Irvington sits on the shore of Carter’s Creek, a tributary to the Rappahannock River. From 1873 to 1891 the town was called “Carter’s Creek Wharf”, often shortened to just “Carter’s Creek”, a Baltimore steamboat landing at the head of the deep sheltered creek that is favorably known as a snug harbor even up and down the East Coast inland waterway.
Postal authorities began to complain, though, when, after the Civil War volume of mail swelled with the growth of the community. Many letters to Center Cross in nearby Essex county were missent to Carter’s Creek and vice-versa. Favoring a name change, in 1891, the citizens voted for “Irvington” in honor of a prominent and popular resident, Captain Levin H. Irvington, who had arrived from Baltimore in 1866. (Ironically, there we no other “Carter’s Creek Wharf” in the nation, but there were already five other “Irvington”s.)
Irvington once thrived as a steamboat town during the 1890s and early 1900s, when steamboats brought goods and travelers to the town. However, a fire destroyed much of the town in 1917, and the end of the steamboat era left Irvington a shadow of its former self. However, as is the case with many Chesapeake Bay waterfront towns, Irvington is experiencing something of a comeback. The Tides Inn and Resort was opened in 1947, bringing many visitors to the town. The town has steadily rebuilt itself and is now features a variety of lodging, shops, restaurants, and other attractions.
Irvington is known across the United States as the home of the marine resort The Tides Inn. On King Carter Drive is the Steamboat Museum, which details the history of the steamboats that traveled the Chesapeake Bay and stopped in Irvington. Before the Norris Bridge was completed in 1957, the Captain John Quincy Adams’ line provided Irvington with ferry boat service to cross the Rappahannock River.
Lancaster National Bank (later Chesapeake National Bank and currently Chesapeake Bank) was formed in Irvington in 1900 to cater to the growing town. Irvington was also a stop for Chesapeake National Bank’s Boat ‘n Bank, a houseboat with bank tellers that cruised the Rappahannock River wharves, canneries, and oyster houses. The town has a club, Rappahannock River Yacht Club, and a marina, Irvington Marina.
There is no town school. The children of the town attend either Lancaster County Public Schools or the private grade school Chesapeake Academy of Virginia, which is in Irvington. The town's original 1890 schoolhouse is located on King Carter Drive; it is now the Hope & Glory Inn. Next door to the schoolhouse is the Irvington Methodist Church; its parsonage is now a women’s clothing store, The Dandelion.
Since the 1970s winemaking has become a growing vocation in the region, with several wineries located nearby. Irvington is located within the Northern Neck George Washington Birthplace American Viticultural Area winemaking appellation.