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					Design of Cities: Norfolk

Historic Relationship:

         Norfolk is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia,

considered to be Virginia's second-largest incorporated city, and is also one of

few urban areas in Virginia showing resurgence in population. Norfolk is part of

the larger Hampton Roads region, which is named for the large natural harbor

(also named Hampton Roads) located at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. The city

is bordered to the west by the Elizabeth River and to the north by the

Chesapeake Bay. It also shares land borders with the independent cities of

Chesapeake to its south and Virginia Beach to its east. One of the oldest of the

Seven Cities of Hampton Roads, Norfolk is considered to be the historic, urban,

financial, and cultural center of the region, and has a long maritime and naval

history, both in recent history as well as before the colonization of the New

World.

         As early as 9500 B.C., there was evidence that native people inhabited

the site of what is known today as the city of Norfolk, Virginia. The earliest

definite record of an Indian settlement on the land now occupied by Norfolk is

found in the writings of Captain Arthur Barlowe, who, with Captain Philip

Amadas, headed Sir Walter Raleigh's first exploratory expedition in 1584 to what

are now known as the Outer Banks and Eastern North Carolina. The name of the

ancient settlement was called Skicoak, and was inhabited by a tribe of Native

Americans called the Chesepian, who took their name from the great bay, which
means Mother of Waters, that washed the northern boundary of their territory.

According to "The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia," written in 1612 by

William Strachey, the Chesepians were wiped out by Chief Powhatan, the head

of the powerful Powhatan Confederacy, a few years before the arrival of the

English at Jamestown in 1607. Traditionally, Skicoak was considered to be

located on the north side of the Elizabeth River where its eastern and southern

branches converge on the exact site where Norfolk was laid out in 1680-81.

       In 1608, Captain John Smith and the twelve Jamestown colonists who

accompanied him on his second exploration of the Chesapeake Bay were the

first known colonists to enter what is now the Elizabeth River to visit the area now

incorporated within the present limits of Norfolk. The narrow strip of land fronting

the Elizabeth River on which Norfolk was originally established was owned by six

early Virginia settlers and one mercantile group before it was laid out as a town

site in 1680-81 by John Ferebee, the surveyor for Lower Norfolk County.

       In any event, the first white man to own the site on which Norfolk was

established was Captain Thomas Willoughby, who patented two hundred acres

"upon the first eastern branch of the Elizabeth River" on February 13, 1636/37. *

       Born in England around 1601, Willoughby came to Virginia as a boy on

the ship “Prosperous” in 1610. He became one of the most important merchants

in Seventeenth Century Virginia, and his "manor plantation" was on the present

site of Ocean View. Willoughby was successively a justice of the peace, a

member of the Virginia Assembly at Jamestown, and a member of the

Governor's Council.
      Willoughby owned the original site of Norfolk for only seven years,

however, for he sold it on April 1, 1644 to John Watkins, another prominent

Lower Norfolk County citizen, who again sold it on April 30, 1644, to a man

named John Norwood. He continued to hold the property until March 4, 1649/50,

at which time he sold the site to Peter Michaelson "and others, owners of the

Ship Huis van Nassau (House of Nassau)." This group, headed by Michaelson, is

presumed by historians to have been a Dutch trading company.

      A few years later, on February 18, 1653/54, the site was bought by

Francis Emperor, another merchant, who renewed the patent for the land on

March 3, 1656/57, after which it changed hands again, this time to Lewis

Vandermuller, presumably another Hollander. On October 19, 1662, the site was

bought by Nicholas Wise Sr., who had the deed confirmed on March 18,

1662/63.

It was Wise's son who owned the property in June 1680 when the Virginia

Assembly at Jamestown passed an "Act for Co-habitation and the

Encouragement of Trade and Manufacture" that provided for the establishment of

a town in each of the twenty then-existing Virginia counties.

      As Norfolk was destined to become an important seaport, it was fitting that

a seafaring man was the first property owner in the newly established town.

