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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