| Brief History | Freeman Farm | 19th Century Remnants ||
| Traffic Circles | Riverview Theater | Miss Eugenia Folliard |
| Mayor Paul Fraim |
The history of Colonial Place and Riverview began at the turn of the 20th century during a period of growth for the City of Norfolk. The city annexed a farming community just outside of town and slated it for suburban development; Colonial Place and Riverview were part of this development. Suburban development at that time depended upon connection to the trolley system--a connection that still exists in the neighborhood (although the trolleys no longer require electric lines).
Concurrent with the development of Colonial Place was the historic Jamestown Exposition, marking the three-hundreth anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. Held in 1907 on fairgrounds near Sewell's Point, this event inspired the developers of the neighborhood to discard their original name, Sterling Place, and rename the development Colonial Place. In keeping with the new motif, all of the east-west streets were named after the original thirteen colonies.
By 1908, the housing boom brought on by the vibrant economy at the turn of the century began to rapidly dissipate. It remained sluggish until World War I, when the influx of military personnel and their families into Norfolk's Naval Base (built on the site of the Jamestown Exposition) created a high demand for middle-class housing in Colonial Place. In fact, most of the homes standing in Colonial Place today were built during the late teens and early 1920s.
Riverview, on the other hand, began its development a few years before Colonial Place. This head start proved to be Riverview's buffer against the diminished housing demand in 1908. Riverview saw many stately homes built in the first decade of the century.
By 1930, both Colonial Place and Riverview were well established suburban neighborhoods--neighborhoods whose residents moved in, raised their families, grew old, and eventually passed their homes onto younger families who started the cycle anew. Many home owners today are knowledgeable of the previous owners of their homes and often possess at least a verbal, if not a written history.
In the late 1960s, Colonial Place and Riverview were united by a single civic league, which through the efforts of the Stabilization Committee, successfully guided these two neighborhoods through a period when urban deterioration threatened many beautiful neighborhoods. Today, these two neighborhoods continue to maintain their original charm and middle-class desirability. They are coveted by prospective home buyers for their beautiful old homes, parks, and water views, as well as for the patina of nearly one-hundred years of history. Riverview celebrates its one-hundreth anniversary in 2000; Colonial Place in 2003. In September of 1999 Riverview was designated a National Historic Site and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Colonial Place received its designation in June 2001.
A more detailed history of Colonial Place and Riverview appeared in a series of articles in the Colonial Place/Riverview Community News in 1985.
In 1975, The Evolution of an Urban Neighborhood: Colonial Place, Norfolk, Virginia, was published by the Institute of Government, University of Virginia. Section II, authored by Dr. Norman Pollock, chronicles the history of Colonial Place as part of a larger study on racial integration. (Note: this work is under copyright.)
Colonial Place was developed on the site of a 19th century truck farm. The main farm house stood approximately where the northernmost traffic circle of Newport Avenue is today. Newport Avenue closely follows the old path that once led to the farm house. This path, for many years, was called Freeman's Road--named for the family who occupied the farm in the days before the Civil War. The road began at historic Lamberts Point Road just west of the parking area used by Park Place Methodist Church.
The Freeman farm was sold at auction in July of 1868. A classified ad in the Virginian-Pilot announced the auction and offered the following description:
About 75 acres are cleared and are believed to be unsurpassed by any in the county for easy cultivation and early vegetation. The location is beautiful and healthful and susceptible of high improvement--being on the south side of navigable water, connecting with the Elizabeth River. The oyster grounds in front of this farm are said to be of the best quality and are very spacious.
The corporation that developed the neighborhood purchased the farm from its last owner, Peter March, on May 8, 1903.
Norfolk's suburban expansion during the early 1900s gave us Colonial Place, Riverview, Park Place, Larchmont, and all the other neighborhoods that make up Norfolk's urban west side. Previously, however, this area was a 19th century farming community, which by now is long forgotten, but hints of its existence can still be found.
A lonely, 19th century farm house still stands on Colley Avenue. From Mayflower Road, you can see it across Knitting Mill Creek--near the marina. It's a white house with two distinct wings, two massive chimneys, and a huge, old oak tree on the side. The house has been recently renovated and converted by its new owners, Brock & Company.
Another piece of history is Lamberts Point Road. This winding road was once a popular ride-in-the-country destination for 19th century Norfolkians. As Park Place was developed, the road was eclipsed by the numbered, east-west streets, but never removed. It still exists largely unchanged in sections. One block of Lamberts Point Road between Colley Avenue and Killam (south of 34th Street) remains a winding, country road on which automobiles still seem out of place. There isn't enough space for two cars to pass. One has to pull completely off the road.
The four traffic circles in Colonial Place have names. A 1916 map found at the Kirn Memorial Library reveals names for the parks inside the traffic circles. The northernmost circle on Newport Avenue is named The Yorktown Circle while the southernmost circle on Newport is called The Jamestown Circle. The two circles on Delaware Avenue are called East Park and West Park.
The colonial theme for these parks, as well as the rest of the neighborhood, was inspired by Norfolk's Jamestown Exposition of 1907. This celebration of the Jamestown Settlement's 300th birthday occurred during the infancy of Colonial Place.
The Riverview was once a state-of-the-art movie theater. The Sound of Music opened at the Riverview theater on April 7, 1965. It ran there for nearly three years reportedly breaking all national records for the longest continuous run of this musical. Mal Vincent once reported in a Virginian-Pilot article, "The Riverview kept a lone print of the movie so long that the studio, 20th Century Fox, finally threatened court action to retrieve it."
It was common for patrons to return to see the movie many times. In the same article Mal wrote, "Lola Newton, the concession stand worker at the Riverview, told the press that she saw the movie twice a day, six days a week throughout the run--well over 990 times."
The Granby Street Bridge once had a penny toll. This was one of the childhood memories of past Riverview resident, Miss Eugenia Folliard, in a 1954 Virginian-Pilot interview. Miss Folliard moved into her Victorian home at 140 La Vallette Avenue with her parents and sisters in 1907. The house was built sometime in the 1890s for a family she did not know, but she remembered the wife's maiden name was La Vallette.
Miss Folliard grew up to pursue a successful musical career in New York City and Paris, but returned to her childhood home in the 1940s for a sense of contentment that she could not find in the larger cities. Upon returning to Norfolk, she continued her career in music as the director of the Eugenia Folliard School of Music.
During the 1950s, Victorian houses and furnishings were very much out-of-style. Miss Folliard resisted the trend of the time by maintaining the house with its Victorian furnishings much as it always had been. According to Miss Folliard: "Houses are like people. They have definite personalities which can't be changed and any attempt to do so only results in unhappy confusion. You can magnify their good points and minimize the weak ones, but the soul of a person or a home cannot be altered by a new hairdo or a different style of decorating. The only thing you can do is make the most of what you have--love it or let it alone."
Her home was visited and admired by several famous musicians of the day, including Artur Rubenstein.
Norfolk Mayor Paul D. Fraim grew up on East 41st Street in Riverview. Mayor Fraim graduated from Norfolk Catholic High School and went on to complete his undergraduate studies at VMI. He received his Masters in Education from the University of Virginia and his law degree from the University of Richmond.
Paul Fraim began private practice in 1977 and has been a member of the Norfolk City Council since 1986. He became mayor in 1994.
East 41st Street has had more than its fair share of area leaders and leaders-to-be. Virginia's Speaker of the House, Thomas Moss, also lived there as a child. Judges Luther B. Way and Walter Hoffman resided there as adults. Legend has it that young Tom Moss once helped rid Judge Way's home of a pesky squirrel problem!
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