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Norfolk History


wrldcoupe4

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I wish Norfolk would work on their old buildings like Columbus, Ohio. There, they have a number of new buildings that were built on the inside of old buildings. Picture a modern skyscraper with the original historic facades and lower interiors. An example of this is the High and Broad development. I do not like so much the flashy ads on the front but you get the idea.

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There are apparently alot more examples in the area. My brothers got some pics he took when he was up there, I will attempt to locate them.

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urbanlife, you made a comment in the Town Point Park thread that i think should be debated, in the 60s and 70s Norfolk essentially carpet bombed downtown, destroying some historical structures like the Monticello, Armory and others leaving us with parking lots and replacing with not the greatest architectural wonders, to say the least.

IMO, hindsight obviously is 20/20. But let's not forget what downtown Norfolk was like in the 60s and 70s, even up into the 80s. The "white flight" to Virginia Beach is being debated on the LR thread, but applies here as well. Monticello Hotel, as beautiful as it was, had been reduced to a slum before its destruction. Many parts of downtown were rundown, did not have plumbing or air conditioning, and the cost of rehabilitation, which was not in vogue as it is today would have been astronomical, correct? (I know we have some Norfolk lifers in here who could expound on this more)

I'll be the first to say it sucks that Norfolk destroyed alot of history for the sake of 'progress', but given the climate of the time, what were the other alternatives? And for all the development we have, where's the throwback or acknowledgment from developers or the city to what we've lost? I'd love to see a hotel that incorporated some items from Monticello or materials in a building that mirrored old City Hall or the Armory...to blend the old and new in the only way we'll be able to.

What are your guys' thoughts on this?

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urbanlife, you made a comment in the Town Point Park thread that i think should be debated, in the 60s and 70s Norfolk essentially carpet bombed downtown, destroying some historical structures like the Monticello, Armory and others leaving us with parking lots and replacing with not the greatest architectural wonders, to say the least.

IMO, hindsight obviously is 20/20. But let's not forget what downtown Norfolk was like in the 60s and 70s, even up into the 80s. The "white flight" to Virginia Beach is being debated on the LR thread, but applies here as well. Monticello Hotel, as beautiful as it was, had been reduced to a slum before its destruction. Many parts of downtown were rundown, did not have plumbing or air conditioning, and the cost of rehabilitation, which was not in vogue as it is today would have been astronomical, correct? (I know we have some Norfolk lifers in here who could expound on this more)

I'll be the first to say it sucks that Norfolk destroyed alot of history for the sake of 'progress', but given the climate of the time, what were the other alternatives? And for all the development we have, where's the throwback or acknowledgment from developers or the city to what we've lost? I'd love to see a hotel that incorporated some items from Monticello or materials in a building that mirrored old City Hall or the Armory...to blend the old and new in the only way we'll be able to.

What are your guys' thoughts on this?

The shame is not necessarily the destruction of the builds because like you said, they needed to go and there was no alternative. The shame is the time in which it happened. The 60s really began the decline in ornamental and classic architecture. Instead, it was replaced with functionalism, international style, and brutalism. Because of this, charm was whiped out of a lot of cities during urban renewal and replaced with street and skyline killers.

Finally, it seems like now contextualism is making a stand and old historic districts are demanding this.

Unfortunately, a beautiful brick design we had in the pre war era costs a lot of man power. As of now, the cost of man power is completely out of control (thank you labor unions) which results in precast concrete and windows. It's not art or even architecture, but it works and the space sells.

In other words...If they had to knock down the Monticello hotel then so be it...but did it really have to be replaced with the Federal building there today? There is a reason Norfolk has a plaque outside the building commemorating the hotel in the face of the blandness that stands there today.

The shame is not necessarily the destruction of the builds because like you said, they needed to go and there was no alternative. The shame is the time in which it happened. The 60s really began the decline in ornamental and classic architecture. Instead, it was replaced with functionalism, international style, and brutalism. Because of this, charm was whiped out of a lot of cities during urban renewal and replaced with street and skyline killers.