On October 17, 1683, Peter Smith, a mariner, purchased three half-acre lots from

the county authorities. These were in the immediate vicinity of what was to

become Market Square, later known as Commercial Place. The site is now part

of the property owned by Bank of America.
       In 1670, a royal decree directed the "building of storehouses to receive

imported merchandise. . .and tobacco for export" for each of the colony's 20

counties. This marked the beginning of Norfolk's importance as a port city.

Norfolk’s natural deepwater channels soon showed their potential and in order to

protect that potential, in 1673, the House of Burgesses called for the construction

of a "Half Moone" fort at the site of what is now Town Pointe Park in downtown.

The House largely feared a threat of invasion or bombardment from the Dutch at

this time, though it ultimately proved to be unfounded.

       Norfolk quickly grew in size, and by 1682 a charter for the establishment

of the "Towne of Lower Norfolk County" had been issued by Parliament. Norfolk

was one of only 3 cities in the Virginia Colony to receive a royal charter, the other

two being Jamestown and Williamsburg. The town initially encompassed a land

area northeast of the point where the eastern branch of the Elizabeth River

meets its southern branch, part of present day downtown. In 1691, a final county

subdivision took place when Lower Norfolk County was split to form Norfolk

County (present day Norfolk, Chesapeake, and parts of Portsmouth) and

Princess Anne County (present day Virginia Beach). Norfolk was incorporated in

1705 and re-chartered as a borough in 1736.

       By 1775, Norfolk had developed into what many contemporaries of the

time argue is the most prosperous city in Virginia. It was a major shipbuilding

center and an important trans-shipment point for the export of goods such as

tobacco, corn, cotton, and timber from Virginia and North Carolina, to the British

Isles and beyond. In turn, goods from the West Indies such as rum and sugar,
and finished manufactured products from England were imported back through

Norfolk to the rest of the lower colonies.

         In recent years, the natural harbor of Norfolk plays an important role for its

Naval Base, the largest United States naval installation in the world, and the

homeport to 75 ships and over 130 aircraft. Even more recently, Norfolk has

become a cruise ship arrival and departure destination, due to the size and

safety of the year-round ice-free harbor.

         As the traditional center of shipping and port activities in the Hampton

Roads region, Norfolk's downtown waterfront historically played host to

numerous and often noxious port and shipping-related uses. With the advent of

containerized shipping in the mid-20th century, the shipping uses located on

Norfolk's downtown waterfront became obsolete as larger and more modern port

facilities opened elsewhere in the region. The vacant piers and cargo

warehouses eventually became a blight on downtown and Norfolk's fortunes as a

whole.

         As Granby Street, a commercial strip near the dilapidated waterfront,

experienced a decline, Norfolk city leaders were also focused on the waterfront

and its collection of decaying piers and warehouses. Federal urban renewal

programs such as the Housing Act of 1949 promised cities around the country

millions of dollars in government grants for the purpose of removing blight

conditions and preparing urban land for redevelopment. Norfolk, as with many

other cities, including Baltimore, took full advantage of these Federal urban

renewal funds and began large-scale demolitions of broad swaths of downtown.
This included slum housing that, in the mid-20th century, did not have indoor

plumbing or access to running water. However, Norfolk's urban renewal also

included the demolition of many prominent city buildings, including the former

City Market, Norfolk Terminal Station (the Union railroad station), The Monticello

Hotel, and large swaths of urban fabric that, were they still in existence today,

might be the source of additional historic urban character, including the East

Main Street district (where the current civic complex is located).

       At the water's edge, nearly all of the obsolete shipping and warehousing

facilities were demolished, leaving almost seven blocks open for redevelopment.

In their place, planners created a new boulevard, Waterside Drive. In place of the

piers and warehouses rose the Waterside Festival Marketplace, the waterfront

Town Point Park, an esplanade park with wide, open riverfront views (wikipedia);

and the Norfolk Omni Hotel. On the inland side of Waterside Drive, the demolition

of the warehouses and wharves created new parcels on which most of the high-

rise buildings in Norfolk's skyline now stand.

