Gloucester Banks

by Quinton Sheppard - Posted on Jul 09, 2014 - 12:25 PM

Photo: Susie Benson and her family have owned the Materne Cottage for generations. One of many beautiful spots in Gloucester Banks, the cottage sits along a cove that runs into the York River. Shown, from left, are family members Ted Phillips, Benson, Isabel Benson, Taylor Benson and Holly Antrim. Photo by Quinton Sheppard

Susie Benson and her family have owned the Materne Cottage for generations. One of many beautiful spots in Gloucester Banks, the cottage sits along a cove that runs into the York River. Shown, from left, are family members Ted Phillips, Benson, Isabel Benson, Taylor Benson and Holly Antrim. Photo by Quinton Sheppard

Photo: The beach and the long fishing pier that stretches into the York River have been the focal point of the Gloucester Banks community for 90 years. Photo by Quinton Sheppard

The beach and the long fishing pier that stretches into the York River have been the focal point of the Gloucester Banks community for 90 years. Photo by Quinton Sheppard

A small tight-knit Gloucester Point community nestled along the high banks of the York River celebrated its 90th birthday last weekend.

Gloucester Banks, a cluster of about 23 cottages secluded from the main road, is known for its July 4th celebrations and the families there have remained owners for generations of the quaint summer homes.

More than 150 people attended a birthday celebration for the community Saturday, which was founded in 1924, and holds a charm unmatched by few other small riverfront communities.

In a historical account written by the late Frances Bemiss Mason, Gloucester Banks is referred to as “Just a shelf of squatty cottages above a beach washed by Virginia’s loveliest river, the York. But to increasing generations of inhabitants, it is the man-made door sill of Heaven.”

Upon entering Gloucester Banks, one feels like they have taken a step back in time, with memories of the good old days when life was much simpler: Children riding bikes along the dirt roads, residents casting fishing lines off the pier in hopes of catching that evening’s meal, the smell of hamburgers and hot dogs being cooked on charcoal grills, and rows of pristine white cottages with long screened porches to catch the river’s breezes.

According to resident Susie Benson, whose family has owned the Materne house for years and years, the cottages were so rustic that they did not even have heat. “Most still don’t have it,” she said.

For a long time, the way the residents received phone messages was through an operator who had a phone booth in the back of his cottage. He would deliver messages to the residents on foot.

According to Benson, each of these small homes has been cherished by generations of relatives that have owned them. “We’ve got families that come from Maine, California, New York, Maryland, Florida and a lot of people from Richmond,” Benson said. “The houses go from generation to generation.”