Finally, it seems like now contextualism is making a stand and old historic districts are demanding this.

Unfortunately, a beautiful brick design we had in the pre war era costs a lot of man power. As of now, the cost of man power is completely out of control (thank you labor unions) which results in precast concrete and glass walls. It's not art or even architecture anymore, but it works and the space sells.

Also, all the materials are now assembled or shipped from china rather than in the US, so the cost of even getting the materials is becoming insane.

In other words...If they had to knock down the Monticello hotel then so be it...but did it really have to be replaced with the Federal building there today? There is a reason Norfolk has a plaque outside the building commemorating the hotel in the face of the blandness that stands there today.

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urbanlife, you made a comment in the Town Point Park thread that i think should be debated, in the 60s and 70s Norfolk essentially carpet bombed downtown, destroying some historical structures like the Monticello, Armory and others leaving us with parking lots and replacing with not the greatest architectural wonders, to say the least.

IMO, hindsight obviously is 20/20. But let's not forget what downtown Norfolk was like in the 60s and 70s, even up into the 80s. The "white flight" to Virginia Beach is being debated on the LR thread, but applies here as well. Monticello Hotel, as beautiful as it was, had been reduced to a slum before its destruction. Many parts of downtown were rundown, did not have plumbing or air conditioning, and the cost of rehabilitation, which was not in vogue as it is today would have been astronomical, correct? (I know we have some Norfolk lifers in here who could expound on this more)

I'll be the first to say it sucks that Norfolk destroyed alot of history for the sake of 'progress', but given the climate of the time, what were the other alternatives? And for all the development we have, where's the throwback or acknowledgment from developers or the city to what we've lost? I'd love to see a hotel that incorporated some items from Monticello or materials in a building that mirrored old City Hall or the Armory...to blend the old and new in the only way we'll be able to.

What are your guys' thoughts on this?

This is one of those topics that have always fascinated me. In a quick reference, here in Portland we have oldtown (granted it is like 100 years old or so, but old for Portland), during the 50's and 60's we had a mayor that said he would tear down all of oldtown if that meant bringing more jobs to Portland. Luckily we later had a mayor and governor (I believe) that was pro city and began making an issue about tearing down old architecture for the sake of progress, thus alot in this city has been saved....granted we have had our fair share of lost neighborhoods and to this day still lose a historical building or two because our laws dont really stop them from being destroyed, just delays them.

I think the real issue I have with Norfolk is the extent of their destruction. The city was one of the first cities to take part in urban renewal, so it became a bit of an experiment for the country. What the city should of done is focused on target areas of the city and redeveloped that, such as Waterside to Plume or City Hall. This would of given the city enough of a zone to work with redevelopment. Plus another issue I have always had was with the fact that the city was so willing to destroy entire neighborhoods to replace them with section 8 housing....but again, we are looking at this in hindsight and there is nothing any can do to change what has been lost, other than talk about the reasons why.

I have always found urban renewal to be Norfolk's biggest scar in their history because it was the moment the city went from an old city along the atlantic to a new city, which also adds to why it is now seen as a weak city core for a region so big.....which keep in mind that I still think virginia has a stupid law in place that allows towns and counties to work together and not cities and counties....that way of thinking makes no sense. Which was another reason for a region of seven cities and no counties.

I could go on for days about all of this....and more than welcome to, if you wish to keep this going. ;)

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I have always found urban renewal to be Norfolk's biggest scar in their history because it was the moment the city went from an old city along the atlantic to a new city, which also adds to why it is now seen as a weak city core for a region so big.....

I could go on for days about all of this....and more than welcome to, if you wish to keep this going. ;)

With a slow economy, development progress is way down from two or three years ago when i first joined the forum (Norfolk is far ahead of other places given the times but still slower than previous years) so why not have a debate and continue it?