       Following the construction of these new projects, commercial activity in

the waterfront and downtown immediately skyrocketed. Waterside, opened in

1983, for example, brought in 6 million visitors in its first year, who bought $24

million worth of merchandise and food (Olsen 308). Additionally, “the city

received $500,000 in tax revenue”, which was three times what had been

projected for Waterside’s first year of operation (Olsen 308). So successful was

Waterside, that it was credited by a Norfolk councilman as being “responsible for

reversing the decline of the center of Norfolk.” (Olsen 308).
       However, by the late 1980’s sales were dropping, and in 1987 Waterside

expanded, a move that was more an attempt to “bolster sagging business” than

to meet demand (Olsen 308). But business continued to slump until it was

revived by more urban renewal projects, namely the MacArthur Center, which

opened in 1999 just blocks from the waterfront, and the Nauticus maritime

museum, opened in 1994. A new cruise ship terminal was recently opened next

to Nauticus, replacing the temporary terminals previously used.

       Harbor Park, a baseball stadium for the Norfolk Tides, a AAA farm team of

the Baltimore Orioles, was opened in 1993 as another element of Norfolk’s

downtown revival scheme, and is located along the waterfront as well. The

waterfront attractions of Norfolk, including Nauticus, the Cruise Terminal, Town

Point Park, Waterside Pavilion, the various ferry-tour docks, and Harbor Park,

are all linked by the Elizabeth River Trail, a paved pedestrian and bike walk that

extends the length of Norfolk’s waterfront.

       Today the waterfront is a thriving destination in downtown Norfolk. The

Waterside Pavilion contains popular restaurants like Outback Steakhouse and

Hooters, and Town Point Park hosts a variety of outdoor musical and cultural

events, many of them free. Norfolk’s historic relationship with the water and

waterfront is recognized through the “Cannonball Trail”, a walkthrough of

Norfolk’s history with the water.

       The design form of Norfolk's waterfront is based upon James Rouse's

"Festival Marketplace" model, as the "Waterside" mall was the beginning of

Norfolk's waterfront revitalization. Festival Marketplaces had previously been
successful in Boston and Baltimore, two cities that had also revitalized their

dilapidated waterfronts. Baltimore's Inner Harbor was the model for downtown

and waterfront renewal, and the Rouse Company's Harborplace Pavilions were a

large factor in the success of the revitalization.

        When bringing the Festival Marketplace to Norfolk, Rouse recruited

Norfolk locals to spend some time in Baltimore and observe the Harborplace

Pavilions, and to think about how the model could be translated to Norfolk (Olsen

308). Rouse was concerned with making "Waterside" festival marketplace "a

Norfolk place, with a Norfolk spirit, with a feeling of Norfolk heritage." (Olsen

308). Waterside marketplace is organized around a central core, following

Rouse's insistence that it be a destination rather than something that people

passed through. This devotion to a central core is the main difference from

Baltimore's Harborplace Pavilions, as otherwise the two designs are very much

alike in their composition of concrete and glass, with a green metal roof (Olsen

308).

        Waterside was a single multi-story pavilion centered around an

“international food court”, and contained a collection of bars, restaurants, and

tourist shopping. As opposed to Baltimore’s Harborplace Pavilions, there is only

one pavilion in the Waterside complex, as Norfolk was not large enough to

realistically support two (Olsen 308). The Waterside Pavilion was to be the main

commercial draw for the Norfolk waterfront, and would be supplemented by other

attractions such as Harbor Park and Town Point Park.
       Norfolk’s waterfront redevelopment was aided by significant modifications

and additions to the transit systems. The first transit improvement was

Waterside Drive, originally built to service the Waterside Pavilion, running parallel

to the waterfront and now connecting all the major waterfront attractions. As the

road grew busier and waterfront properties drew more crowds, a few pedestrian

bridges were built to allow foot traffic to bypass the now-busy multi-lane road.

				
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