.