IMO the biggest scar in Norfolk's history would be the Yellow fever pandemic, if you want to go WAAAAY back. Prior to the outbreak, Norfolk was on pace to be one of the top five or ten largest cities in terms of population in the mid 1800s. The outbreak stunted all growth for decades and forced Norfolk to the back of the line. Norfolk was never able to recover it's place near the front, and from the looks of things over the last century and a half almost certainly never will...

urban i'm not sure what your point was with Section 8 housing? Did the city destroy a historical area or neighborhood to build public housing? Certainly the steps the city took in Ghent, while paying off, but from my understanding were some shady tactics? Essentially forcing black citizens out of their homes and offering tax rebates to people to rehabilitate the houses? Or do i have that completely wrong?

Random thought...For whatever reason, i have a soft spot in my heart for old coal and ship warehouses on the docks. Everytime i see a picture of downtown Norfolk with those long barn shaped buildings, i wonder what Norfolk could have done to save or renovate rather than destroy. New York City always comes to mind when i see those, and think about some of the projects NYC has been able to convert them into (apples to oranges in terms of budget and developers i know) And since seeing pictures of the Navy YMCA (i may just start referring to the building as that rather than the Union Mission) i think no matter the cost the building should be renovated and restored to it's glory. Of course, i'm not the one of the hook for a hundred million or however much it may cost... :lol:

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I recall some of the history of Norfolk's redevelopment. I remember the city used federal money (HUD?) to tear down many of the old buildings to make way for subsidized housing. I would add that in hindsight the opening of Tidewater Park and other public housing projects in Norfolk was considered progress in clearing out some of the worse slums in the Nation. I think now we see what a mistake it was to totally destroy these neighborhoods and replace them with basically warehouses for people.

The Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority's website has a detailed history of Norfolk's post world war redevelopment efforts:

Link: http://www.nrha.us/about/history.html#1935%20to%201945

Edited by skylinefan
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  • 2 months later...

I was doing some youtube surfing and came across some great highway videos from the 1980s. These were really special finds for me, because this is about the time when I was growing up that I was just getting old enough to be aware of what Norfolk was and looked like, etc.

Virginia Beach-Norfolk Expressway, 1986.

This video shows a couple stretches of 44/264, including the old toll plaza (remember that 25-cent toll?) and Norfolk skyline. You can see Dominion Tower under construction! I barely barely barely remember that building being constructed.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, 1986.

Vid begins with weather report on Star 97 FM! Wow! That triggered memories! I remember listening to Star in the late 80s, and had totally forgotten about it. And, of course, you see the bridge-tunnel as a single two-lane span. That's the way it was during many childhood trips to see fam in Philadelphia. To me, driving out onto the bridge past those houses on Chicks Beach was the moment you realize you're leaving "home" and are in for a very long trip!

Anyway, cool stuff!

Edited by lammius
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This is just sad.

1906

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1931

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1960

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1968

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You found great pics. Looks like Norfolk was more urban pre-1965! Heard stories about it way back then from older folks. Mn, I remember as a kid in 1970's shopping on Granby Street was a big deal also. Seems like they got rid of many low rise buildings downtown! Wow, Like a gentleman a said about the pics it looks like people left hear as was the case after they revitalized the city. Norfolks population dropped soon after the changes downtown, WOW. Great pictures Williy! L.G.N.M

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While I am at it here is some more Norfolk history!

Tidewater Tides playing at Met Park off of I-64 and Military Hwy near the Airport. Now they are the Norfolk Tides playing at Harbor Park.

The area was called Tidewater and not Hampton Roads! A matter of fact I don't remember the term Hampton Roads when I was growing up in Va. Beach. The southside was usually reffered to as the Norfolk side of the water whereas the peninsula was the penninsula or the Newport News or Hampton side of the water.

Amusement Park at Ocean View!

Granby Mall!

Frankie's Got it (old record store) on Granby St. On the radio at the end of the commercial the announcer use to say Fraaaaaankie's got it mannnnnnnn!

Burger Chef on Military Hwy and Princess Anne Road.

Well enough for one night! Hey Padman do you remember this stuff!

