Mark Haven Beach Hotel

Known Name(s)

Mark Haven Beach Hotel


Tappahannock, VA

Establishment Type(s)


Physical Status



This site consisted of several structures, only one of which stands today. The standing structure is located on the east-facing side of a hill within a private beach area. It is a wood-frame duplex clad in weatherboarding. Signs above the doors indicate that this building housed rooms 40 and 41. The rooms share a central brick chimney and each room contains a sink. The original wood, six-over-six, double hung windows are still intact, and the roof is a side gable with standing seam metal. The building sits on concrete blocks but may have originally had a wood sill foundation. VCRIS resource 028-5162. Courtesy Fairfield Foundation.

Detailed History

This resort on the Rappahannock River held a grand opening on June 21, 1947 and featured cottages, boat rentals, swimming, fishing, lockers, and picnic grounds, and a trailer camp. It also served as a baptismal site. R.A. Markham was the owner/proprietor. 

From "Historically African American Leisure Destinations Around Washington, DC" by Patsy Mose Fletcher, pp. 169-170: "Going back a few years, if one decided to break up a 180-mile auto trip from Washington to Hampton Crossroads, for example, one could take a certain shaded country lane toward the Rappahannock River near the halfway point, off Highway 17 in Essex County near Center Cross. There at the end would be Mark Haven Beach, a little compound providing bucolic riverside accommodations for the African American traveler. It offered a breezy, healthful retreat from the grime and noise of the metropolis.

Established first in 1937 as the Triangle Inn, a combined restaurant and entertainment center, the operation owned by R.A. Markham was expanded ten years later. He puchased 160 acres of the property of former steamer-oriented Jackson Beach, a white resort, and later added another 100 acres. He and his wife Gertrude Johnson, developed a comfortable but unpretentious resort complete with a eighteen-room lodge offering air conditioning (in the late 1930s) in some rooms. The commodious lobby even sported a television. The delicious home-style meals served in the dining room often utilized vegetables and fruit grown on the property and fish and seafood taken from the river. There were family-friendly cottages available for rent and endless recreation possibilities. These included fishing and crabbing off the pier, swimming, table games, hiking, dancing and fish fries and barbecues. The view from the beach was filled with a constant stream of marine traffic that even included a few steamers harkening back to early days when Jackson Beach was a stop for unloading and loading excursionists.

As experienced by its predecessor, Mark Haven's business changed and was no longer profitable. For Jackson Beach, steamship excursions dried up in large part due to mobility brought by automobiles. For Mark Haven Beach, the desegregation of white leisure places brought more choices to African Americans. Thus Mark Haven closed in 1970, and the Markhams went in to housing development."

R.A. Markham, of the Mark Haven Hotel and Beach, Tappahannock, VA, attended the second annual convention of the Nation-Wide Hotel Association (NHA), held in Detroit in November of 1955. (Source: "1955 Hotel Men of the Year, Afro-American, November 19, 1955, page A3.)

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