Wow! I remember all those things. My best memory is no cellphones! If someone wanted to talk to you and you weren't home, no conversation! I hate the new technology(SOME OF IT) because it takes away the time for preparation of food and being places at certain times! Made me go back to watching those late 1970's and 1980's TV shows. The drive-in movies were the tops, absolutely an event in itself. Ah man, technology destroyed so many business!!! Ocean View amusement park was an event and Met Park, my uncle took me to games as a child there and its forgotten!! Those old Norfolk pictures before my time seem like a better time as well. I think more folks were downtown because they needed to be there for shopping,dry cleaning,movies etc. Malls started they change from downtown to suburbs etc.. And record stores like Frankies were the tops man!!!

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Wow! I remember all those things. My best memory is no cellphones! If someone wanted to talk to you and you weren't home, no conversation! I hate the new technology(SOME OF IT) because it takes away the time for preparation of food and being places at certain times! Made me go back to watching those late 1970's and 1980's TV shows. The drive-in movies were the tops, absolutely an event in itself. Ah man, technology destroyed so many business!!! Ocean View amusement park was an event and Met Park, my uncle took me to games as a child there and its forgotten!! Those old Norfolk pictures before my time seem like a better time as well. I think more folks were downtown because they needed to be there for shopping,dry cleaning,movies etc. Malls started they change from downtown to suburbs etc.. And record stores like Frankies were the tops man!!!

Yeah Frankie's was the place to go for R and B and soul records, but I recall when I was around 6 that my mom took me to Frankie's (on Church St.?) and she bought me my first record a 45 RPM of the Monkees hit "Take the last train to Clarksville".

There is always an up side and and downside to innovation and technology. What a wonderful invention the IPOD is. I now can listen to all of those songs I grew up with all on my own little personal mp3 player. As for the cell phone, on the plus side they are so convenient and have become a necessity in the 21st century, but on the downside they can be so annoying sometimes and disruptive especially if you are out to dinner or on a date. Well this is the world we live in.

I still feel the future is bright for Downtown Norfolk. With the addition of housing and more reasons to go there, I think once the economy rebounds Norfolk more than many cities is poised to take off. I don't know if people on this forum are aware, but Norfolk has a history of taking chances during recessions and reaping the rewards once the economy comes back. One prime example was the decision during the 1991-92 recession to add housing to Freemason Harbor. When the economy finally rebounded Freemason Harbor took off.

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Man I cannot imagine how much more dense Norfolk would be if they hadn't torn down all the low rise buildings of the early 20th century. That must have been the dumbest thing the city has ever done. Could somebody enlighten me on the benefits or purposes for that? Downtown would probably be twice as big if they would have just left it alone. Im sure dense cities like NYC and Baltimore didn't demolish their whole downtown!

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Man I cannot imagine how much more dense Norfolk would be if they hadn't torn down all the low rise buildings of the early 20th century. That must have been the dumbest thing the city has ever done. Could somebody enlighten me on the benefits or purposes for that? Downtown would probably be twice as big if they would have just left it alone. Im sure dense cities like NYC and Baltimore didn't demolish their whole downtown!

Your right, from the looks of the old pictures the downtown is smaller than it was then in terms of occupied space. Seems its being built back up to cover the space but, as you said Baltimore and D.C and NY,NY kept alot of the older buildings. I want to know the same as you why rid of those buildings. L.G.N.M

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Downtown Norfolk is the 50s and 60s had downgraded to slums. Buildings didn't have indoor plumbing, air conditioning and other necessary stands for living. The Monticello Hotel, the crown jewel of downtown for the early 20th century had become a drug and prostitution den. Revitalization wasn't at the forefront like it is today, while urban renewal was. While it's easy to sit now and say what a waste (which i have done) realizing what downtown Norfolk was back then will open your eyes and change your perspective. It almost had to be done, in order to get downtown to what it is today. Could it be better, more historical? Sure. But things would be different, more likely for worse in the area, depending on the foresight by previous city councils

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Downtown Norfolk is the 50s and 60s had downgraded to slums. Buildings didn't have indoor plumbing, air conditioning and other necessary stands for living. The Monticello Hotel, the crown jewel of downtown for the early 20th century had become a drug and prostitution den. Revitalization wasn't at the forefront like it is today, while urban renewal was. While it's easy to sit now and say what a waste (which i have done) realizing what downtown Norfolk was back then will open your eyes and change your perspective. It almost had to be done, in order to get downtown to what it is today. Could it be better, more historical? Sure. But things would be different, more likely for worse in the area, depending on the foresight by previous city councils

Thanks so much for the insight man. I had no idea. Im a pretty young dude. From the pics Norfolk looked fine but I had no idea the conditions of the buildings.

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Downtown Norfolk is the 50s and 60s had downgraded to slums. Buildings didn't have indoor plumbing, air conditioning and other necessary stands for living. The Monticello Hotel, the crown jewel of downtown for the early 20th century had become a drug and prostitution den. Revitalization wasn't at the forefront like it is today, while urban renewal was. While it's easy to sit now and say what a waste (which i have done) realizing what downtown Norfolk was back then will open your eyes and change your perspective. It almost had to be done, in order to get downtown to what it is today. Could it be better, more historical? Sure. But things would be different, more likely for worse in the area, depending on the foresight by previous city councils

Thanks, just what I needed. I had no idea it was that bad. The city did the right thing by getting rid of those old buildings and it paved the way for the future we are seeing and more to come. Thanks fellow member!!!! L.G.N.M

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Hey i'm only 26, it's not like i go way back like some of these guys, haha, you should read that link though, i'm reading it now, it's pretty insightful, especially the national and international recognition that we got from it as a result

Ha I'm A LOT younger than that.. But yeah i read it. it's the most insightful thing I have ever read about my beloved Norfolk. We've come a long way. But I really would love to see a complete Granby Street makeover. And when i say complete I mean complete. Like keep the old facades but new paint jobs and those abandoned buildings need to be taken care of. And more and higher quality retail. I would love for one day there be stores like foot locker (IM YOUNG) downtown outside of macarthur.

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Hey i'm only 26, it's not like i go way back like some of these guys, haha, you should read that link though, i'm reading it now, it's pretty insightful, especially the national and international recognition that we got from it as a result

You're only 26? Damn, I thought you were older than me for some reason. :lol: I turned 30 last year, which is surreal because I don't feel anything like it. I've only lived in this area a little over 10 years though so most younger people still have far more knowledge about the area than I do.

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You found great pics. Looks like Norfolk was more urban pre-1965! Heard stories about it way back then from older folks. Mn, I remember as a kid in 1970's shopping on Granby Street was a big deal also. Seems like they got rid of many low rise buildings downtown! Wow, Like a gentleman a said about the pics it looks like people left hear as was the case after they revitalized the city. Norfolks population dropped soon after the changes downtown, WOW. Great pictures Williy! L.G.N.M

I like to think that downtown norfolk was attacked and bombed in the 50s and 60s. It makes me feel better when I see old pics of how Norfolk used to be. Anything is better than the rape that occurred legally by the retards in power!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Thanks, just what I needed. I had no idea it was that bad. The city did the right thing by getting rid of those old buildings and it paved the way for the future we are seeing and more to come. Thanks fellow member!!!! L.G.N.M

Whoa whoa whoa, I respectfully disagree. You don't just throw the baby out the window just cause he's sick!!!! Yes downtown was slums, and yes there was no running water, but this was the case in most downtown metros in the time period. I would give anything to have the old downtown over our new downtown. The improvements would have come, water and sewer would have been installed, just like so in the rest of major cities. We lost our historic street life, every building had its own story and historical significance. The monticello hotel is a prime example.

There was a time in the 80s when New York's time square was filled with adult movies and prostitutes. Then the Disney store opened up!!!!!!!!!!! Change and revitalization is always better than tearing down historically significant and architecturally dated buildings. And most importantly our original street pattern was changed too, so you can no even go back to the spot where original buildings once stood. This entire issue is revolting to me. Again, I will just convince myself that the place was bombed!!!!!!!!!!

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"The area was called Tidewater and not Hampton Roads! A matter of fact I don't remember the term Hampton Roads when I was growing up in Va. Beach. The southside was usually referred to as the Norfolk side of the water whereas the peninsula was the penninsula or the Newport News or Hampton side of the water. "

I just came back from a conference in Williamsburg and some folks from Richmond asked me if I was from the Peninsula or Tidewater. I said I was "from the southside, Naughfuk!"

I think its funny how many people pronounce Norfolk differently...haha

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Whoa whoa whoa, I respectfully disagree. You don't just throw the baby out the window just cause he's sick!!!! Yes downtown was slums, and yes there was no running water, but this was the case in most downtown metros in the time period. I would give anything to have the old downtown over our new downtown. The improvements would have come, water and sewer would have been installed, just like so in the rest of major cities. We lost our historic street life, every building had its own story and historical significance. The monticello hotel is a prime example.

There was a time in the 80s when New York's time square was filled with adult movies and prostitutes. Then the Disney store opened up!!!!!!!!!!! Change and revitalization is always better than tearing down historically significant and architecturally dated buildings. And most importantly our original street pattern was changed too, so you can no even go back to the spot where original buildings once stood. This entire issue is revolting to me. Again, I will just convince myself that the place was bombed!!!!!!!!!!

Disorganized streets, dilapidated buildings and slums sounds ideal to you? Comparing NYC to Norfolk is apples to oranges. NYC at least still have standing buildings, structurally sound. Downtown Norfolk for large swathes did not. Something had to be done, and the odds of a retailer or catalyst coming downtown and magically solving everything was slim to none. Norfolk did what it had to do, regardless of how much damage it did historically. To be the thriving business and economic center that it is today, it had to carpet bomb downtown and drive the riff raff and hovels and slums out. Yes it's unfortunate, and it's easy to be angry about the decisions made thirty to sixty years ago with little consideration for the future, but those were the times. Urban renewal consisted of destruction and replacement, not revitalization like we have today. And believe it or not, Norfolk was a pioneer and national leader in doing so, and applauded as such for doing as much as they did.

I don't disagree that things could have been done differently, or to less of an extent, but wish in one hand and $hit in the other and see which one fills up first. What's important now is that we keep and revitalize what we do have, in downtown, Fort Norfolk, Ghent, even Park Place to some extent. Make sure today's leaders don't repeat the same actions (i hesitate to call them mistakes) that the previous did. But Norfolk had to act to save the city and did so. You can't fault them for that. Inaction would have had far greater consequences.

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Man I cannot imagine how much more dense Norfolk would be if they hadn't torn down all the low rise buildings of the early 20th century. That must have been the dumbest thing the city has ever done. Could somebody enlighten me on the benefits or purposes for that? Downtown would probably be twice as big if they would have just left it alone. Im sure dense cities like NYC and Baltimore didn't demolish their whole downtown!

It wouldnt look like such a young downtown today if it still had half of what they tore down...but with that said, Norfolk jumped on a federally funded program that gave their city a ton of money to restructure it and basically save it. Much of these buildings did not have private bathrooms and were severely behind the times in necessities. The city tore down much of its downtown and surrounding areas, constructed housing for low incomes (because at that time, the clumping of incomes seemed like a good idea, and this is without going into racial issues...which also was an issue)

The intention was to modernize the city, straighten out its old city street patterns for something much easier to navigate...the down side to all of this is the city did too much and because of that they erased much of their own history, with the exception of historical markers (ie churches). Though, in a historical stand point, we can always say what they should of done much easier than at the time what should they do.

The important thing to do is to take what they have now and move forward with that in hopes to improve what is currently there.

though, there is nothing wrong with wondering the what ifs about Norfolk.

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